Much Ado About Nothing

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Stephen Ouimette and Marti Maraden
Stratford Festival of Canada Production
Festival Theatre
May 13 – October 22, 2006
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

A big to-do about Much Ado

The battle of the sexes is a popular theme in many of Shakespeare’s comedies. In Much Ado About Nothing currently on stage at the Stratford Festival, characters Beatrice and Benedick are sparring partners, each trying to outdo the other with sharp barbs. This bickering must develop into love and romance as the story progresses, and it is important to have strong leads in the two roles who can demonstrate that evolution.

Lucy Peacock is excellent the aggressive Beatrice. Peacock is at her best when giving lines with a haughty head bob. Peter Donaldson, as Benedick, is also excellent when delivering the witty repartee. The couple played somewhat similar roles last year in Hello Dolly.

Despite Beatrice and Benedick’s obvious desire to be constantly mocking each other, their friends decide that they should be a couple. The friends secretly plan to discuss how much Beatrice loves Benedick while Benedick is listening, and then do the same thing to Beatrice. Beatrice and Benedick become interested in each other because they believe the other is interested. Eventually, they do fall in love and decide to marry.

Donaldson does an excellent job of showing how his personality changes from arrogant rival to eventually falling in love. His angst over his realization that he now loves this woman whom he previously could not tolerate is delightful and provides much of the play’s comedy. Peacock’s transition, unfortunately, is not as evident, nor is it as entertaining.

In addition to the contrived courtship of Beatrice and Benedick, there is a subplot with a more serious side. Young Claudio (Jeffrey Wetsch) wants to marry Hero (Adrienne Gould). Their fascination with each other, and their youth make them an interesting contrast with the older Beatrice and Benedick.

Claudio is a follower of Don Pedro (Shane Carty) and becomes fascinated with Hero, when Don Pedro and his men are guests of Hero’s father, Leonato (Gary Reineke). Don John (Wayne Best) Don Pedro’s illegitimate brother, is jealous of this situation, and contrives a scheme to make Hero look like a woman with loose morals. Claudio falls for the deception, and then as their wedding ceremony gets underway, cruelly tells Hero he can’t marry her. Fortunately, this deception is eventually uncovered and the situation rectified.

Stealing the show as the bumbling police officer is Robert Persichini as Constable Dogberry. His many malapropisms, delivered with great preciseness, create numerous laughs. Like a Shakespearean Inspector Clouseau, he blunders upon the solution to the mystery.

One has to suspend common sense temporarily when watching this play. The situations where one character overhears another’s conversation are not very believable, but to enjoy the show, you must accept that they take place as written.

The costumes are interesting – the play is set in the early 1900’s and the styles pre-World War I, as worn by the wealthy and fashionable, in soft hues of cream and beige. Dogberry’s hastily assembled crew of night watchmen are rag-tag lot, but maintain the colour-theme of beige and grey.

Much Ado About Nothing is a charming comedy, and thanks to the performances of Peter Donaldson and Robert Persichini, it offers a very enjoyable evening. It is also a good reminder of Shakespeare’s endurance as conflicts in relationships are just as relevant today.

Much Ado About Nothing continues at the Festival Theatre, Stratford until October 22. For tickets, call the box office at 1-800-567-1600 or check


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