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Much Ado About Nothing reviews – National Theatre, London 2022 ★★★★

Reviews are in for Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theatre in London.

Simon Godwin’s revival of Shakespeare’s battle of the wits stars Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd, Humans) and John Heffernan (Dickensian, The Crown, Becoming Elizabeth) as Beatrice and Benedick.

Rounding out the cast are Celeste Dodwell, Eben Figueiredo, Olivia Forrest, David Fynn, Ashley Gillard, Brandon Grace, Nick Harris, Phoebe Horn, David Judge, Kiren Kebaili-Dwyer, Ioanna Kimbook, Wendy Kweh, Marcia Lecky, Ewan Miller, Mateo Oxley, Katherine Parkinson, Rufus Wright and Ashley Zhangazha

This lively tale of jealousy, self-discovery and love is set in a Sicilian pleasure palace in 1930s Italy, courtesy of designer Anna Fleischle, with sumptuous costumes by Evie Gurney. There’s a delightful five-piece swing band under the direction of Dario Rossetti-Bonell.

Read a round-up of theatre reviews from the UK press, below.

Much Ado About Nothing runs until 10 September 2022 at the National Theatre, London.

Average Critics Rating

The Times

"Bruised lovers charm amid simmering Italian chic"

"In John Heffernan and Katherine Parkinson, we get a charming pair of slightly bruised lovers."

"Anna Fleischle’s handsome recreation of a Sicilian pleasure palace called The Hotel Messina, a grand terracotta and gold revolving edifice, complete with powder room and beach huts, comes close to upstaging everyone."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Evening Standard

"Sorely disappointing. It’s not a bad show, just ponderous and hollow"

"Not even the combined talents of Katherine Parkinson and John Heffernan can breathe life into this flaccid production of Shakespeare’s comedy, a rare misfire by director Simon Godwin."

"Parkinson’s withering basilisk gaze and Heffernan’s etiolated air of being about to trump someone’s anecdote, should make them ideal casting for the sparring, reluctant lovers Beatrice and Benedick. But together they have zero chemistry. Neither their animosity nor their ardour rings true."

" As an entry-level Shakespeare this production is probably fine. But for anyone who wants to see Parkinson, Heffernan or Godwin giving their best work, it’s sorely disappointing."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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The Stage

"Stylish, summery and deliciously designed"

"Godwin’s style can sometimes feel aggressively slick, but for all its surface gloss this is an accessible production that hits the right beats. Parkinson is an exceptionally good fit for Beatrice and she has a wonderfully brittle chemistry with John Heffernan’s Benedick. They are both prickly oddballs, both equally insecure, though their initial combativeness soon gives way to a genuine tenderness."

"It’s a glittery, apolitical production but it’s well cast, stylish, summery stuff."

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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The Telegraph

"Blissful revival of a conveyor-belt classic"

"There are moments during Simon Godwin’s blissful revival of Much Ado, when the evening seems to deliver all the fun of a foreign hols without the hassle of baggage reclaim at Heathrow."

"Is it perfect? No, but it’s very serviceable in a bijou hotel kind of way – and there’ll be another one along, anytime soon; it’s a conveyor-belt classic."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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"Katherine Parkinson and John Heffernan are a blast in this luxuriously eccentric take on Shakespeare’s romcom"

"If this production has a fault it’s that it doesn’t feel even slightly urgent. It’s a luxuriant meander though ‘Much Ado’ that often seems immensely pleased with itself. Again, see: the films of Wes Anderson. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s right to be pleased with itself. Spending time at the Hotel Messina is a pleasure, a lazy holiday on which not a lot happens, very charmingly. It’s a wrench to leave."

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut
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The Guardian

"Screwball Shakespeare goes with a swing"

"John Heffernan shines brightest as a dorkish Benedick; Katherine Parkinson’s Beatrice is wry and cute but she is, surprisingly, not at her finest in comedy mode."

"The production does not, perhaps, plunge deeply enough into the play’s darkness, and no one actor commands our attention, but they all form a very able ensemble."

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
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The Financial Times

"A bittersweet summer cocktail with some peachy parts and laugh-out-loud slapstick scenes."

"Godwin’s production is sweet, sparky, sexy, sombre and, in the end, touching in its depiction of the transformative power of love. “I do love nothing in the world so well as you — is that not that strange?” says Heffernan’s Benedick in quiet astonishment."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Daily Mail

" Not much about ado"

"There seemed little love lost between the actors in Simon Godwin’s lightweight production, which doesn’t really engage with the play’s dark side."

Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail
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The Observer

"Shakespeare’s comedy is the gift that keeps on giving"

"As the hate-to-love, love-to-hate couple, John Heffernan and Katherine Parkinson give separately striking performances. Heffernan begins as a desultory discontent and subtly accretes layers of intelligence. Parkinson, wildly poised, gradually grows a heart, her face shining with surprised tears. However, they give off few sparks when together: their exchanges do not fuel the play. The energy is more diffused."

"Some of the play’s more disturbing moments go missing, but the glide of the action is delectable."

Susannah Clapp, The Observer
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The Sunday Times

"The test of any Much Ado is the moment Beatrice goes icy and asks Benedick to “kill Claudio”. If the audience laughs, the production lacks the proper depth of emotion. It happens here. But the night still has plenty of merit and Shakespeare’s conservative argument remains potent: “What we have, we prize not to the worth whiles we enjoy it, but, being lacked and lost, why then we rack the value"."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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The New York Times

"Simon Godwin’s production relocates the action to the Italian Riviera in the 1930s, which allows for an onstage band to ramp up the party mood as well as some audience-pleasing comic business involving a gelato trolley and a wayward hammock."

Matt Wolf, The New York Times
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📷 Main photo: Katherine Parkinson and cast. Much Ado About Nothing. Photo Manuel Harlan

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