The Globe has produced a really lovely production of Much Ado About Nothing. Eve Best is a tremendous Beatrice - thoroughly hilarious, fantastic chemistry with Charles Edwards' Benedick, whose brilliant comic timing and ability to judge the audience's mood serves to keep them laughing, loving and with him from start to finish. Philip Cumbus' Claudio is so fantastically teenage in his emotional responses it almost makes the underwritten character work, with pretty much every adolescent girl in the area awwing at his behaviour. Ony Uhiara brings real pathos to her Hero, to the point where when she is confronted over her fidelity by Claudio, your chest gets tight and your eyes are suspiciously close to watering.
In supporting roles, Joe Caffrey is excellent as Borachio/Friar, bringing pathos and humour to both of these smaller parts, while Matthew Pidgeon is gorgeously evil as Don John - he plays it tremendously close to the edge of panto, but pulling it back just enough that it remains a strongly dramatic performance, albeit an intermittently hilarious one. Rhiannon Meades, Lisa McGrillis and John Stahl all shine as Ursula, Margaret and Antonio respectively, while Joseph Marcell brings the necessary amount of twinkle and severity to his Leonato.
Paul Hunter and Adrian Hood have the difficult task of Dogberry and Verges, whose humour may have been amusing at the time but now, as Leonato says, seems frankly "tedious". The Globe seeks to get around this problem by casting polar opposites - one very small, one very tall - and subsuming the text in little pre-word mannerisms from Hunter. This doesn't really work for me - having seen it twice, it once did not work at all, barely raising a grin from the crowd and once, perhaps because the audience was full of schoolchildren, actually really did, with Hunter and Hood getting two or three rounds as they left the stage.
Last week of the run:
Eve Best left the show for the last week or so of the run due to other commitments and Naomi Frederick stepped in. Frederick was a truly exquisite Rosalind in the 2009 As You Like It, but has been fairly quiet since, so a return visit had to be made to see what she did with Beatrice.
It would be unfair to expect a chemistry between Edwards and Frederick on the same level as Edwards and Best, considering they have had the entire summer to build this and she has had but a few performances, but considering, she did rather well. She keeps it similar to Best's portrayal, perhaps not wanting to put her own stamp on the character in this short space of time, sticking with what works. Much of the business is the same, though not completely - there's seeming-spontaneous, and then there's forced - avoiding the latter is always good.
There were some heartstopping emotional moments, though, and while she was unable to wrench the humour from the text quite as well as Best, perhaps given more time, she might have been able to. Although Frederick is a good comic actress, her true strength lies in the ability to balance Beatrice between a desperate vulnerability and steely determination.
She is a subtler actress than Best, who is funnier, but broader too. Frederick is lovely to watch on stage - she really has that special something. Though this is perhaps not the best showcase for her style, let us hope she makes a much-needed full-time return to the stage in another guise very soon.