Review: Much Ado About Nothing - Globe Theatre, Kilkenny
This could be seen as a very literal play title from Shakespeare, for this is indeed a play with much ado about very little. A boy falls in love with a girl at first sight, bliss until they are plotted against.
A boy who swears never to marry confuses himself when he falls for a girl of similar determination until, low and behold, they too are joyously happy. It is all froth and farce for the first act and then the repercussions of darker misdeeds must be faced up to in the more serious second.
But what elevates this Globe Theatre production so highly above the forgettable and makes it much ado about something is the incredible performances and connectivity of this tightly bound Globe troupe. There is such extraordinary comradeship between this group of eight actors, they are on the same page.
What is also quite brilliant about them, and I don't use brilliant lightly, is the way that they deliver Shakespeare's words with such instant accessibility. Normally, you have to be prepared to spend the first half hour adjusting to the idiom, getting your ear in so to speak. But there is none of that here. Instead, from the first utterances, the lines are alive and we are part of the story.
The cast do have a lot of fun heightening the ridiculousness, there is not much subtlety and lots of clownish facial expressions. But they do it very well, they charm you past all your reserves, you even laugh out loud. And then, when the material gets a little more serious, dealing with themes of honour and shame, betrayal and politics, they carry you with them, the pace never stumbles as it turns a different way.
Everyone plays more than one part, some play three. And they all play musical instruments too, and sing, with some hey nonny nonny moments. The costumes are surprisingly non-period, instead 1940s simple pieces. Stand out performances are hard in such a tight ensemble, but Robert Pickavance has the balance just right as Hero's father Leonato, and Emma Pallant's Beatrice and Simon Bubb's Benedick are very winning in their clumsy wooing.
The setting plays a part too. It is outdoors, in the heart of a cobbled courtyard with no additional amplification, not that any is necessary. There is no lighting for the first half, the sun providing sufficient light, but, as it sinks for the second, there are very simple spotlights. The swallows come out too as dusk settles and swoop low over the set adding another element.
This is Shakespeare alive, this is a delight of a production.