One day last summer I woke up to a wonderful surprise — one for the books indeed! You see, I love the West End musical shows and Shakespeare’s stage plays but whenever I bring up the subject of wanting to watch a new show, Jared would always say, “Sorry my dear, it’s just not my cup of tea. Why don’t you invite one of your girl friends to watch it with you?”
But once in a blue moon, even if it’s not his cup of tea, sometimes Jared will drink it for me. He had, in the past, accompanied me to watch a couple of West End musicals (Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables) but I was the one who made all the arrangements, all he had to do was to simply dress up and go with me. Last month however, he was the one who decided to buy the tickets, had chosen Much Ado About Nothing albeit rather secretly. He’s well aware that a summer season performance at the Globe Theatre was on my ‘must do’ list for the summer. And yes, he happily went to watch a Shakespeare play with me — a second time for us both at The Globe Theatre.
Much Ado About Nothing is Shakespeare’s most emotionally challenging stage play to watch in my own humble opinion. (I’d put Romeo and Juliet only second to Much Ado).Matthew Dunster’s adaptation of this classic tale is pretty much in line with the prevailing political thought, or rather ‘culture’ of the day. First, there’s a gender swap, Don John, Don Pedro’s irascible bastard brother, became Doña Juana (played by Jo Dockery), a nod to the voguish gender-swap and feminist movement agenda. Second, the police-chief Dogberry (played by Ewan Wardrop) became an American moviemaker. As soon as he appears on stage he puts on an American accent and offensive remarks about the US of A are thrown in for good measure with the audience roaring with laughter (except probably for Jared and me) — again, this is in keeping with the current political atmosphere with the British media making fun of President Trump and America. Third, the action was transposed from Messina in the 16th century to Monterey in the early-20th-century, particularly during the 1914 Mexican Revolution — again, the whole play satirises the trend toward political correctness and all of that wishy-washy liberalism. Those are three quibbles I have, but as far as the production goes, it’s a decent enough show.
As it’s set during the Mexican Revolution, it features sombrero-sporting men carrying guns, ladies in colourful dresses with guns hanging around their waist, and of course, there’s gunfire at different moments throughout the performance.
The story of two pairs of lovers — Hero and Claudio, Benedick and Beatrice with the intriguing conspiracy of Don Juan (or rather Doña Juana), make for a very interesting plot. But as various acts unravel, it was Benedick (Matthew Needham) and Beatrice (Beatriz Romilly)who are involved in a real drama for most of the play, criticising each other from a distance rather than declare their love for each other.
The play has all the exuberance of a Mexican fiesta — the mariachi band playing Latin music, the colourful outfits and the foot-thumping Latin American dance moves. Watching the play not only made me wanna dance salsa and tango, but it also made me crave for tacos and burritos.
It’s very entertaining; the most lively and colourful Shakespeare production I have seen. The theatre was packed with loads of people even on their feet for three hours — those who preferred to stay on the Yard, the open space right in front of the stage, only paid £5). Apparently, Much Ado is so popular that even the matinee shows are packed all the time. Sitting for almost three hours in a hardwood bench can give you a bit of a pain in the bottom and may be back ache. We hired cushions but they didn’t help so make sure to get up and stretch during the 15 minute interval. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who love the theatre, I’d recommend watching Much Ado. For those who haven’t been inside The Globe Theatre, take the opportunity to watch any of the summer season performances before they closed their doors for the winter months.
Note: All images are from The Globe website. Photography is strictly prohibited during the performance.