Shakespeare Memories from the Past: MAAN at Wyndham’s, London, Summer 2011, Post #9


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 Post #9

19th June 2011

On a sunny Sunday morning, after three weeks of nearly endless heavy rain, I am here at my laptop resuming for you some more interviews I collected from my friends who have already seen David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s Much Ado About Nothing, with the kind (morally speaking) help of my 4-and-a-half -year-old son and his favorite plastic dinosaur, which was re-baptized “Benedick” for the occasion. I am really enjoying my role as interviewer, for many reasons – it’s given me a good chance to chat with some nice friends with many different points of view and it’s given me some first-hand clues to prepare myself to the show. I hope you will enjoy this post too!

Below, lovely Lora Colver and amazing Anna Mackenzie’s impressions about the play…

Welcome, girls! Would you like to introduce yourselves to the readers of The Shakespeare Standard?
LC: Hi, my name is Lora, I’m 47 years old and I live in Essex, UK.
AM: I am a PhD candidate at the University of Chester, researching the relationship between gender and genres in Shakespeare’s plays. I am an avid theatregoer, and try to get to as many live performance as I can (this year’s theatre trips include Jacobi’s King Lear, Morrissey’s Macbeth, and Tennant and Tate’s Much Ado About Nothing). I also work as a Visiting Lecturer in the English Department, and am a published poet.

Did you already know this Shakespearean comedy? Have you already seen other performances of that same play? Other representations of the same text?
LC: I’ve never seen any other version of the play but I do have the audiobook and the book so was familiar with the story (Interviewer’s note: it was Lora who introduced me for the first time to the 2005 BBC audiobook starring David Tennant as Benedick, the same one I was listening to in the gym, and I will never stop thanking her…).
AM: I hadn’t directly studied Much Ado About Nothing before seeing the Tennant/Tate performance. I had seen Kenneth Branagh’s production, which just blew me away! I also saw the Sarah Parish version in Shakespeare Restored.

How did you learn about this production? What were the main reasons which convinced you to see it in person?
LC: David Tennant and Catherine Tate spoke about it on a BBC news programme in January. I am seeing it because David and Catherine are in it. I’ve been an admirer of David’s work for many years and saw him in Hamlet. And I think the two of them work well together.
AM: One of the main reasons why I simply *had* to see this production is that I am a serious Doctor Who fan, and I could really see the chemistry between Tennant and Tate as Donna and the Doctor translating well into the characters of Beatrice and Benedick. I also think there are a number of interesting links between some of Shakespeare’s plays and Doctor Who, and was curious as to which – if any – elements of Doctor Who merged into Much Ado – if you’ll excuse the rhyming…

What is your general opinion about the representation?
LC: I think I answered that in Question 3.
AM: General opinion – I thought it was a wonderful production. Wyndham’s is a lovely, intimate venue, and there was a real sense of engagement between the cast and the audience. I’ve never been to a production where the audience claps all the way through. Truly spectacular. There was a fantastic energy to the performance, and really imaginative directorial decisions. Not a bad word to say about it!

What is the thing you liked most, and what did you dislike about the show?
LC: I really enjoyed the body language and interaction between the actors, the paint scene and the way the audience is brought into the production, while I disliked all the smoking.
AM: I actually didn’t dislike anything. In terms of what I liked the most, it’s a toss-up between the obvious aesthetic appeal of David Tennant in fishnet tights and a denim mini-skirt, Tennant/Benedick trying to eavesdrop while getting covered in paint, and Tate/Beatrice swinging around in mid-air on a pulley system. Absolutely hysterical.

Do you think the choice to set it in the 1980s was a good one?
LC: Yes, although I found the set a little dull and it could have been a lot better to reflect that era.
AM: At first, I thought the decision to stage it in ’80s Gibraltar was fairly random, and I didn’t see how it could be justified. Then I turned my analytical mind off, and just appreciated the wonderfulness of it. It had a really quirky, ’80s edge that worked well with the play.

How much does music contribute to the fascination of this particular production?
LC: The music is all jazzed up versions of songs from Shakespeare’s plays. Of course, “Sigh no more” features most of all.
AM: The music was a fun and inventive addition to the performance. The dancing was great, and it really “spiced up” the production. While it may be criticised for having no “real relevance” to the play, it certainly didn’t cause any problems, but added humour to what is a very complex and deep, dark comedy.

Do you think that David Tennant and Catherine Tate fit their roles?
LC: Absolutely. They are both very good. Catherine makes a very funny Beatrice and the body language between her and Benedick make this a very funny play
AM: DT and CT *absolutely* fit their roles. The energetic dynamic between them – as established in Doctor Who – really shone through, and their onstage relationship worked amazingly well. DT added his usual quirky edge to the strange character of Benedick, which really worked.

What do you think Shakespeare’s opinion would it be, if he could have a TARDIS to join us and watch this version of his comedy?
LC: I think he would be proud of it, if a little confused by the set and costumes.
AM: Shakespeare’s opinion… That’s a tough one. I’d like to think he’d appreciate all the imaginative effort that’s gone into the production. Surely he must appreciate the stellar casting!

Do you have something to add before you say goodbye?
LC: Obviously, it’s set in 1980s from the costumes and gadgets, it’s not made clear that it’s set in Gibraltar. The scene immediately after the memorial is very macabre and seems out of place with the rest of the play. Other than that, I really enjoyed this performance and hope it’s captured on DVD.


Flight and accommodation in London are booked now. It’s time for me to start thinking about a clever way to pack my suitcase (a proper drama, nothing to do with Hamlet, but you know, I am a woman…).

Thank you for reading this, so far, and see you soon with my next post! Ciao!!!

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