June 19, 2011, by Peter Kirwan

Much Ado @ Wyndham’s Theatre

I want to make clear – I have NOT seen Much Ado about Nothing at Wyndham’s Theatre, starring Catherine Tate and David Tennant. Quite simply, I couldn’t afford it.

I was also sceptical about what appeared to be a particularly cynical production aimed at the West End. The two most popular stars of the most popular light entertainment show on television, reunited for a one-off special? My cynicism was reduced when I heard that the ever-wonderful Josie Rourke was directing; and I do believe that Tate and Tennant genuinely wanted to work together – there does seem to be something more than pound signs in a producer’s eyes behind this production.

The reason I’m posting now is that I’ve been fascinated by the responses, which seem to run a clear divide between academic and popular. The critiques I’ve heard from some of my most trusted theatregoing contacts and academics have been resoundingly negative – Tate is awful, the rest of the production is half-baked, it lacks imagination etc. The responses (primarily on Facebook) from my non-specialist friends, however, say that it’s wonderful – Tate and Tennant sparkle, the production looks fantastic, it’s laugh-out-loud funny.

So, my two questions: 1) What did people who’ve seen it think of it? and 2) what do we think about this kind of production? Is the fact that it’s working for new audiences, even if there may be suspicion of people being blinded by celebrity, enough? Do we as academics need to take that into account as part of our critique? If we’re the only person still sitting while everyone else gives a standing ovation, is everyone else wrong, or is there something we should be learning from them about pure enjoyment? Or does our critical objectivity matter more than a mass response?

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