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09 September 2011 @ 11:21 pm
Much Ado About Nothing review/megapost, part 1  
SO I had promised a megapost review thing about Much Ado About Nothing, and I started working on that tonight. And it is long. I told you I have a lot of feelings. So I'm gonna just go ahead and break it up. I sort of started working my way backwards, and started with "everything other than David Tennant and Catherine Tate", so that's what you're getting in this post. Probably this is the less interesting half to most people, so posting this on a Friday night seems like a fine plan. So here is my giant wordvomit, part 1:

This picture isn't actually very good but I TOOK IT MY OWN SELF which makes it special, clearly.

I ended up going to see the show thrice. Initially I had tickets to two showings, but when I got to England shinyopals was all "hey wanna try for the lottery" and naturally my response was "DOES IT NEED SAYING?" and we were lucky enough that we both got tickets to the evening show on my first full day in London. Presumably this was karmic balance for the fact that the next show, where we had shiny expensive 4th row seats, we got David Tennant's understudy, Alex Beckett. lol forever, I would. BUT I can't really complain because I did get to see it twice with everyone in their normal roles, including the final performance.

THE CAST (SAVE TENNANT & TATE): I think Don Pedro was actually my favourite of the supporting cast -- some of his reaction shots and a couple of his deliveries would just have me rolling. The face he makes after Benedick's "TALK NOT OF HER" and also his kicked-puppy expression when Beatrice shuts him down were both great. Pedro is a bit of a dick in the text, but basically everyone with a penis in this play is a douchebag, so that's... fine... I guess. And hey, he's not as bad as Claudio, right?

I grew quite fond of the actor playing Claudio, and though Claudio as a character is almost wholly unlikable I liked the way the actor played him, sort of suitably young enough to be that much of an idiot, and enough of a bro to have good interaction with Pedro and Benedick. Unfortunately no amount of fondness for the actor could salvage his mourning church scene, or indeed any scene where Claudio is torn up~ over Hero, because Claudio/Hero is just the worst. Props to you for squeezing out those tears on stage, dude, but your character is a dick. Anyway, his "OCH, AYE" when pretending to be Benedick on closing night slayed me, easily the biggest laugh he got out of me for any line on any night, so well done bro.

I liked Don John, the skeevy ratlike voice worked well for the character. I mean, on the other hand, it's one of those "lol why is anyone trusting the stereotypically skeevy character who speaks like a Disney villain?" moments, but it's Shakespeare so you know.

Dogberry on the other hand ughhhhhhhhhh, I never like the character on paper, I skip his scenes when reading because he's so tedious (har), and while he got some laughs out of me the first time on stage, the second and third performances I just wanted him to go. Granted, part of this is because all of his scenes (and much of the second half of the play) leave me going NO1CURR, WHERE ARE BEATRICE AND BENEDICK??? but it doesn't help that the Dogberry character is just... not... very good. Or funny. Or... yeah.

The sad thing about this play is that as much as I think Beatrice is one of Shakespeare's best women, the rest are really kind of meh. Hero is... well, she was cute, but Hero as a role is just not one with a lot of meat or substance or intrigue and I think even a more experienced actress than the one in this production would have a difficult time making much of the character. This production chose to use Innogen (Leonato's wife), rather than Antonio, and I liked this decision because what Shakespeare plays do not need more of is pointless old white guys. So Antonio was not missed and Innogen's challenge to Claudio worked better than Antonio's because it was more motherly love and less RRR I R MAN I HAVE HONOURRRR. Margaret was alright; I am vaguely fond of the character from the text alone and her shamelessness about her lack of ~purity~, and her shipper squeal over Beatrice/Benedick was pretty funny. Ursula, played by Catherine Tate's understudy, was quite hilarious with the little material she was given. I'd be curious to see her in the Beatrice role opposite Alex Beckett, although I am obviously thankful 4ever that I got Catherine Tate all 3 nights.

THAT TIME WE SAW THE UNDERSTUDY: SO we got the second night of Alex Beckett, which meant that we went into the show with the knowledge that we could well be getting an understudy. It was unfortunate, but since we'd both a) already seen the play properly and b) were going again, it wasn't the end of the world. I do feel bad for anyone who trekked out to see it specifically for David Tennant just the once and got the understudy, and then I thought a bit about Hamlet and that whole mess. It's probably sort of fitting that I ended up getting an understudy that night, seeing as ever since I bought the damn tickets back in January I'd been very concerned that would happen and I had reasoned with myself that even if one of them spontaneously combusted, hopefully I'd still have the other one.

And indeed we still had Catherine Tate. They send out poor Catherine to announce it at the start of the play, which was unfortunate but also a little adorable. She was very sweet about it, and the audience took it relatively well. Someone in the audience made a "PFFFT WHO CARES" noise in jest when she announced David Tennant wasn't in, and Catherine went "pffft, yeah, we all prefer Matt Smith anyway!" WHICH... I mean, Catherine Tate making a Doctor Who joke live ten feet in front of me is basically a life goal I didn't realize I had, and basically the next best thing to actually seeing David Tennant live, so ty for that, Catherine Tate. And then someone in the audience shouted "WE'VE STILL GOT YOU!" and everyone cheered which was adorable.

Anyway, Alex Beckett was very talented, but I mean, I did not get on a transatlantic flight to see Alex Beckett in a play with Catherine Tate, so I'd be lying if I said I didn't spend the first twenty minutes sort of trying to come to terms with my disappointment. Where I had previously divided my attention between Beatrice and Benedick, in scenes with both of them in this production my eyes were on Beatrice 100% of the time unless Benedick happened to be standing close enough to her. I felt bad though because you could tell the audience was having trouble warming up to him, and scenes that got big laughs with David Tennant would get quiet murmurs at best -- until we got to the Paint Scene. The Paint Scene is hysterical in its own right, but Alex Beckett killed it (especially with a well-timed silent "FUCK!" at the audience) and that sort of loosened everyone up and got people laughing and warming up to him and removed a bit of the tension in the air. So that was nice, and from then on things went a bit smoother for him, and he even got in some good audience interaction in the soliloquy afterwards.

All in all I think Alex Beckett's Benedick is a little different than David Tennant's... as you might expect, them being different actors. Alex Beckett's, to me, was a bit more frat boy and a bit less insecure manchild. To be honest his relationship with Beatrice was a bit closer to how I typically imagine it, which is to say Benedick having zero interest until he overhears Claudio, Leonato and Pedro, then thinking "hey, I could do worse" and deciding to clean up his act a bit for her if only to prove that he can. He worked well with Catherine Tate, but at the same time you could tell they're not quite the well-oiled machine that she and David Tennant were by this point; things like crumpling up each other's poems and tossing them aside weren't done perfectly in synch, for instance.

The whole thing left me with a new appreciation for how tough it must be to be a major understudy, though. I MEAN... you know the whole audience is rooting against you and disappointed by your mere presence, plus you don't get as many chances to rehearse and get comfortable in the role. Yikes. Sorry, Alex Beckett. For what it's worth, I liked you way more than understudy!Borrachio.

OVERALL: I was completely and utterly dazzled and in hysterics every time and would definitely have seen it a dozen more times given the opportunity. I could try to be objective, but we all know that can't really happen. But I will say that I was already familiar with Much Ado About Nothing and had remembered it as one of my favourites of the plays we'd covered in my Elizabethan Shakespeare class, so I was well-aware of the story and its virtues and failings as well as being able to appreciate in advance the flawless casting. I had really fond memories of Beatrice and Benedick -- particularly Beatrice -- and distinctly unfavourable memories of Claudio and Hero, so I think I went in with fair expectations.

Like most of the Shakespeares I've read and then seen, seeing a good production gave me a much better appreciation for the text itself. I remember sniggering at some of the Beatrice/Benedick lines on paper back in class, but nothing brings a comedy to life like a live performance. The unfortunate side-effect is that while I'm now very very fond of Much Ado About Nothing as a play, I'm also pretty sure the definitive version has now been set in my brain and any subsequent production I watch will be at an automatic disadvantage. The only other Shakespeare comedy I've seen on stage is Twelfth Night, and it was likewise hilarious, and TBH I think I need to start going to more of them because they can be so funny. I love me some Shakespeare dramas too, but live comedy is just so great. Next on my list is Love's Labour's Lost.
Let Them Talkbluetooth16 on September 10th, 2011 04:10 am (UTC)
I really hope this comes on DVD or public television for us poor souls who love them but couldn't see it live!

Edited at 2011-09-10 04:10 am (UTC)
Kali: eng :: love you with so much of my heart_thirty2flavors on September 10th, 2011 04:12 am (UTC)
There's a pretty strong and presumably-reliable rumour that it was filmed and will eventually be released by Digital Theatre, which is fab because it was a wonderful production and I know basically anyone who enjoys their work would enjoy it. They have great chemistry together, I hope they continue to be in all the things.
Let Them Talkbluetooth16 on September 10th, 2011 04:14 am (UTC)
I signed the Tumblr petition (LOL), so I really hope it's a good rumor!
Kali: eng :: the god of love / that sits above_thirty2flavors on September 10th, 2011 04:16 am (UTC)
It seems like it's an all-but-confirmed rumour. I hope it's true as well since I'd love to watch it a dozen more times.

Plus, you know, gifs. Because my priorities are in the right place.
Let Them Talkbluetooth16 on September 10th, 2011 04:18 am (UTC)
I'm making gifs the second it's on DVD.
Kali: eng :: oh man is a giddy thing_thirty2flavors on September 10th, 2011 04:20 am (UTC)
Let Them Talkbluetooth16 on September 10th, 2011 04:22 am (UTC)
Thanks! It's hard though to keep up. Especially with these hacks on Tumblr releasing stuff SECONDS after Doctor Who finishes in the UK.
captaintish on September 10th, 2011 04:58 am (UTC)
Aww, I can't wait to see this. When is the download being released?

I mean, Catherine Tate making a Doctor Who joke live ten feet in front of me is basically a life goal I didn't realize I had


I guess I should probably reread the play. All the comedies I've read have sort of blended together in my head.
Kali: eng :: my dear lady disdain_thirty2flavors on September 10th, 2011 05:05 am (UTC)
I have no idea! I don't think it's been officially announced yet. But soon enough, hopefully!

LOL the comedies do that, don't they? You probably don't really need to reread it to follow the play or anything, I just am one of those people who really likes knowing (Shakespeare-era) plays backwards and forwards before she watches them live, mostly because if I don't I feel like I'm missing out (like I did with Doctor Faustus).
captaintish on September 10th, 2011 05:32 am (UTC)
Well, reading Opal's post started to jog my memory, so we'll see.

All you really need to know about Shakespeare comedies is -- people falling in love with the wrong people, mistaken identities and people dressing in drag. LOL.
Anya: film → much ado about nothingerethesunrises on September 10th, 2011 05:41 am (UTC)
Your thoughts are lovely. This is my favourite Shakespeare play of all-time and the fact that I directed a version of it in high school makes it mean a lot to me. I think it's actually kind of neat that you got to see DT's understudy! It would have sucked if you had only gone that one time but you saw DT two other times and I think it's fascinating to see how two different actors go about the same role. Also, the story of Catherine Tate announcing it and saying a little Who joke was brilliant.

I can't wait to hear your thoughts on Tennant and Tate, ooh~ And yeah, I love Shakespeare in general but his comedies are probably, on the whole, what I prefer. Especially on stage. Twelfth Night and Midsummer are my other faves and I've seen them both live a couple times and just love it. Unfortunately the only live production I've seen of Much Ado is the one I directed and it was in high school so...I need to see a professional production of this show.

EDIT: lol omg of course as I make this comment I see the Washington DC theatre company is putting on Much Ado this fall! brb seeing about getting tickets.

I'm so glad you're having a good time bb!

Edited at 2011-09-10 05:43 am (UTC)
Kali: eng :: love you with so much of my heart_thirty2flavors on September 10th, 2011 02:02 pm (UTC)
It's such a fun play! I mean, I find the Claudio/Hero plotline really irritating and it doesn't translate very well to modern day, but Beatrice/Benedick is pretty timeless. I realized a couple months ago that it's basically the plot of like dozens of Lily/James fics I've read, LOL.

Seeing the understudy was pretty interesting, though I mean if I had my choice I... wouldn't've. But yeah, I mean, I saw it properly twice so I can't complain much. AND YES having Catherine Tate come out and talk to us as herself and make a Doctor Who joke was pretty magical in its own right. LOL Sitting in the audience was always funny because before the show you would inevitably hear people talking about Doctor Who. On the first night we went, the couple behind us, the husband was like "Matt Smith is a much better Doctor" and then the wife was like "well I think that was the writing, it became very poor" and Opal and I were sitting there trying not to laugh and/or turn around and inform them they are Wrong.

I've only seen Twelfth Night live and it was ages ago, and I forgot how much fun Shakespeare comedies are. I mean, like I said, I can't really be unbiased about this production and I'm sure part of my enjoyment was just sheer starstruck dazzlement because OMG I AM BREATHING THE SAME AIR AS CATHERINE TATE AND/OR DAVID TENNANT but it was a blast. And seeing Doctor Faustus the next day, as a srs drama morality play, it was sort of like "....needs moar dance numbers." I think I need to start paying more attention to when the comedies are playing near me.

LOL THAT IS AWESOME, YOU SHOULD TOTALLY GO. I think ones like Much Ado and LLL are particularly great to see on stage because the blocking of the "hide behind something and eavesdrop" scenes has the potential to be just hilarious in person in a way it can't be on paper and even on film.

WELL I'm back home now sadly but I did have a great time.
Anya: actor → james mcavoy b&werethesunrises on September 10th, 2011 06:16 pm (UTC)
It really, really is. And James/Lily is absolutely like Benedick and Beatrice. They're just my favourite Shakespeare couple ever. ♥

Oh god, good job on keeping quiet while overhearing conversations about Who. I know that couldn't have been easy. Of course it would have been fabulous to see DT three times but yeah, you can't complain much. It seems like you had a fabulous experience overall!

I was in a production of Twelfth Night and I just love that show so much. I really do need to LLL as well. The hiding behind objects to eavesdrop is hilarious. And of course you're going to be a little starstruck. DO YOU REALIZE WHO YOU'VE SEEN. Haha, oh, who was in Faustus? Anyone we'd know?

And I'm calling later today for tickets! So excited.

Oops. Well good! :D
Kali: eng :: my dear lady disdain_thirty2flavors on September 10th, 2011 06:26 pm (UTC)
The conversations we overheard were hilarious. It was especially funny when we went to the stage door and all around me were people being like I WATCHED MONTE CARLO JUST FOR CATHERINE TATE and DID YOU HEAR DAVID TENNANT AND BILLIE PIPER AREN'T IN THE SAME EPISODES OF THAT NEW SHOW?

LOL Yes actually, Arthur Darvill was Mephistopheles in Doctor Faustus. CLEARLY I ONLY SEE PLAYS FOR THE DOCTOR WHO ACTORS. It was a little underwhelming the day after Much Ado, ngl.
lorelaisquared on September 10th, 2011 08:54 am (UTC)
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Kali, This post is amazing - and you barely mentioned David or Catherine - I am once again impressed by your restraint. (Although I AM ANXIOUSLY WAITING FOR THAT NEXT POST BTW!!! I fully anticipate flailing, squeeing and a lot of crushing on both Catherine and David. I KNOW YOU WILL NOT DISAPPOINT ME!!!)

I'm glad you got to see the show 3 times and I think you have a very positive perspective on the performance with the understudy. I know that must have been disappointing but I admire you for trying to put as much of a positive spin on it as you can. And yeah, being DT's understudy is probably one of the worst jobs ever - poor Alex Beckett. He made a great Borrachio though.

I'm in 100% agreement with you on Don Pedro. He's my favourite other than David and Catherine also. I really like the actor (evidently he's like David's best friend or something) and I think he added a lot of depth to the role. His expression when Beatrice basically laughs in his face at his proposal is heartbreaking. Poor man - he fixes everyone up but himself! Also, he was funny and when David an dCatherine weren't onstage, he's the one I was drawn to most often.

I'm very impressed by the actor playing Claudio. Like you say, the character himself is pretty despicable (especially in the second act) but I think the actor did as much as he could with the role and given this is like his debut I think he did amazingly. I suspect he'll be getting more roles in London theatre in future. Hopefully his next role won't be a complete douche.

Kali: eng :: oh man is a giddy thing_thirty2flavors on September 10th, 2011 02:19 pm (UTC)
I started writing my Beatrice section and then was like LOL THIS POST IS GOING TO BE TEN PAGES LONG and decided to split it up. I suspect this portion is mostly only quasi-interesting to people who saw the production but that is okay.

If we hadn't managed to win the lotto tickets I would've been much more upset about poor Alex Beckett, I think, and probably more nervous the night-of in anticipation. I mean, tbf, I still find it a shame that the night we had the best seats we got the understudy, buuuuut what can you do.

Yeah, I quite liked him, I think i found him the most interesting stage presence other than the two of them. I guess the character gives him a bit of an edge by virtue of being slightly more interesting/funny than some of the older cast and also a little less douchey than Claudio. But I did think some of his reactions were just hilarious. And on closing night his reaction to the audience "awwwwwwwww"ing was great!

Claudio is an unlikable character but I liked the actor, which probably says good things about him. I still think he looks like he could be on The CW.
lorelaisquared on September 10th, 2011 02:44 pm (UTC)
LOL I can't wait to read your ten page post!!! Splitting it up was probably wise, and this way the rest of the production gets a little bit of attention. I kinda feel bad for everyone who is eclipsed but David and Catherine's awesomeness.

Yeah I can see that. I'm glad you saw it with David first and that your first viewing wasn't with the understudy. It is a shame that those were your best seats, but what can you do?

I agree he was definitely the most interesting other than them and yes the character is probably the least douchy one after Benedick so that helps. Plus he's funny and a good actor. I forgot about the "Awww" reaction. That was great.

I'm with you on Claudio. OMG he could totally walk right onto the screen of Gossip Girl or One Tree Hill or something and fit in just perfectly. I think it's the hair! LOL
Opal: MAAN: wider shot - 'thou lov'st me'shinyopals on September 10th, 2011 12:13 pm (UTC)

I actually ended up super fond of Hero. Idk if this is the actress/directing (because it sure as hell wasn't the writing) or just my general feeling of solidarity with women who have TERRIBLE MEN IN THEIR LIVES. HERO/AMY POND = OTP??? XD

And Alex Beckett... I am still impressed by his skills, despite my obvious disappointment. Not only did he do the role well, he also won around an audience who were NOT THERE FOR HIM AT ALL. XD Poor guy.

I rather liked them using Innogen. Her getting angry with Claudio was amazing.

Also, despite having his douche moments, IA on the Don Pedro appreciation. I imdbed him btw, and apparently he was a police officer in Planet of the Dead.

I mean, Catherine Tate making a Doctor Who joke live ten feet in front of me is basically a life goal I didn't realize I had



Edited at 2011-09-10 12:14 pm (UTC)
Kali: eng :: oh man is a giddy thing_thirty2flavors on September 10th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC)
LOL ikr poor Alex Beckett had quite a feat in front of him but he stepped up quite well and carried on valiantly in the first act in the face of a really unresponsive audience. He could probably relax so much more after everyone was in hysterics over the paint scene.

Innogen was good. Antonio is pointless.

ORLY. That makes sense. Was he the one after Lady Christina or like a random stock police officer?
Opal: Canada: Roseshinyopals on September 10th, 2011 04:40 pm (UTC)
Lol man, I'm picturing him going off after the paint scene and basically being FILLED WITH RELIEF.

I was reading my other copy of the play last night and was like "wtf this Antonio bloke, get out". Apparently Innogen was one of those characters who was basically mentioned in one version of the play as a silent character who never does anything. So basically I approve of the substitution.

And he was the DI or whatever. The one who tried to arrest Ten at the end and Ten was all "I'll just go and arrest myself in that police box." He was also one of Belle's clients on Secret Diary. XD
Kali_thirty2flavors on September 10th, 2011 04:50 pm (UTC)
Yeah I wikipediaed last night to see if I was spelling her name right and they had her listed as a "ghost character" which yeah I assume means she was in one production once and got scrapped. I always assumed Leonato's wife was dead LIRL