Adapted and directed by David Burns
I very much admire any society or group which is willing to tackle a Shakespeare play. Many reading this will have studied a work by the great bard at some point during their education. For me, it was during my teenage years (more years ago than I care to remember) that I was exposed to two great tragedy plays, Hamlet and Othello. This formed the basis for my future study of, in my opinion, other great playwrights such as Marlow, Bennett and Miller to name a few.
While “Much Ado About Nothing” cannot be classed as a tragedy, but it demonstrates that Shakespeare was equally gifted at penning comedy for audiences.
This play is thought to have been written in 1598 and 1599. Many of Shakespeare’s plays contain an element of misunderstanding centreing on whispers or gossip that form a basis for evil doings or japery. Here the characters of Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into confessing their love for each other, and Claudio is tricked into rejecting Hero at the altar in the erroneous belief that she has been unfaithful. At the end, Benedick and Beatrice join forces to set things right, and the others join in celebrating the marriages of the two couples.
Director, David Burns, has been very skilful in condensing this play’s dialogue somewhat, whilst maintaining the plot line at the same time, ensuring that it could be followed and could be understood by the audience. It was very evident that a lot of practice and hard work had been conducted throughout rehearsals, in terms of the actors’ delivery of lines. I was particularly impressed by Sarah Howsam (Beatrice), Chris Billington (Benedick), Matthew King (Don Pedro) and Ian Wilkinson (Dogberry). Each player took care to deliver the dialogue in a measured and paced way, pausing at the right place to give the audience time to understand the meaning and the humour. This can so often be lost when delivering Shakespeare’s words.
Sarah, not only delivered the dialogue expertly but was also very expressive with her eyes, giving the audience the understanding that she was flirting outrageously with Benedick and yet equally conveying the sarcasm and anger that she felt.
Chris, for his part, was equal to this and engaged the audience with his monologues by addressing them directly to the audience. That made the audience feel as though it was eavesdropping and that it was in on the intrigue.
All other actors had their part to play, and did so magnificently. The Watch, led by Ian Wilkinson, provided some of the best comic lines and had the audience laughing as the deception unfolded.
Matthew King (Don John) and Claudio (Robert McGregor) displayed their gullibility convincingly and Natasha Dunn (Hero) conveyed the innocence of her wronged character well.
This production had been well thought out and many factors contributed to the success. The set was well crafted, it provided depth and contributed to speedy scene changes that meant that the play flowed well. Entrances on stage, and from the back of the theatre engaged the audience.
The excellent lighting plot, used full and fading lights to establish different times of the day and also the passage of time.
The costumes suggested that this play was set in the Edwardian era to some extent but this did not detract. The music and movement during the play enhanced it all.
This was an excellent show of theatre, for those of us that love Shakespeare, I being one of them. Bravo!