Theatre Review: Much Ado About Nothing with David Tennant & Catherine Tate

The Dr Who magic is rekindled in a sparkling - but not perfect - production of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.

Charisma crackles from the curtain-up as former Dr Who stars David Tennant and Catherine Tate exchange witty wordplay as love-shy suitors Beatrice and Benedick in one of Shakespeare’s most uproarious comedies.

Staged in Gibraltar in the decadent 1980s, the show opens in a blaze of aerobics and bikinis, as sexy-sailor Tennant enters on a golf-cart covered in Union Jacks, a sombrero and vuvuzelas, tooting his horn. This is more Wham meets Dallas than boring old Bard.

The sparing banter of the text is perfectly suited to Tennant’s cheeky style and he plays Benedick as a thoroughly modern man who moves from decrying “shall I never see a bachelor of three-score again” to falling head-over-heels with gobby Beatrice. He is just as charismatic on stage as TV.

Tate makes for a perfect comedy partner but her performance has harder edges that are caricature rather than knock-out character performance. And it may be controversial to say but her shrill voice is not well-suited to the stage. It and not she became the focus, despite her excellent comic timing.

The break-neck pace is lost in the final third of the play, while some of the modern day parallels are overdone, like dressing Hero (Sarah Macrae) in a Lady Diana mask and wedding dress. The real-life wronged Princess was never resurrected from the grave to marry her one true love.

But Tennant and Tate are obviously thrilled to be reunited - which is infectious - and Shakespeare’s very own rom-sit-com looks set to be the bold, brash hit of the summer.

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* Showing at the Wyndham’s Theatre in Charing Cross Road, WC2, until Saturday, September 3.