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Much Ado About Nothing - Royal Shakespeare Company Review

Shakespeare finally returns with a live audience inside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre for the first time since autumn 2019 with a bold new staging of Much Ado About Nothing.

Shakespeare's tale of love triumphing over suspicion is brought to life in a fantastical imaginary futurist world with director Roy Alexander Weise's bright lavish production. Jemima Robinson's set is like watching a modern art piece coming to life as it combines shapes and colour embossed by bright lighting by Azusa Ono

The wedding of Claudio and Hero. Photo by Ikin Yum

Largely the design works but there's the age-old question of style over substance. For me, it worked but for a Shakespeare purist, I can imagine this production is very dividing as the text can get a little lost in the world. 

Certain parts of the characters feel a little lost, you never really believe these are returning soldiers who have been to war, you never really get that Beatrice and Benedict actually loathe each other initially but other director choices work. The gender-swapping of Don Pedro, played by Ann Ogbomo, works superbly. 

The visual crowning glory of the production and the design comes in Melissa Simon-Hartman's outstanding costume design and hair. Epic gowns and robes full of colour and big wild hairstyles are on a scale that could have their own costume and wigs exhibition. It's all exquisite to look at as you try to soak in all the details. 

The soundscape of the production is provided through Femi Temowo's soundtrack played live under musical director Jack Hopkins. It's pumped with a jazzy beat that goes hand in hand with the visual design. 

Akiya Henry (Beatrice) and Luke Wilson (Benedict). Photo by Ikin Yum

Credit must go to casting director Hannah Miller who has assembled a strong company many of whom make their RSC debuts. Luke Wilson, who stepped up to the role of Benedict at the last minute, is superb. He carries the emotions of the character with such surety and is at home delivering the text. Wilson is matched by Akiya Henry's energetic Beatrice. Both deliver humour well and the latter scenes together are joyous. 

Taya Ming's Hero and Mohammed Mansaray's Claudio both impress as their relationship is central to the play. Ming is brilliant as her world is torn apart after being accused of cheating and left at the altar and it's here when Mansaray comes into his own too.

With a running time of just over 3 hours including a 20 minutes interval, the production can feel a little long but Weise's production carries a great pace. The second act felt undoubtedly smoother as the story moves along to its ultimately uplifting conclusion. 

I hugely applaud the RSC for not going necessarily for a safe bet but for something modern and fresh. There's more than something about nothing here. Bold, bright, brilliance.

Rating - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Much Ado About Nothing continues at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre until Saturday 12th March 2022. Tickets are available from 

Rising star Adeola Yemitan as Ursula. Photo by Ikin Yum

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