Sunday was a glorious day! The Gents with their smooth faces along with a few other friends met up to read Much Ado About Nothing, a play that seemed perfect for the first spring reading and, with it being our first gathering in a while, the energy seemed just right for a comedy.
We were lucky enough to find the perfect venue for our reading: #A_SPACE in Angel, run by Anomalous Visuals. An array of huge comfy sofas greeted us, in the middle of this retro open plan meeting area; kitchen, bathroom, projection screen & delightful staff to boot! If you need somewhere for a meeting/rehearsal/networking event, I’d highly recommend getting in touch with them!
So… Much Ado. What did we think?
Well most obviously I suppose… It’s very funny! There were plenty of giggles around the table full of snacks. Most surprising, I think we’d all agree, were the ‘Jew’ and ‘Ethiope’ jokes. I’d forgotten about the racism in this play. I imagine these jokes are often cut from a lot of modern productions and maybe that’s why it felt like such a shock when we came across them. I can see the temptation of losing these out-of-date puns, but my instinct would be to keep the jokes in and find a way to make it work – the way we undercut the racism in Titus. I think laughing at past prejudices can help us examine our own.
From start to finish Much Ado is a whirlwind of comedy genius… and most of it feels and sounds so modern. For those of you that know the play, Benedick’s line ‘There’s a double meaning in that’ nearly had us falling off our chairs with laughter. Even with the gloomy second act, the laughs still push through with wonderful scenes from Dogberry and Verges. A good old comedy duo lending themselves perfectly to comical ‘business’.
What else did we think… oh yes – GENDER. We can’t escape thinking about that one! But do you know what…? This is the first play we’ve read where there were no eye-openers for us. In previous readings, in the all-female context, we’ve discovered new gender questions which we hadn’t realised were there before. In Much Ado this didn’t happen and maybe that’s because the questions are clearer from the outset? For that, I believe we have the spirited character of Beatrice to thank. This woman doesn’t just seem to match the boys but beat them, with her speedy wit and calm persona. We had a very interesting chat after the reading about the parallels between Beatrice and Kate aka The Shrew. They are both feisty, cynical, witty and sharp tongued. Could they be the same woman if one wasn’t encouraged and the other wasn’t oppressed? Are they treated so differently due to their parentage? Can Beatrice behave the way she does due to the fact she’s an orphan not an heiress? Please feel free to share your thoughts with us below!
Much Ado seems to be a popular choice for 2014 with Maria Aberg already up and running with it at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, which I’m not surprised to see has vibrant reviews! We also have Max Webster’s production to look forward to at The Globe opening at the end of this month, and an autumn trip to Stratford Upon Avon will need to take place to catch Christopher Luscombe’s production at the RSC. Interestingly they are presenting it under the title Love’s Labour’s Won and alongside a new production of Love’s Labour’s Lost.
Whether it be this year or next, Smooth Faced Gents would love to get this play into a rehearsal room and at the very least come out with our own version of ‘Hey nonny, nonny!’
Ashlea – A Gent
Over to you… Have you seen or read the play and want to share a thought? We’d love to hear it. What has been the best Much Ado you’ve seen and why? Who do you think are the best/most interesting characters?