I made a mistake last week of not reading the reviews before going to see "Much Ado About Nothing " at the Old Vic. I was drawn particularly to the 2 big names who have an enviable pedigree. I assumed this would provide a superb performance as per publicity blurb below.
James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave in Shakespeare’s timeless comedy Much Ado About Nothing at the Old Vic.
Much Ado About Nothing is the story of young lovers Claudio and Hero who’s imminent nuptials thwarted by the resentful scheming of a Prince, marriage seems inconceivable for reluctant lovers Beatrice (Vanessa Redgrave) and Benedick (James Earl Jones). Redgrave and Earl Jones take on these roles for the first time.
My husband and I made our way to the south of the river to the Old Vic. The outside of the theatre looks much like a department store in the middle of an uninspiring section of road. Inside there are the remnants of a bygone age which has been valiantly championed in terms of refurbishment by Kevin Spacey. Somehow it still looks tired and lacks the charm of the West End Theatres. Good leg room however for we tall people!!
The set for the play can only be described as minimalist and austere. The actors, although using the Shakespearian language were dressed in the drab garb of 1940s with American soldiers in uniform which made it difficult to distinguish one from another. This attempt at a kind of updating led to a disconnect which ensured the subtle nuances of the intrigue were lost.
The 2 main characters failed to deliver - the once great Vanessa Redgrave was often incoherent and inaudible - her energy levels were very low which seemed to infect the rest. James Earl Jones was sadly out of condition, very overweight lumbering across the set and delivering his lines, albeit with his wonderful voice, from an armchair. He still has charisma but somehow his performance was unconvincing. There were a couple of young actors who were able to project and to make the parts their own.
It was so tedious that about what seemed an eternity the interval arrived I turned to my husband and I said "I have had enough, what about you?" He said he felt the same way but wouldn't have said so unless I did. He didn't want to spoil it for me….as if!!
This is the first time we have walked out of a play.
On return I wondered if it was just us having this view so looked up several reviews - Quentin Letts summed the general feeling…
The review says that James Earl Jones is now 82 and Vanessa Redgrave 76. To act in such a demanding play with many performances is laudable but maybe foolish. When your health and fitness are still in the ascendence there is no need to change direction but with these 2 great actors maybe they should now follow a different but maybe related path so that they can still feel they are achieving in their chosen careers.
Lessons learned !!!