Review by Oli Burley
HANDING an all-female cast control of a play packed with gender
tension sounds like a ploy capable of riling half its audience.
But the good news for already-harassed husbands is that the Globes
new version of Much Ado About Nothing is more infectious
William Shakespeares comedy of love denied, then finally
ratified, depends not so much on its plot as the sharpness of
its humour, and, in this case, Tamara Harveys version certainly
Laughs there are aplenty, Sarah Woodwards pantomime depiction
of constable Dogberry proving a particular hit with the groundlings.
But the plays main attraction in every sense
hangs on the verbal jousting between Beatrice (Yolanda Vazquez)
and Benedick (Josie Lawrence).
The early signs suggest a bachelors garb does not hang
well on Lawrence; her gait lacks sufficient swagger, her argument
demands more thrust.
When Beatrice declares 'he that hath no beard is less than a
man', the fact is already all too evident to the audience.
But to her credit, Lawrence gradually closes the actor-character
gender divide, proving particularly cruel when lampooning the
In mischief, the play certainly excels; Claudio, played powerfully
by Ann Ogbomo, positively revels in a scheme to convince Benedick
of Beatrices love; the mirror-image trick played
out by Hero (Mariah Gale) and Ursula is, likewise, delicious.
The levity does vanish after the interval, as Claudio dumps Hero
at the altar, transforming Penelope Beaumonts wonderfully
understated Leonato into a fuming, furious father.
Gale also comes into her own, her fleeting portrayal of woman-wronged
a moving mix of innocence and patience that cries out for more
Whereas Beaumonts performance is a strong argument for
single-sex casts, it is hard to believe that any male could match
Hence, the need for Harvey to deploy an all-female cast remains
open to question and as enjoyable as the play is, it is difficult
not to share the characters mixed emotions.