Review Roundup: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Starring James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Maxwell Cooter from whatsonstage.com writes: What a contrast between the two major Shakespeare productions in London this week. The first took us back to the summer of love and a celebration of youth, while Mark Rylance's take on this witty comedy places two, er, mature actors at the heart of the action... Rylance sets it in wartime England, where Don Pedro's influx of GIs causes disruption in the rural idyll of Leonato's estate. It's a nice clash of cultures but with a Beatrice and Benedick as uncharismatic as these, the execution is somewhat lacking. The subtle wordplay of two of Shakespeare's most loved characters is lost and it reminded me more of Last of the Summer Wine rather than Shakespeare.
Michael Billington of the Guardian says: I am the last person to complain about senior citizens being given free rein. I also hold Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones in high regard and thought their performances in Driving Miss Daisy were magical. But casting them as Beatrice and Benedick is another matter and results, in Mark Rylance's hands, in one of the most senseless Shakespearean productions I have seen in a long time.
Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph writes: Benedick is renowned for his wit, but Jones's delivery of the lines is so slow and hesitant, that whenever he embarks a speech one worries whether he will get safely to the end of it. On press night he always did, though with long pauses, repetitions and a palpable sense of effort. Nor can one help noticing that he spends a good deal of time sitting down and at one stage seems to be taking the chance of forty winks in a gardener's barrow. His voice is wonderfully rich and resonant, and he has superb gravitas and a palpable humanity. But a persuasive, amusing Benedick he ain't.
Libbey Purves of the Times Says: ...The result is one of the oddest evenings I have ever spent... This opening night saw only one stumble, but to be fair some of his longer speeches were delivered so rapidly (often under a quite large hat) that it wouldn't terribly matter if he was making some of it up. Which is not a criticism... the old boy has a magical twinkle, a hilarious physical expressiveness and drop-dead comic timing with the short sharp lines... As for Redgrave, she deploys all the magnificent indiscipline we love her for... Beth Cooke's Hero is sweetly mischievous, and a hammy delight with Penelope Beaumont's Ursula in the overhearing scene.Danny Lee Wynter is a terrific gloating Don John, and Michael Elwyn a commanding Leonato. There are cheeky devices which remind you of Rylance's record at Shakespeare's Globe...
Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail writes: At Wimbledon they sometimes wheel out tennis players from ancient days to lob a few balls at one another. Down at London's Old Vic, much the same is under way... this production creaks. Dame Vanessa, as she should be... carries great dignity on stage... But her Beatrice's energy levels seem low and she never persuaded me she was really in love with Mr Earl Jones's Benedick. He, oh dear, is really not up to it. The prompter has a tense evening. Twice Mr Earl Jones is given an armchair from which to deliver his soliloquies. Shades of Jackanory... The moment when Beatrice demands the death of Claudio is done so badly that last night it generated laughter...