Much Ado About Nothing
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Cheek By Jowl Tour, 1998
Matthew Macfadyen Role:
. . . The evening's greatest strength is an excellent Benedick (Matthew Macfadyen). He negotiates his sentimental education beautifully. . .Bill Hagerty, NEWS OF THE WORLD, 21 June 1998
. . . Benedick . . . is played splendidly and most originally by Matthew Macfadyen . . .Alastair Macaulay, FINANCIAL TIMES, 10 June 1998
. . . Saskia Reeves and Matthew Macfadyen are Beatrice and Benedick. Their playing of the later scenes is beautifully multifaceted, funny and touching; their big scenes are played with delicacy and speed. . .Benedict Nightingale, THE TIMES, 8 June 1998
. . .Never have I felt more sexual unease in Shakespeare's Messina and seldom more emotional truth in a Much AdoCharles Spencer, DAILY TELEGRAPH, 8 June 1998
. . . both Reeve's Beatrice, whose mannered facade conceals a surprising intensity, and Matthew Macfadyen's Benedick, behind whose goofy chortlings and ritual denunciations of marriage lurk a deep insecurity and nervousness of women.
This is not a new slant on the characters, but it is brilliantly executed. Macfayen is at his best when hinting at Benedick's jealousy of the extrovert Claudio or half-bursting into tears when the oddity of Beatrice's love for him hits him. . . .
. . . The action is set in Edwardian England, a Merchant-Ivory world of long white dresses and afternoon tea on the sunlit lawn. There is also more than a hint of PG Wodehouse. The returning soldiers, constantly indulging in baying horseplay, might be members of the Drones Club, while Matthew Macfadyen's excellent Benedick comes over as a Woosterian silly ass, though he grows impressively in both authority and human feeling as the action develops.Brian Logan, OBSERVER, 14 June 1998
All this is both fun and persuasive, and the great eavesdropping scenes are hilariously played, especially by Macfadyen, who takes a spectacular tumble from a theatre box when he learns that beatrice loves him, then bursts into tears of gratitude. . . .
. . . Beatrice and Benedick's sophistical struggle against love's gravity seems a noble rejection of hollow ritual. That the pair are wholly loveable helps too. Matthew Macfadyen's sympathetic Benedick is a Hooray Henry, discharging his wit with a bray that apologetically stops when he realises no one's joining in. He's never as urbane or admired as he fancies himself; when he suggests to Saskia Reeve's Beatrice that 'thou and I are too wise to woo peacably' that self-delusion reaches its comic apotheosis. When they're together - the one winsome but spiky, the other pratfalling behind a park bench - their big-heartedness fills the stage; when they consummate their romance with a much-postponed kiss, it lasts as long as it has been long-awaited. . . .David Benedict, INDEPENDENT, 11 June 1998
Act Two emerges as a downbeat affair: I've never seen so clearly the extent to which, in a reversal of the axiom, Much Ado repeats as tragedy in its second half what it introduces as farce in its first. In a terrific scene before the interval, the lovestruck Benedick, apprehended by his friends, denies being smitten while hiding a bouuet of flowers behind his back. When next the three assemble, the scene finds its mirror image, only this time Benedick's burden is a less happy one: he bears a white glove; he's come to challenge Claudio. . .
Let me be quite clear: Cheek By Jowl's Much Ado About Nothing is wonderful. Not only is it constantly surprising and extraordinarily moving, it is full of wonder.Sam Marlowe, WHAT'S ON, 10 June 1998
Most productions manage some of the multiple plots at the expense of others. If you take Beatrice and Benedick to be the central relationship then the play tends to collapse when trying to tie together all the men's behavior towards women in times of war; Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod reveal the play to be as tightly laced as Hero's wedding corset.
Even Kenneth Branagh's Shakespeare-as-Heal's-catalogue film recognised that the action opens with the men returning from war; but after a flurry of hair-washing the women's reaction seemed restricted to an appreciation of well-filled uniforms. Here they act in relation to men whose behaviour is utterly dictated by military codes. Instead of the predictable cute-meet, Beatrice and Benedick's protracted pairing-off is the result of male public-school fear and disdain of women. When Benedick is fooled into loving Beatrice, Matthew Macfadyen's literal fall from upright behaviour is gloriously funny. . .
This is one of those rare occasions that make you understand shy people still present Shakespeare. It has nothing to do with making you "appreciate" his cultural greatness, you simply feel it as you drink in the play's living, breathing passion. . . .
. . . As for Reeves and Macfadyen . . . well they make a far more interesting Beatrice/Benedick than Branagh and Emma Thompson did. Reeves gives us a spirited, intelligent Head Girl who is the life and soul of the party but who, in her drunkenness, reveals moments of deep melancholy and a longing for love. Macfadyen, meanwhile, is a daringly unappealing Benedick - priggish, bombastic and tactless - who nonetheless seems to have a core of decency that compels us to like him eventually, almost in spite of ourselves. . . .David Nathan, JEWISH CHRONICLE, 12 June 1998
Macfadyen's Benedick, having overheard his relationship with Beatrice fraudulently exaggerated, virtually talks himself into love with her . . .
"Comparisons are odorous," says the word-mangling Dogberry in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, but as Cheek by Jowl's production of the play at the Playhouse follows hard on the RSC's, they are pretty inevitable.John Peter, SUNDAY TIMES, 14 June 1998
The Stratford and Barbican production showed fine actors struggling for truth amid a welter of director-inspired silliness; Cheek by Jowl's shows a confident company finding new ways with an old text . . .
Bachelor-soldier Benedick (Matthew Macfadyen) belongs to a male group bonded by social class and battle. He brays with the group in smug conformity until Beatrice's cousin, Hero (Sarita Choudhury), is falsely accused of whoring, at which point Beatrice (Saskia Reeves) finds the real man inside the macho posturing. . . .The quality of Declan Donnellan's directorial insight can be gauged by his use of one of Benedick's final lines, "Come, come, we are friends," not as a general goodwill platitude, but as a response to Beatrice unforgivingly refusing Claudio's outstretched hand. It unforgettably illustrates both her character and the changed relationship with Benedick. . . .
. . . The production's great strength is in the acting. Matthew Macfadyen's Benedick is a bumptious, almost boorish young man from a minor public school: the suggestion that he had once played with Beatrice's feelings and then dropped her sounds all too plausible. The plot to make him fall in love with her is just another bit of male horseplay. The effect on Benedick is unexpected, though, and Macfadyen draws a warm but sharp portrait of a smug young blade moving through bewilderment and self-satisfaction to a kind of maturity. . .Dominic Cavendish, SUNDAY TIMES, 10 June 1998
. . . We watch in delight as Matthew Macfadyen's superb Benedick and Saskia Reeves's schoolma'mish Beatrice are tricked into love via hilarious eavesdropping scenes and arrive at weepy-eyed affection.. . .Robert Butler, INDEPENDENT on SUNDAY, 14 June 1998
. . . The period works well for Beatrice's rival: Matthew Macfadyen's lugubrious, upright Benedict has a drawling laugh, raised eyebrows and military bearing. His amused certainty comes from rank rather than intellect. It would madden any woman. . . .Georgina Brown, MAIL on SUNDAY, 21 June 1998
. . . Matthew Macfadyen's Benedick, an upper-class twit with a charming, lazy drawl, is not an obvious match for Saskia Reeves's sparky Beatrice, whose excessive appetite for life can leave her with a blinding hangover. But his brave choice to stand apart from the chaps and defend the innocent Hero proves that he, too, is his own man and much more than a well-stuffed shirt.Carole Woddis, SUNDAY TIMES, 10 June 1998
this production finds Benedick's song 'Sigh no more . . .Men were deceivers ever' moved to the opening, which over emphasises the play's potentially tragic subplot. . .
. . . Matthew Macfadyen's beautifully conveyed Hooray Henry Benedict . . .Nicholas de Jongh, EVENING STANDARD, 6 June 1998
. . . Matthew Macfadyen's moustachioed Benedick with drawling voice and braying laughter . . .
(Reviews obtained from here)