City Lit Blog

Review: Much Ado About Nothing at the Globe Theatre

Story added 29th Sep 2017

Image of Globe Theatre copywright Diego Delso,, via Wikimedia Commons.


City Lit students review 'Much Ado About Nothing' at the Globe Theatre


I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow

than a man swear he loves me.

This year, students on City Lit’s 'Get together and read' course enjoyed reading William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. They were guided by their tutor, Claire Allen, on a journey through the text, exploring their feelings and responses in conversation with each other.

This October, to cap it off, they attended the production of Much Ado About Nothing currently running at the Globe Theatre, directed by Matthew Dunster and starring Beatriz Romilly and Matthew Needham as Beatrice and Benedick.

Read their thoughts below on the production, and on what it was like reading the play and then seeing it brought to life upon the stage. 


Pictured: Performance of Much Ado About Nothing by the Pop-up Globe Queen's Company at Pop-up Globe Auckland, May 2017 - by Peter Meecham via Wikimedia Commons.


As I walked towards the Globe on a windy Thursday afternoon while desperately craving the Pumpkin Latte from Starbucks, I wondered what the performance of Much Ado about Nothing would be like. I had heard about this play when I was younger so when it was offered at our reading group, Get together and read, I jumped at the chance to participate in reading it in class.

While it seemed my peers liked the flirtatious (and sometimes cruel) banter between Beatrice and Benedick, my personal favourites were Hero and Claudio. While I liked Bea's strong and feisty personality, it was Hero and Claudio I was secretly rooting for.

I must admit, I wasn't at all disappointed with the play and, despite standing throughout the performance, I laughed when I saw the horses being ridden by the characters and was mighty pleased that no animals had been harmed during the production! I smiled at the banter between Bea and Benedick and then cried when Hero's dad would have disowned her. The characters were exactly as I pictured them while reading the play and I thoroughly enjoyed the multicultural cast.

The Mexican theme was unexpected, as the play was originally set in Messina, but what was most effective was the vibrant setting and the delightful embroidered costumes.  You really felt like you were transported back to the 1920s. And like most of the audience I jumped at the unexpected gun shots which were so loud I thought my heart would explode. Overall, a wonderful performance.   


Pictured: Detail from "Beatrice overhears Hero and Ursula" by John Sutcliffe.


Open air theatres bring one closer to nature and the heavens.  Under a blue clear sky, the roof of the world is our ceiling, birds swoop in and out, helicopters fly overhead, and I am in the Globe, to hear the Bard’s words once more.  To see the comedy Much Ado about Nothing be brought to life before my eyes, on the greatest stage of them all.

The circle of life - my eyes follow the contours of the building, the three levels, where on flat wooden benches the select few shall be seated.  I clutch my £5.00 yard ticket in one hand and in the other my phone and walk confidently forward. It is not where one sits or stands that matters, but the play, the play, as it is unravelled and set before us. I stand, one of many, listening as the chatter of the audience becomes louder, watch as the seats get filled, one by one. And glance at my phone as, slowly, but inevitably, time moves towards 2:00pm.  And the chatter peters away, a hush descends, and so it begins…

Having read the text in class, I already have my favourites, so I watch to see if the Beatrice of my mind takes form on the stage.  She has all the pizzazz given to her by the words, and again when ‘Hero’ is being accused of being unfaithful, it is her silence, her absence in the scene that I have always wondered about.  I am used to seeing her speak her mind, but this silence is closely followed by defiance and once more I see her throw out the words of what she would do if she were a man.  The love story of the couples, the long deep dark night of mourning, as lit flames are carried, and a sombre hush descends on us, followed by the new day, where once more Hero is born anew.  

The interludes, where the American film maker and the three stooges add their comedic effect with their mixed up words, make us laugh.  

Man may be a giddy thing according to Benedick, but it is Don Pedro standing on his own at the end amongst the couples that stayed with me. And so I am once more in love with the Globe and the Bard’s words, as they have taken form before my eyes. 


I thought a shorter production of two 45 minute parts might have been ideal - I noticed the tourists beginning to flag towards the end of the first half. An American couple told me they lived in the desert in Utah - 'where we don't see much of Mr Shakespeare'.  You now know where to go for a quiet life! 

The production had a Disney rhythm with the fast pace and deft interweaving of all the characters and scenes.  I thought director Emma Rice fulfilled the remit for innovation by setting it in revolutionary Roman Catholic Mexico. It made for a colourful and exuberant show 500 years after the dour stance of the Reformation. 

Unusually, I found no hierarchies among the lead performers. They all played their roles well. However, I felt that the spoken word needed more silence and space for us to absorb the full meaning as Shakespeare’s language is so rich.


Pictured: "Depiction of the Church scene in Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare" by Alfred W. Elmore


We met outside The Globe just by the River Thames. It was a beautiful summer’s afternoon with a slight chill. This would be my first visit to the theatre.  Having read Much Ado with our small group I couldn’t wait to get in and for the play to start.

I found myself  laughing and had a constant smile on my face as the characters were introduced to us  and although the setting was different to the play we had read in class - Mexico during the revolution - it worked  and the characters brought to life Shakespeare’s  fun and humour .  My favourite character had to be Beatrice with her facial expressions and her strong feminist character. I also found that when we read Hero’s character she came across as quiet and shy but on the stage her facial expressions and her actions were not of a weak person at all. She was just more childlike and naïve and less outspoken.  

As the play went through all the acts and  the actors spoke the words I could hear  my group’s voices reading the same words: Senor Benedick was  the voice of Damien, and Beatrice was Ade. 

It was a pleasure to read my first Shakespeare play, especially as the characters’ parts were shared by us all but the added pleasure of seeing the play with the group was the best part.

Thank you, Claire, for all your energy and patience!

Learn more

The Tutor

Claire Allen’s first novel, The Mountain of Light, was published by Hodder Headline Review in 2004, followed by Protection in 2007. She has taught creative writing at City University and for many years at City Lit.

Learn more about upcoming reading groups at City Lit. 

> Study Shakespeare at City Lit.

> Learn more about Much Ado About Nothing at the Globe Theatre.

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