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Much Ado About Nothing at The Old Vic

Marion Marples

The star names of Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones and Mark Rylance make this a must-see production. But poor initial reviews led to the SE1 critic attending with trepidation.

Happily, the production has come together, or tweaks have been made, and this reviewer enjoyed the nonsense of Much Ado about Nothing. The setting has been transferred to an US army base outside an English village during World War II. But the plot line of true love, marriage, false witness and ill assorted lovers remains.

Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones bring a mature look to would-lovers Beatrice and Benedict. It seems strange that they are quite so forthright in denouncing love and marriage but it is a touching moment once they do reveal their mutual love.

The comic turns of Peter Wright as Dogbery, an inept malapropping constable, doubling up with kindly Friar Francis, the watch- a small troop of Scouts and Tim Barlow as a Salvationist Verges leaven some heavier stretches of action.

There are warm reminders of early Shakespeare’s Globe productions by Rylance and wife Claire Van Kampen, notably the conversational way the lines are spoken, the moving musical interludes and the joyful final GI Jive.

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