Aleks Sierz finds an all-female cast gives an extra dimension to Shakespeare's battle-of-wits comedy
Much Ado About Nothing By William Shakespeare Shakespeare's Globe
As director of an all-female version, Tamara Harvey says: "The artistic advantages of this are very exciting, with lots of double-meanings being thrown up, and it allows you to hear the words anew. For a father to say to a child: 'I want you dead', is shocking, but when a woman plays the father the line gets an extra edge."
Likewise, when Benedict says to Beatrice: "May a man do it?" and she replies: "It's a man's office but not yours", there's an extra irony from having both characters played by women. And when a woman plays the role of Claudio it's less easy to dismiss him as a cruel character. An all-female company makes the characters more complex.
Beatrice is a merry lady, and is ferociously independent at a time when that was unusual. She is determined to stand her ground and speak her mind, and she delights in laughter and wit. By contrast, Benedict seems to use his wit as a mask and speaks in order to hide his feelings.
Harvey is more concerned with telling the story than with imposing an interpretation on it, but she does stress the importance of eavesdropping.
The whole play is a game of Chinese whispers - almost every conversation is overheard, reported or set up. She also points out that the minor characters mirror the leads. "There are no small roles. They are all very rich," she says.
This play is a ripping good yarn and young people usually love the fact that at the Globe you have to use your imagination; they have no problem with Elizabethan dramatic conventions and the bare set.
Harvey also points out that Beatrice and Benedict spend a lot of time taking the mickey out of each other and not admitting to any emotion apart from a slight fancy - young people may well recognise that.
* Until September 25 Box office: 020 7401 9919 Globe Education: 020 7902 1433 www.shakespeares-globe.org