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Broad at times but lively, funny and entertaining production, with great turns from Edwards and Eve
The arrival of Don Pedro and his men at the home of Seigneur Leonato in Messina brings about much celebration. The spirit of love and happiness is alive in the party and Count Claudio and Leonato's daughter Hero make woo and engage to marry within a week. To pass the time Don Pedro makes a pledge to engage confirmed bachelor Benedick and the bickering Beatrice together in a tower of affection. However Claudio's brother, Don John, conspires to break up the wedding by making accusations against young Hero.
There is something about Christmas that makes me hanker for Shakespeare played across a lazy afternoon, warm inside my house while it is cold out; perhaps it is something to do with having the time to have 3 hours free in one block, but either way I do like the language and the sense of occasion that it brings to my Christmas. As such, this light fare seemed like a good choice and I had enjoyed the previous live performances from the Globe that I had seen recorded. The narrative here is as fragmented as I remember, and I do feel strange when enjoying the lesser characters and subplots more than the main dramatic thread (although I think it was written this way). As a result there are moments where the performance feels heavier than it would like mostly it keeps things light and funny, but the drama is part of it. These parts feel a bit slower, but the production still does them well mostly by virtue of how Claudio is played; his youthful shyness and passion help make his reactions seem reasonable.
Of course the main show is really two supporting characters in the drama of Claudio and Hero; those of Benedick and Beatrice. This subplot is given great life and energy by the performances from Eve and Edwards, who are not only great together but also individually. Best I only know from her turn in Nurse Jackie, and it was fun to see her so energetic and playful here a lot of this is in her delivery and the production benefits from it. I saw Edwards recently in Blithe Spirit alongside Angela Lansbury and thought he was the best in that show, and here he has the same swagger and wit to him, making a very good Benedick. The only downside is that the show is never as good when they are not around although smaller characters such as Dogberry are well delivered too, and add laughs.
At times it is a bit broad in the unwritten material and physical actions it adds to the text, but to be fair it does help keep a consistent sense of fun and energy in the show, thus producing what is a very lively and enjoyable production; in no small part thanks to the great turns from Eve and Edwards.
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