Much Ado About NothingPosted on: 18 October 2012 by Agatha Cheng
Laurence Green enjoys the Shakespeare’s comedy of love and deceit in a modern Indian setting at the Noel Coward Theatre.
An exotic makeover has been given the RSC to Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing in a new production directed by Iqbal Khan, at the Noel Coward Theatre, with the action relocated to modern day India.
The army, led by Don Pedro have returned from successfully quelling a rebellion and are welcomed by Leonato. Among Don Pedro’s retinue are Benedick, Don Pedro’s right hand man, Claudio and Don John, Don Pedro’s malcontent brother.
Claudio falls in love with Leonato’s daughter Hero and with the help of Don Pedro, succeeds in winning her hand. Benedick, however, declares himself an eternal bachelor, and Hero’s cousin Beatrice also maintains that she will never find a partner – until their friends conspire to trick them both into believing that each loves the other.
Claudio is declared by a plot laid by Don John and on his wedding day denounces Hero as a whore. She faints and is believed dead.
The priest who was to have married them proposes that the illusion of Hero’s death be maintained and that she be kept hidden until her innocence can be proved. Beatrice, enraged by her cousin’s situation, urges Benedick to exact revenge on Claudio.
The eastern setting certainly suits this play as it involves a clear social pecking order, an obsession with female chastity and family honour, and arranged nuptials as well as a love match. Furthermore tom Piper’s sunlit set and vibrantly colourful costumes – bridal saris and garlands of marigolds – not to mention the lively musical interludes, give this work considerable visual appeal as well as a strong sense of atmosphere. But the production is not without its and would have benefitted from tighter pacing and some judicious editing.
The skirmish of wits between Beatrice and Benedick comes off well thanks to the comedic skills of Meera Syal (in her first Shakespearean role) and Paul Bhattacharjee respectively. Syal also tenderly suggests a spinsterish sadness beneath bickering Beatrice. Good support is provided by Madhav Sharma as Leonato, Amara Karan as Hero, Shiv Grewal as Don Pedro, Gary Pillai as Don John and Sagar Arya as Claudio.
Khan also reminds us that beneath the laughs there is real heartache and rancour.
In short Shakespeare’s comedy of love and deceit provides a truly enjoyable evening in the theatre.
Runs until October 27
Box office: 0844 482 5141
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