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William Shakespeare's

Much Ado About Nothing – 2023

May 29th - October 27thFestival TheatreTicket Info
Generally Positive Reviews based on 8 Critics
  • mid 45% of shows in the 2023 season
8 Reviews

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The New York Times - Jesse Green

Frank sex talk

“…the director Chris Abraham has left the original setting pretty much alone, though his version of 16th-century Sicily has a stronger than usual commedia dell’arte accent.

Beaty’s Beatrice is notably more heartful than most, not so guarded about the love she feels for Benedick (Graham Abbey) despite their professed mutual disaffection. And Abbey’s Benedick, though sharp-tongued, is a superbly rendered goofball, an overgrown bro who doesn’t know how to get serious about what he wants.

A new prologue, spoken by Beatrice in a reasonably supple pentameter, tells us, among other things, that in Elizabethan London, “nothing” was slang for “vagina,” thus altering the thrust of the play’s title. And in a revamped final scene, Shields bears down on the harm done to women by male paranoia, the cure for which must be liberation.

Since that theme already underlies the play, it hardly needs the underlining; Abraham’s production gets to the same point quite handily on its own. Still, I found Shields’s additions droll, and possibly useful as a kind of welcome, for those not expecting such rutting from Shakespeare, to the three hours of frank sex talk, or at least sex puns, that have always been hiding there in plain sight.”

[Note: this review is part of a collection in the CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK]

Read Full Review08/29/2023

Stratford Today - Geoff Dale

A Superb Cast

“Skilfully directed with robust energy by Chris Abraham and performed with non-stop vigour by a superb cast led by Graham Abbey and Maev Beaty, the Stratford Festival’s version of the classic comedy drew lengthy standing ovations with hoots of approval from an appreciative audience…

Showcasing his misplaced malapropisms – sometimes called dogberryisms – this season’s version has Josue Laboucane at the top of his game, playing the part both vocally and physically with relish while stealing all the scenes in which he appears.

While he and his equally inept deputy Verges (John Kirkpatrick) do not make their entrances until Act 3, they prove essential, not just as comic relief but as plot devices that move the storyline forward and away from tragedy.”

Read Full Review06/19/2023

Stage Door - Christopher Hoile

The Panto Version

“In a manner quite unlike his direction of any other plays, Abraham encourages the least subtle acting possible from actors who are normally excellent. The first act in particular is filled with mugging, funny voices, funny walks, lots of falling down, characters imitating other characters and actors speaking directly to the audience as if this were the panto version of the play…

If the Stratford Festival feels that Much Ado and Richard II are flawed plays incapable of being produced for modern audiences as written, then why is the Festival staging them at all? These “corrected” or “improved” Shakespeare texts are no longer Shakespeare anyway.”

Read Full Review06/30/2023

Our Theatre Voice - Joe Szekeres

The Intricacies of Relationships

“The Festival Theatre auditorium has been transformed into a romantic setting by designers Julie Fox and Arun Srinivasan. The ambiance is genuinely captivating, from the lush decor to the warm, focused lighting. The final dance by Adrienne Gould, a hallmark of Shakespearean comedies, elicits smiles from both the cast and me.

Director Chris Abraham’s vision of examining the intricacies of male and female relationships remains sharply and often comically intuitive…

Graham Abbey and Maev Beaty are excellent as Benedick and Beatrice. Their perfectly timed verbal sparring denotes clear-cut sexual tension…”

Read Full Review07/04/2023

The Slotkin Letter - Lynn Slotkin

The Cast Are a Joy

Maev Beaty as Beatrice is feisty, combative…Graham Abbey plays Benedick as boyish, impish and irreverent…

Both Maev Beaty and Graham Abbey have the meaning of Shakespeare in their finger-tips; the cadence and meter of the language on their tongues. They are masters at the effortless delivery, nuance and subtlety of the language…

The cast from top to bottom are a joy. Besides those I have already mentioned, Michael Blake as Don John makes mischief seem delicious, he does it with such relish…

I must mention George Meanwell. He is such a gifted musician and proves it here, by always enhancing the scene with his presence on guitar, accordion, violin and anything he sets his mind to.”

Read Full Review07/04/2023

The Globe and Mail - J. Kelly Nestruck

Beaty’s Heartbraking Performance

“If Abbey scores slightly higher in hilarity by hamming it up to just under the legal limit, Beaty’s performance slightly surpasses his performance in depth. Her alternately aching and edgy Beatrice is aware of the unfairness toward women in the society she is stuck in and, heartbreakingly, finds it nearly impossible to ignore it long enough to let herself love…

When Benedick finds the way through the maze to Beatrice’s heart, by becoming the kind of man she can love under the circumstances, I cheered and teared up at once.”

Read Full Review06/18/2023

The Toronto Star - Karen Fricker

Abraham Casts New Light on Shakespeare

“The most delightful part of the production for me are back-to-back scenes before the intermission in which Benedick and Beatrice are hoodwinked into thinking the other is in love with them. This is full-bore physical comedy, with Abbey’s Benedick pratfalling down a flight of stairs and using a huge potted plant as a shield as he moves across the stage, and Beaty’s Beatrice getting her ears blown out when she hides under a banquet table and Ursula pounds on it.”

Read Full Review06/17/2023

Ontario Stage - Kelly Monaghan

Funny As Saturday Night Live

“Beatrice and Benedick are among Shakespeare’s most beloved characters and the scenes between them, as rendered superbly by [Maev] Beaty and [Graham] Abbey, show why. Abbey is sublimely funny as the newly besotted Benedick and Beaty is every bit his equal as the flummoxed Beatrice.

Both prove to be gifted physical comedians…

Josue Laboucane is a riot as Dogberry and the other members of his team make their dialog as crystal clear and the jokes just as funny as any Saturday Night Live sketch. Abraham’s firm hand on the directorial tiller is much in evidence.”

Read Full Review06/17/2023

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