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[personal profile] jack
We went with Liv's parents to see the touring globe production of Much Ado About Nothing. It was in Corpus master's garden which was ever so lovely, it was like an actual garden with little greenhouse and swing and summerhouse, rather than just being a piece of artwork about expensive plants :)

What I liked

I was previously only familiar with the beautiful Kenneth Branagh film, so I was interested to see what I actually liked more in this production. I liked the music; several times there was celebration with spontaneous dancing and music-making, and it looked like the characters were really enjoying themselves. I liked that Hero's father was a bit more elegant: he looked to have more moral authority than most of the cast, if less worldly than Don Pedro, which made his assumption of authority after Hero's apparent death more natural, in the Branagh version he just seemed like a weird hanger-on.

I liked that Don Pedro was a bit older, but moved occasionally by a spirit of fun. I liked that Beatrice and Benedick were a bit less certain of themselves: it felt like their constant quipping actually stemmed to some extent from impulsiveness and uncertainty, whereas the older B&B in Branagh, although I really loved them as characters, seemed self-possessed enough it was a surprise they were so uncertain through the courtship, and willing to be impulsive in reacting to Claudio's accusations.

A lot of the physical or body-language humour worked very well.

Other comments

I loved the portrayal of Dogberry with swaggering aviator cap and guitar, although I agreed that the role just doesn't really work whoever does it.

I was amazed how little there is about Don John. Apparently Branagh added a lot to try to make his role make more sense, but that mostly fell flat, partly because of poor Keanu Reeves, who looked a wonderful villain, but apparently couldn't bring the role to life. So I think the play is fine with Don John as an off-screen villain.

It didn't make much difference to me, but the actors enunciated and projected very well :)

What I didn't like

There was a long list of valid criticisms, most of which I can't do justice to. The most important was that Benedick and Beatrice didn't really seem to be having fun most of the time, which is the thing most people want to see in the play. They had a few good moments, especially at the end when they were being tentatively sarcastically sweet with each other, but didn't hit the characters you'd usually expect.

A lot of the verbal humour didn't come across quite well enough: I'm not sure if that's just really hard in a comedy with archaic language.

What I'd like to add

As always Shakespeare is a virulently infectious carrier of the fanfiction memes :)

I feel like there's a lot of things which are supposed to be clear to the audience, but are not really shown emotionally. I'm not sure if that's because everyone is supposed to know them already (although I'm not sure if that's a good reason), or if the audience is supposed to work them out for themselves, or if specifying them would remove ambiguity which is interesting, or if maybe they only bother me.

But I feel like Claudio's sudden turning against Hero would massively benefit from some set-up earlier in the play. Like, yes, people who are deeply in love, if they feel completely betrayed, naturally do flip 180 degrees into the hot hatred of betrayal. But I feel there's something missing if it just happens instantly.

Could we have Hero flirt with someone else earlier in the play, and Claudio react insecurely? Maybe with Don Pedro, since he's deliberately shown courting her? If Claudio is shown obsessing about Hero's loyalty it's still tragic but a lot more inevitable when he jumps to all the wrong conclusions when he sees "her" sleeping with someone else. It could still be played lots of different ways -- is Claudio deeply in love but a bit insecure? Is he a jealous bully Hero loves against her better judgement?

Maybe some of this is already in the play and I missed it, but I felt just one or two lines (which probably already exist and just need the right staging) could make the emotional arc a lot more persuasive.

Or have Hero too honest for her own good, and give her something she genuinely repents of, just a little bit, so she's half-guilty at Claudio's accusation, rather than non-plussed, which gives Claudio all the reason to go on with anger redoubled. Or have Claudio agonising back and forth between loving Hero and being jealous, and in two minds whether to accuse her, then rapidly forcing himself to a denunciation when he sees her, it could be done completely with body language.

Likewise, I feel maybe you could add something of the soldiers coming back from the war. Show Don Pedro elevating Claudio (showing the audience viscerally why Hero is honoured to have his attention). Show Don John trying to step up, but being passed over, and Don Pedro trying to make peace, but Don John spurning it. That little bit of body language could show where Don John's coming from.

Date: 2014-08-26 10:00 am (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
If you are interested, I have a DVD of Joss Whedon's version that he shot with his mates[a load of famous actors] in his house[huge mansion] in a two-week break from making Avengers.

Dogberry still doesn't really work but Nathan Fillion gives it a good go.

What struck me about it is how natural the actors made the archaic language feel. Also the stupendous quantities of booze consumed.

Date: 2014-08-26 12:06 pm (UTC)
sunflowerinrain: Singing at the National Railway Museum (Default)
From: [personal profile] sunflowerinrain
Nathan Fillion as Dogberry? That I want to see!

Date: 2014-08-26 01:42 pm (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28

(also, I just looked at your profile to see if you were someone I could plausibly lend to, and saw you are in Poitou-Charentes, which is where my m-i-l lives, between Chaunay and Ruffec.)

Date: 2014-08-26 04:49 pm (UTC)
sunflowerinrain: Singing at the National Railway Museum (Default)
From: [personal profile] sunflowerinrain
140km from here, so if you are visiting her, you can pop over :)

Date: 2014-08-26 12:10 pm (UTC)
sunflowerinrain: Singing at the National Railway Museum (Default)
From: [personal profile] sunflowerinrain
Never seen anything to beat

- the play which made me a fan of Robert Lindsay. His Agamemnon (Euripedes, radio version) was fabulous, too. And then there's Nightingales, and his song-and-dance stuff on stage...

ahem. Apologies. Thread-drift!