A live stage version of Shakespeare's classic Rom-Com is on at The Regal, Tenbury Wells on Fri 2 and Sat 3 October, fresh from a hugely successful run at Ludlow Assembly Rooms.
REVIEW OF MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Here to There's production of Shakespeare's romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing is a joyous experience, the comedy and laughter predominant but the black side of the plot still there and not sidelined or turned into panto. Carl Walker, director, set his production at the end of the Spanish Civil War, and ensured that every element supported, matched and coordinated with that setting with simplicity and credibility – from the beautiful stage set of a Spanish villa, designed by Sara Mai, the costumes and the music, composed by Jane Whittle which was a perfect accompaniment to the setting – and, a rare treat for Ludlow, played live in the auditorium of the Assembly Rooms.
Morgan Rees-Davies’s Benedick was a faultless portrayal of one of Shakespeare’s favourite romantic heroes – the mix of comic, indeed jester as Beatrice accuses him, and serious moral righter-of-wrongs and, once he tips, so easily, into lover carried with consummate professionalism –and the interplay between him and his Beatrice was, I think, one of the best I’ve seen and that included the Brannagh/Thompson version! Sarah Palmer didn’t just play Beatrice – she was Beatrice – feisty, independent, loyal, clever and funny and always, always credible. She carried the audience through laughter and outrage and to the play’s happy conclusion with total credibility and we know, without any doubt, that she and Benedick will indeed live happily together ever as a truly matched pair.
In this production, the future of Claudio and Hero is also given that permanence – not something I’ve commonly experienced. More often, their marriage looks precarious, based on untruths and guilt and mistrust. This time, Walker brought out the innocence and the love between them and the reconciliation at the second marriage scene was something of a tear-jerker. Claudio, played by Dan Wilby, brought a clear sense of heart-break into that shocking first-wedding denunciation of Hero – and this was backed up by Leonato, played with constant sensitivity and nobility by Mark Topping, who, too, showed such love for his daughter when the text could be, and has so often been, interpreted as an opportunity for violence. Hero (Poppy Wilde) managed to combine shock and innocence and her own heart-break with credibility so that what is a difficult scene in the play was underpinned by that trio of secondary characters with an intensity of empathetically believable emotions –which Poppy carried throughout the play to her own happy conclusion.
The four main characters could not have been better matched; they were perfect foils to each other on every level interlinking seamlessly across the twists and turns of the plot, believable and real.
Mention must be made, of course, of the ‘baddies’ and their unlikely apprehenders! Don John, Borachio and Conrade (Andrew Whittle, Ian Seddon and Peter Gillham) avoided the boo-hiss portrayal – Andrew the under-stated anti-social outsider, Ian and Peter less vicious but rather bored now they can’t find an approved outlet for their villainy in wartime, although there is clearly violence bubbling, not very far, under Conrade’s surface. The fact that their villainy is uncovered, therefore, by a pair of untrained country bumpkins briefed by an inarticulate poseur makes the sense of justice more satisfying. The humour in the situation was unmissable, of course it was, but the mis-matching of these characters worked really well.
The whole production was professional throughout, thoughtfully creative and an absolutely fantastic interpretation of Shakespeare's story. If you missed it at Ludlow you can still enjoy the magic at Tenbury Wells on 2nd and 3rd October.