Along with the recent West End openings of Ian McKellen in Trevor Nunn’s RSC King Lear and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ewan McGregor and Kelly Reilly in Othello at the Donmar Warehouse, the highly anticipated pairing of Wanamaker and Russell Beale has been credited with making Shakespeare as popular – if not more so – than pantomime this Christmas in London.
The Much Ado About Nothing cast also features Susannah Fielding, Daniel Hawksford, Julian Wadham, Oliver Ford Davies, Trevor Peacock and, as clown Dogberry, Mark Addy. It’s designed by Vicki Mortimer with lighting by Mark Henderson and music by Rachel Portman.
Nicholas Hytner’s “shining”, “exuberant” and “alluring” production won rave reviews from the overnight critics, whose raised expectations of the “glorious” lead casting of Simon Russell Beale and Zoe Wanamaker were more than met. More than one critic declared Russell Beale’s “disenchanted” portrayal the best Benedick they’d ever seen, while Wanamaker’s “wonderfully expressive” Beatrice also won favour. What’s more, the fiftysomething “age of the actors actually adds to the pleasure and point of the piece”. Beyond the leads, the supporting cast contains “barely a weak link”, with Oliver Ford Davies' particularly impressive as a “towering” Leonato. In short, “This is a Much Ado to be treasured.”
- by Tom Atkins