[box]“Much Ado about Nothing,” By William Shakespeare, directed by John Bell, at The Playhouse until June 4.[/box]
THERE’S no need to go rushing to the program notes to understand this show, it’s an evening of terrific acting and one of the most relaxing nights Bell has given us in a while.
The play revolves around the witty battles of Beatrice and Benedick, a verbose couple obviously born for each other. Blazey Best is an acidic Beatrice, but one plainly besotted with Benedick from the outset. Toby Schmitz steals the audience’s hearts as Benedick with his mischievous asides and exhausts them with long speeches delivered on one breath.
Then there’s the rest of the play: The love-match of Benedick’s mate Claudio and Beatrice’s cousin Hero is nearly undone by the motiveless machinations of Don John, the melancholic prototype of Shakespeare’s Iago, played with nasty insinuation by Sean O’Shea.
Malevolent individuals will always try to spoil a good wedding, but with the help of Max Gillies’ underplayed but totally ridiculous constable Dogberry, there’s no chance.
After the show, Bell told us his actors might be enjoying themselves too much. True. This show is full of lovely actors’ moments, with clever stage business throwing light on characters sometimes treated perfunctorily. Thus Matthew Walker’s young Prince is isolated and sad and Tony Llewellyn Jones as Leonato is far more that just father of the bride, at once virtuous, enraged and fun-loving.
This production, acted out on Stephen Curtis’s ravishing pseudo-renaissance set, is bound to restore your faith in human nature.