Claudio loves Hero and Hero Claudio and nothing seems capable of tearing them apart. Claudio’s friend Benedick loves Beatrice and Beatrice Benedick, but (because neither will admit it) nothing seems capable of bringing them together.
I read the play last year (review) and while I had some issues with the main storyline of Hero/Claudio, I really enjoyed the banter between Beatrice and Benedick. After watching and really enjoying The Globe’s Twelfth Night (review) I was keen of watching more of their titles. I saw a clip for 2011’s Much Ado About Nothing and was sold; it looked like a lot of fun 🙂 Spoilers if you haven’t read/listened/seen the play!
The direction and setting for the play was quite wonderful. Apparently there hasn’t been very many productions of this play that was actually set where it’s supposed to be (Messina, Sicily)? So yeah, it was really cool to see the warm colours of the clothes to the kinds of music played and the overall atmosphere. They made very good use of the props (lmao at Benedick climbing the tree while listening to Dons Leonato, Pedro, as well as Claudio talking about him and Beatrice) on stage and omg, I looooooooooooooooooooooove the costumes, the details on Benedick’s red outfit that he wore at the beginning of the play is glorious. As was Don Pedro’s.
Obviously I also loooooove the chemistry between Eve Best and Charles Edwards’ Beatrice and Benedick, and their portrayal of their respective characters. Benedick is extremely clever and his facial reactions are hilarious, as are his little ticks early on when mentioning “husband” and “love.” Eve Best’s Beatrice is also extremely clever but there’s also that lovely soulful part of her that comes out here and there wonderfully, revealing a softness to her edge. Together it was just wonderful to watch them duel with words and later confront each other with their love. Their banter is rapid-fire and when the words thrown are harsh, you can really feel it (lmao at how wounded Benedick appeared and acted with regards to Beatrice likening him to the prince’s jester).
As an aside, I love how Charles Edwards really just plays with the audience during his soliloques, reacting and acting on their amusement. It was great. So was Eve Best, loved how she reached out to one of the audience on the ground after listening to Ursula and Hero talk about Benedick and her.
I find Claudio and Hero especially cute in this production, they have a lot more life to their characters than on page and in other adaptations I’ve seen where they are just presented as the traditional, pure, sweet love. Both actors add a lot of characterisation to their roles: Claudio is adorkable with raising his hands when he’s happy or excited but shows a fierce temper while Hero shows a playful side and has a moment of strength during that horrible scene at their wedding. I still found it a bit difficult to understand Claudio and Hero’s story especially at the end, but it wasn’t as perplexing as the first time. To be honest, I was hoping the women would slap him about a little at the end before Hero’s reveal, but anyway…
This production also crystalised the other reason why I had such trouble with Hero and Claudio’s story: Don John. He’s terribly one-dimensional and not fleshed out as to why he’s doing the things he’s doing and what’s the nuance motivating him. The actor playing him doesn’t add to the character, and in fact his portrayal seems exaggerated (though there’s no way you can mistake him as the villain of the piece, lol). I love that the crowd booed him after his plan was set in motion.
Overall, I really enjoyed watching this production, the cast was fantastic (though Dogberry’s schtick did get old after a bit) and the presentation was just so much fun to watch unfold. Highly recommended!