Much Ado About Nothing – Globe Theatre, London

Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Matthew Dunster
Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

The Globe’s Summer of Love progresses – verve, wit and colour very much in abundance. Matthew Dunster’s creation takes us from the regular setting of Messina to Mexico in the early 20th Century. The revolución becomes the military backdrop for Don Pedro’s men as they come to Leonato’s house and with it the bandoliers, the guns, the grime and vibrancy of a Mexico fighting for itself.


While at Leonato’s (Martin Marquez) house, Don Pedro’s (Steve John Shepherd) second-in-command Claudio (Marcello Cruz) falls in love with Leonato’s daughter Hero (Anya Chalotra). With a minor speedbump (classic Shakespeare), they fall in love and a wedding date is set for seven days hence. To pass the time, Don Pedro and the group start a project to bring the two sniping wits Beatrice and Benedick (Beatriz Romilly and Matthew Freeman) together and to end their “merry war” with love as well.

The production makes much of the wartime backing – guns and ammo never out of sight. Drawing associations (with strength but not with a heavy hand) between this external violence and the internal group conflict is common in productions of this play – here it’s another piece in the puzzle of the work’s major trick. Dunster and the whole team have created a work that (even though it’s set over a hundred years ago in a Mexico where they talk like Shakespearean actors) is seriously enveloping, relatable and engaging.

With minor script alterations, modern colloquialisms and jokes are thrown in. Natural and non-declamatory delivery of the lines gives it an intimate quality. Marking out even more as a modern interpretation is the well-constructed gender relationships and roles here – turning Don Pedro’s scheming brother into his sister, Donna Juana (Jo Dockery) opens a lot of doors for analysis of spite, revenge and maybe a struggle for recognition alongside a powerful male relation. Gender roles are explored throughout the rest of the production as well, turning an already emotionally complex play into one that turns dramaturgical devices into something reflective of huge current social movement.

A grown up look at Mexico during this period has led to a cracking set and lighting execution from Anna Fleischle and Philip Gladwell respectively, and the music from James Maloney brings the heat and passion of this desert based story, as well as the fire of the revolutionary period to the stage.

With so many plates spinning it was always going to be difficult to maintain perfection. Though well portrayed, the altered Dog Berry (Ewan Wardrop) scenes of confusion stretch one joke way too far. With that aside, this visually outrageous and dramatically excellent work is something a little bit special in an already super season.

Runs until 15 October 2017 | Image: Alastair Muir


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