Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Much Ado About Nothing - Review - People's Theatre

Much Ado About Nothing
 People's Theatre
10th March 2015

People think it's a new thing this idea that two people who don't like each other much could fall in love and live happily ever after. Before Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks got mail, and before Mills and Boon had even thought of the plot line, Shakespeare had already made a killing in the Romantic Comedy genre!
Much Ado About Nothing is one the best of Shakespeare's comedies.  It has all the elements to keep an audience intrigued and interested - handsome heroes, beautiful heroines, sparring couples and Machiavellian siblings, and a beautiful Italian setting. What more could you want in a romantic comedy? Not much - some witty one liners, some heartbreak and and some happiness at the ending. All the boxes ticked so far.

All that's left then would be for a cast and performance to do justice to the story and the team at the People's Theatre as usual does not disappoint. The set is a little more ornate than usual, depicting an Italian garden with enclosed within a stone wall with terrace and garden seat and a well (for young lovers and friends to meet at, to sit upon to plot and carry out mischievous schemes to capture the hearts of their embittered and unsuspecting cousins). All the action takes place within the garden, on the few occasions a different scene is required this is achieved with lighting changes and the introduction of an extra prop or two. The cast are dressed in retro 1960s style which works well - it's chic and simple, the ladies in bright dresses and capri pants, and the gents in sharp suits and trilbies.

The story - set in italy at the end of a military campaign sees soldiers returning to the home of Leonates, full of the tales of battles won and enemies routed. A tentative peace has been met. And the soldiers attentions turn from fighting to love. much to the disgust of Benedick (Craig Fairbairn), he finds his friend Claudio (Alex Blenkey) is more interested in the beautiful and modest Hero (Emma Jane Richards) than in tales of soldiering and heroism. He himself declares he will never marry for there is no on woman who embodies all the fair traits of character he would desire and mocks his friend for his lovesick air. His friend and lord Don Pedro decide to amuse themselves by finding him a wife - and see the chance to match him with Beatrice (Sara Jo Harrison), the woman he has declared to be unfit for any man's wife.

Naturally things do not all go to plan - Claudio's marriage to Hero is prevented by he machinations of Don Pedro's illegitimate brother and it seems all will be lost. Perhaps this is a tragedy after all?
Of course, Shakespeare finds a devious method to reveal the false knaves who have tried to undo the fragile peace, but not before much anguish and unhappiness has fallen on the house of Leonates.

There are some excellent performances - Craig Fairbairn is swaggers across the stage as Benedick in the first half convincingly learns some humility as he realises the true nature love in the darker second act. Beatrice is one of Shakespeare's strongest female characters. Sara Jo Harrison gives a great performance as the bright, witty, scathing, loyal and fiery cousin to the modest and quiet Hero.
By far the best scenes are those when Benedick and Beatrice eavesdrop on their friends - two well directed comic scenes. And then the emotionally taut scene when Beatrice grieves for her cousin and tests Benedick's new found love by demanding he kill his friend, who is the cause of the grief.

This is well produced and directed, and skillfully performed (even allowing for one or two stumbles over the Shakespearean dialogue!). Well done to all involved. And if you want to know how it all resolves itself into a happy ever after'll have to go see it!

Much Ado About Nothing plays until 14th March.

Denise Sparrowhawk

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