Careening onto the stage in a Union Jack clad golf buggy is one way to make an entrance. Naturally for a Shakespeare veteran David Tennant received the bulk of praise for Josie Rourke’s go-go 80’s update of William Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing.
The adaptation, half high art, half sitcom pilot, sees the former TARDIS bound duo of Tennant and Catherine Tate reunited on stage as warring anti-lovers Benedick and Beatrice.
The Daily Express like most reviewers found much to love in Tennant’s versatility:
“He is more derisive than some but balances this by playing the clown with manic energy, displaying great comic timing and emphasis, while moving naturally from glib to grave.”
The Independent also praised Tennant’s caddish portrayal of Benedick but couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for the ‘over-interpreted and insufficiently thought-through’ update nor Tate’s ‘laddette’ taken on his sparing partner Beatrice:
“The update allows her to play Beatrice’s spirited, cynical raillery as the shrugging truculence of a rather yobby ladette. This Beatrice, sporting dungarees, puts a distance between herself and her true emotions by adopting “funny” voices and retreats behind a squawking headless chicken routine of excitement when called on to react honestly to a declaration of love.”
Its seems a little churlish to have a go at a populist interpretation of the play for using someone with such a large cultural cache of catchphrases and characters for doing exactly what she was cast for. Have they not seen The Catherine Tate Show?
The Daily Telegraph also had reservations about Tate, referencing ever misogynistic Tory’s favourite advert:
“She’s very funny in her bolshie sarcasm but never quite captures the poignant pain of a woman who hides deep hurt behind her wit. Indeed she often seems downright rude rather than amusing, and hysterical rather than funny. Calm down, dear.”
The Guardian tempers its reservations over the one-note adaptation of the play that misses the desperation of the characters, and a convincing union for the two stars with slight praise for the obvious fun reunited couple seem to be having:
“It’s the perfect vehicle for two snappy stars. It’s evenly balanced, with cutting lines equally distributed between the would-not-be lovers…Tate is sulky in dungarees, clad in her am-I-bovvered face and voice. She is fluent and funny but on one note: grimacing and doing comic turns – Frankie Howerd at one point. Tennant, graceful and sardonic, reveals a talent for slapstick, an elegance of movement, an exceptional ease with everything that slips off his tongue. So far, so fairly good.”
The ‘but’ after that paragraph is again the production whose switch to 1980’s Gibraltar was praised for creating a heady atmosphere for the sparing couple but was criticised for adding little to the audiences understanding of the play.
For a selection of opening night photos head over to What’s on Stage.
Tickets are available by clicking here!