Review – Tennant/Tate “Much Ado About Nothing” – Wyndham’s Theatre

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You know there’s something going on when a friend who normally only pings you to talk about books suddenly sends you a text saying OMG DR WHO IN SHAKESPEARE WHR CN I BUY TX THXPLZSOS! Doctor Who? Shakespeare? What? Was there a celebrity casting event happening? Was someone just rumor-mongering on a fan bulletin board? It took me a few hours but I figured it out: David Tennant was going to be appearing in Much Ado About Nothing, though it wasn’t going to be with the RSC or at the Globe; instead, he would be at the Wyndham’s, which did quite well for itself with the Jude Law Hamlet and probably thought that putting another celeb in a copyright free show couldn’t help but make for a juicy summer at the box office. What better for “two great tastes” than Shakespeare … with a Dr Who star in it? As an added bonus, they threw in Catherine Tate. Result? A critic-proof show that’s sold out week after week – despite there being nothing available below £50 in the stalls and Royal Circle.

However, there’s really nothing about “Dr Who/Comedy star” to catch my attention, as with Shakespeare there’s just so damn much of it on that I try to only hit artistic highs (this year, Propeller) and limit myself to three a year. So I missed all of the excitement of the early days this how was on (it opened in May) and just finally got around to seeing it this month, four months on and only a few weeks before it is to close. Ah well: no excuses about the performance I saw only being a preview this time, eh?

As it turns out, I’d never seen this play before at all, which added a certain frisson of anticipation to the evening’s events; yet much of the pure joy I might have experienced was hindered by Catherin Tate’s incredibly heavy-handed performances. The woman’s got an easy career to come in panto, I’ll say that. And David Tennant, well, to be honest he executed well in Shakespeare, and his skinny, very tall figure worked convincingly as a character billed as a bit of a clown and an outcast. Still, I felt that even his jokes were cranked up to 11, and while most of the audience was roaring hysterically, I was wondering how I’d wound up back in One Man Two Guvnors. All we needed was two men in a horse suit and a singalonga. I mean, was the director afraid we wouldn’t understand that it was a comedy?

Overall, I found it was a competent production, but I wasn’t feeling the love. And it hardly matters: everyone else, including the people I’d treated to the show (giving experiences not stuff, don’t you know) loved it, and it is a hit. I’ll just sit in my Grumpy Critic’s Corner all by myself and wish I’d instead made it to see Propellor’s Comedy of Errors when it was in town. Hmm: I see they’re bringing a pocket version of it to the Hampstead at the end of September. I think I’ll book for it and call it my consolation prize, nicely rounding out my Shakespeare for the year with two great productions and one … new one.

(This review is for a performance that took lace on Thursday, August 18th, 2011. Much Ado continues at Wyndhams until September 3rd.)

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