Maybe, it was the fact that it was the first day I ever stepped a foot in London or the fact that I had never seen a Shakespeare performance even after studying Shakespeare throughout my university studies, but I really enjoyed the current production of Much Ado About Nothing starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate.
So here’s how it happened. I was on a five week holiday in Ireland when my friend sends me a link to an article about the production. Both Suzy and I are Doctor Who fans and well read Literature buffs. I love Shakespeare. I took a course while getting my bachelors degree and can say that I really enjoyed reading the plays.
But no matter how well I enjoyed them, I knew that something was missing. Well it’s pretty obvious Shakespeare didn’t write a play with the intention of it being read in a classroom—it was meant to be performed.
So before the trip to Ireland even began, I made a bucket list of all the things that I really wanted to put priority on experiencing in life. The list was silly but a few items like “See a Shakespeare play performed live” were serious things I wanted to do.
Well, I took a detour from my Ireland trip and planned a weekend in London. I haven’t even been sightseeing yet, have only been on the Tube twice and haven’t even bought a silly key chain. But I had my tickets to Much Ado About Nothing.
This is the preview week of the production so very feel reviews were in existence. I read a few of them and had already heard complaints that it seemed like some people were only there to laugh and respond to David Tennant. I understand that ‘draw’. I am a newly found Doctor Who fan but I’m a Shakespeare fan first.
I found that there were so many reasons to laugh that I couldn’t really sort out the Doctor Who fans from the theatre lovers. While, there were moments that only a few laughed because they ‘knew’ the joke, overall it didn’t seem like I was at a Justin Beiber concert or whatever new pop singer you want to put in that sentence.
My overall thoughts were that I was a little surprised to see the modern setting but happy they retained the original language and dialogue very closely (though there were a few things changed from the original script, I believe).
But the main conclusion is that David Tennant shines on stage. Maybe that is why he made such an enjoyable Doctor, he is a very theatrical performer and he puts thought and feeling behind every word spoken.
David and Catherine as Beatrice and Benedict is a match made in heaven. I can tell you that from reading the play and watching Doctor Who. But on the stage together, they are electric together (am I starting to sound cheesy?).
The modern setting was a little off putting to me at first. I was almost expecting them dressed like the film adaptations, old suits and dresses and old English clothes. But the modern setting grew on me fast. Benedict overhearing the conversation in the orchard became entertaining when he puts his hand in a tray of paint, ending in him smearing it all over his face and hair from being so drawn into the conversation.
Catherine Tate got a similar scene that was equally entertaining. The part where the modern setting really became solid in my mind was the bachelor and bachelorette parties and the music. It’s refreshing to have fun and modern music with the old Shakespearian language.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the dancing party at the beginning where Beatrice bad mouths Benedict but thought she was speaking to someone else. Don Pedro wears an Indiana Jones costume, another character in Princess Leia, Beatrice looks like a sexy androgynous Blues Brothers, and Benedict is in drag. First of all, prancing on stage in a jean skirt, pleather red high tops, and lace stockings is a good laugh no matter who does it. But taking a Doctor Who actor and putting him on stage to do that is just hilarious.
I don’t know that my opinion has much credit since I am not a regular theatre attendee, but the girl working on her Masters in English Literature can go home to Chicago and say that Shakespeare on stage is absolutely thrilling. I plan to see another performance at the Globe Theatre before leaving London and will make more efforts to see Shakespeare performed live at home in Chicago.
As for David Tennant and Catherine Tate, both are wonderful on stage and did wonderful with the particular roles in Much Ado About Nothing. I would not hesitate to see another play with either actor. Beatrice is my second favorite Shakespeare female (just after Viola in Twelfth Night) and I was happy to say that Tate did a wonderful job of portraying the attitude and overall personality. I always identified with Beatrice as the opposite of that silly romantic girl you expect in older literature. Tate did her character justice.
As someone new to theatre and new to London, I can say that I am having a great time and felt absolutely privelaged to have seen David Tennant on stage. I would love them to bring this production to the United States, even if it doesn’t go to my hometown Chicago, it’d still be worth a flight or drive to see.