Friday, August 3, 2012

RSC's Much Ado About Nothing

The RSC's production of Much Ado About Nothing is certainly eye-catching, transforming the Courtyard Theatre into a modern Indian marketplace. Tom Piper’s stunning set evokes the heat and exotic culture of India. Conceptually director Iqbal Khan has all of the ingredients for success, however this production falls short with a less than likable Benedict and boring Beatrice.

Meera Syal, an experienced and well-beloved TV and film actress, lacks the stage presence and confidence needed to deliver a convincing Beatrice. Shakespeare's wit falls flat when Syal delivers her commentary on Benedict: "he wears his faith but as / the fashion of his hat; it ever changes with the / next block."  Paul Bhattacharjee’s Benedick gains speed in the second half, becoming a dopey love-struck puppy, but proves unlikable in the beginning. His stoic appearance suggests the absence of a capacity to love, not the occasion for it. A bright star in the production was Anjana Vasan, whose plays several small roles but commands attention, full of vibrant energy.

Though still in previews, these actors have a lot of hard work ahead of them to illuminate and clarify the text and their character's relationship. The visual flash can only disguise so much of their weakness.

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