Pros: Funny and witty with some excellent performances.
Cons: A few moments jarred the otherwise smooth flow of the show.
The chilly ruins of The Rose Playhouse are the backdrop for this production of Shakespeare’s famous comedy Much Ado About Nothing. Although this is a paired down version that comes in at just over 90 minutes, this production retains all the humour, strength and emotion of the original script. With a strong ensemble, clever direction and an effective design, this is as enjoyable a Shakespeare as you’re likely to see.
Much Ado About Nothing tells the tale of returning war heroes and their fortunes and misfortunes in love. Claudio, a now decorated war veteran, returns to Messina and soon sets his eye on the young Hero. They are engaged to be married, but in the period between proposal and wedding there are many games to be played. The most prominent of these is the wedding party’s secret attempts to inspire passion between the quarrelling Benedick and Beatrice. From here one would hope for a double marriage ceremony and eternal happiness, but that wouldn’t be much fun, would it?
This production’s set, lighting and sound design are simple, but effective. In a space that could be challenging to work in, the creative team have done an impressive job. The main acting space is small and so to create any sort of atmosphere is a feat in itself. A good example of this is the use of the existing ruins to conjure up the images of destroyed landscapes from the Second World War, and then the relief and post-war party atmosphere implied by the bunting and string lights. During a particularly spectacular scene sparklers are used to light the way for the performers. Although the music during this part seemed to jar a little with that of the rest of the play, it is a truly memorable moment.
Shakespeare’s sometimes tricky language is spoken uniformly well in this production, and within the first few minutes it was clear this young company had mastered it. Although the odd line is lost, the overwhelming majority of the script is spoken clearly and easy for all to understand. This is a strong ensemble cast, but worthy of particular mention is Rhiannon Sommers. Her ability to portray the sharp wit and hard exterior of Beatrice alongside the genuinely tender and heartfelt moments in the script make her performance a joy to watch. Every ‘Much Ado’ needs a great Beatrice and this one is no exception. Adam Elliott’s audience interaction is inspired and the highlight of his confident performance as Benedick, while Robert Hazle puts in an amusing turn as the officious Dogberry.
The battle of wits between Benedick and Beatrice is often the focal point of this play and so it is with this production. Although this Beatrice far outwits the poor Benedick, the chase is thoroughly entertaining. This succinct production ticks all the right boxes. It’s clear direction, strong emotion and brilliant humour are a delight and will leave audiences wanting more.
Author: William Shakespeare
Director: Alex Pearson
Producers: Wolf-Sister Productions and The Rose Playhouse
Box Office: 020 7261 9565
Booking Link: http://www.rosetheatre.org.uk/events/event/much-ado-about-nothing-by-william-shakespeare-2016-04-08/
Booking Until: 29 April 2016