Battlefields, love, masked-balls and laughter – Shakespeare’s greatest romantic comedy, Much Ado About Nothing is creatively brought to life in this innovative and witty adaptation from Halifax touring company Northern Broadsides and Staffordshire’s New Vic Theatre.
With a simple, yet effective design by Lis Evans, the company makes full use of the stage, filling it with props, costumes and lively musical direction by Rebekah Hughes, until it overflows with a WW2-atmosphere and much needed comedy.
The comedy and tragedy of the play is starkly contrasted by some superb performances, fully embracing the darkness and light of Shakespeare’s text.
Robin Simpson’s RAF officer, Benedict is wonderful, with a fine line in double takes. First emerging as an arrogant, self-loving marriage hater, through the play revels his true self to be loyal, fearless and concealing his love for Beatrix.
Isobel Middleton provides the formidable, intelligent, spirited Women’s Land Girl, Beatrix, a true match for Benedict. The scenes where their friends and family employ clever deception to make them admit their long-concealed love for each other are hilarious, and beautifully staged.
Vampire-like, Don John’s wicked plan to destroy the young love between Hero and Claudio brings darkness, treachery and deceit to the play. Who would think that the Dad’s Army-like night watch will come to the rescue with their heroic band of misfits!
David Nellist’s Dogberry, leader of the night watch, brings to mind an equally self-important, Captain Mannering, with his hilarious mangled language, and baffling pronouncements.
The whole cast collaborate to deliver a production that embodies the spirit of Shakespeare in this, Conrad Nelson’s joyous swansong production for Northern Broadsides. With many playing instruments, dancing, singing as well as embracing their characters, they bring to mind a merry band of players.
The clarity of the production is striking – the words of the Bard shine, with the cast clearly conveying the wit and beauty of his language in their delivery.
I watched the show with my mum (a retired English teacher and expert in all things Shakespeare). We both saw the RSC’s 2014 excellent production and agree this production is better!
This fantastic production is truly Shakespeare for all – making his work accessible for young and old alike.★ ★ ★ ★
Read our interview with Only Fools and Horses’ actor, Gwyneth Strong about going on the road as Mrs Boyle in the latest UK tour of Agatha Christie’s legendary whodunnit, The Mousetrap coming to The Lowry.