Much Ado About Something and Nothing

At the stage door

Spare a thought for Adam James playing Don Pedro, or Tom Bateman, in his professional debut, playing Claudio, as they push their way sideways out of the stage door, utterly ignored by the throng entirely focussed on the man progressing slowly along the edge of the crowd barrier.

The audience had been on their feet applauding less than ten minutes before, but as soon as the curtain descended Adam and Tom reverted to anonymity…….

All of the cast of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ at Wyndhams theatre escape home, with the exception of David Tennant, graciously signing as many programmes as he can and thanking everyone for coming, under the watchful eyes of the guardians of the stage door.

The signs on the wall say that due to the huge demand for autographs the producers insist that David will only sign memorabilia associated with this production.  So don’t bring your Doctor Who tat here, children.

I had wondered why there was no queue at the Ladies’ after the curtain came down, a first in my fairly extensive experience of theatre going.  When we turned the corner to walk past the stage door we saw why.  Everyone must have dived out of their seats to run around to the back of the theatre, somehow knowing in advance that Tennant would go straight there after the curtain calls.  As I’ve never been one to seek out autographs, I wasn’t in the know on these matters; but what a sight.

It’s a good plan; deal with the stage door Jonnies and Janettes immediately, in the hope they will have dispersed by the time he really wants to leave the theatre.  Meanwhile, all the other cast members can duck out, their cloak of invisibility of never having been Doctor Who, perfectly in place.

I couldn’t decide if they were happy to escape home, or to meet their mates for a drink in Soho, or if their bowed heads and averted eyes were to avoid the reminder every evening that their ‘recognisability quotient’ hadn’t risen much above that of you or I?  Are they envious of David Tennant, or just happy that he has the box office pull to get a populist production of Shakespeare on in the West End, and they’ve got a job as a result?  Do they luxuriate in their share of the thunderous applause, or do they harbour resentment that most of it is not for them?

You’ll have guessed by now that my mind wasn’t entirely focussed on the play while I was at the theatre.  I embarked on this post with the intention of writing a review of the play, but really I’m much more interested in the psychology of a theatre ensemble in a play which rests so heavily on the reputation of the lead actor.

What kind of poison chalice is it to be the designated understudy, knowing that the only reason 99% of the audience is there is to see the person you are not?

And what of Catherine Tate?  Her name is up there as big as Tennant’s, but she wasn’t out working the line.  But nor did she sneak out unnoticed; instead she came to the stage door as he approached the end of the line, and called to him to come back inside.  Why is she not outside offering to sign things?  Do they take it in turns?  Or is demand for her less, and therefore it’s better to be on the inside, but popping out just to show the crowds she’s still there?

What can I tell you about the play?  It’s a modern reworking, set in Gibraltar in the 1980s.   It’s a comedy, and the production has gone all out to tap into every comic possibility, including over the top slapstick and pratfalls.  It was clear that much of the audience loved all the physical messing about, and the laughter is loud and utterly incomprehensible to those of us who didn’t find it funny.

When David Tennant’s on the stage you can’t look anywhere else; even in a blonde wig, mini skirt and fishnets, he has a presence that draws the eye, and a way with the text which make it comprehensible and amusing.

The staging and set, brightly lit pillars on a revolve, are brilliantly versatile and cleverly deployed.

And I suppose, most important of all to the business of it all, it’s sold out for its entire run.

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