Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Gray’s Inn Hall

Antic Disposition move Much Ado About Nothing to 1940s France with much success, and play it in the austere surroundings of Gray’s Inn Hall

“There was a star danced, and under that was I born”

Bienvenue à la Place de Messina pour Beaucoup de bruit pour rien. For Antic Disposition’s take on Much Ado About Nothing relocates Shakespeare’s evergreen comedy in the summer of 1945 in a village in rural France. War is over, the checked tablecloths are out, the vin rosé (or Orangina si tu veux) is flowing and with an Anglo-French company, a hugely characterful take on the play emerges.

Drawing on the influence of Jacques Tati to deliver a unique blend of physical comedy and neatly observed verse-reading, co-directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero transport the play effortlessly into this new milieu. Louis Bernard’s Dogberry is a complete revelation in this respect, a constant presence since he’s the manager of the village bar and to be honest, I could watch a whole play of him just bumbling about with his comic shenanigans.  Continue reading “Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Gray’s Inn Hall”

Review: King John, Union

“Whate’er you think, good words, I think, were best”

Given the ubiquity of productions of Shakespeare’s works in so many of our theatres, and in particular of certain works within the canon, one might assume that those that remain neglected remain so for a very good reason. But director Phil Willmott and the Union Theatre clearly do not agree and after the successful run last year of Double Falsehood, its disputed authorship notwithstanding, they have now turned to a play that was definitely by Shakespeare, but remains very rarely produced in the modern day – King John. They say things come in threes and after having seen Prince John in The Lion in Winter and in the RSC’s The Heart of Robin Hood, it seems apt to seen him all grown up in this play, even if it might as well have been three different people for all the continuity of character!

The play is focused on questions of legitimacy as John acceded to the throne at the expense of his nephew Arthur to control the Angevin Empire whose borders stretched far into France due to the land originally held by his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine. But he is not a natural-born leader like his father Henry II or brother Richard the Lionheart and his already tenuous hold on his kingdom is further threatened when the King of France throws his support behind young Arthur and demands his abdication. Thus John is driven to increasingly desperate action as battles rage, noblemen’s loyalties waver and to cap it all off, the Pope is displeased and is considering excommunicating him. Continue reading “Review: King John, Union”