Beatriz Romilly, Globe theatre, Matthew Dunster, Mexican Revolution, Much Ado About Nothing, shakespeare
So, I was at the Globe for Matthew Dunster’s “Mexican” production of Much Ado About Nothing,and loved it.
Let’s begin with the time-travel quality of just entering the place, climbing up the wooden stairs (we opted for the gallery benches – with cushions), watching from above the groundlings standing in the pit… Oh, the thrill of it!
And then the play itself: lively, colourful, full of song and music, with touches of that kind of melancholy, angry lust for love and life that goes with wartime – given that the setting is the Mexican Revolution…
I’d wondered how the quintessentially Elizabethan Globe stage would take to being transported half a world away… In the end, I think it worked in the way it would have worked back in Shakespeare’s own day, when all it took to conjure up Ancient Egypt or Venice or Denmark was a placard and a painted backcloth. A train wagon, a small altar, and the colourful costumes do the trick: Mexico it is – and it works quite well.
The text was tweaked and pruned a good deal, too, in many small and less small ways, to make it work. I was a bit wrong-footed at first, but fell in stride soon enough, and refuse to be horrified: it is, after all, not much worse than what Elizabethan players would have done on a daily basis.
And with all of this, Dunster and his cast did many good things, using the combined potential of text and setting for comedy and drama alike. I especially loved Beatriz Romilly’s feisty, no-nonsense Beatrice, and Jo Dockery’s icily angry Doña Juana. This was one piece of casting I was doubtful about: Don Juan turned into a woman? But it works very well in the Mexican context, and in Jo Dockery’s haughty rendition. I even liked Dogberry as a linguistically-challenged American movie-maker… his physical bits of comedy do fall a little broad at times – but my translator’s heart loved the transposition of the constable’s vocabulary ineptitude to a matter of poor translation.
And then, of course, the jig – the foot-stomping, hand-clapping not-quite-jig!
All in all, a wonderful three hours – and the impression that, were it remotely possible, I’d happily spend half my life at the Globe.