Pros: A charming and talented cast performing one of Shakespeare’s best comedies.
Cons: Appalling weather taking the shine off an otherwise brilliant production.
The play barely needs introduction, but let’s quickly remind ourselves of the plot. 16th century Messina: resplendent in gold tunics, Don Pedro and his officers, Benedick and Claudio return victorious from a war, with his half-sibling Don Jon, who has reluctantly joined him. So begins the tale of two intertwined love stories. The purely romantic liaison between Leonato’s daughter, Hero and Claudio is contrasted with that between Hero’s cousin Beatrice and Benedick, who are in a perpetual state of denial, tormenting each other over failed amorous encounters. Claudio falls deeply in love with Hero and decides to court her. Despising love and marriage, Benedick tries to talk his friend out of the relationship, but Don Pedro encourages the marriage and uses a masquerade ball to woo Hero on Claudio’s behalf. With Claudio’s nuptials arranged, he and his and cohorts resolve to make Beatrice and Benedick fall in love. Meanwhile Don Jon, the malcontent, sees an opportunity for mischief and tries to wreck the wedding.
It was a refreshing change to have close proximity with the cast, who were more than happy to chat with audience members during the performance. We began in the courtyard, as Don Pedro and his men announced their triumphant return. They led us to the front doors of the church where we settled onto benches to watch the story unfold. Hero and Beatrice cheekily helped themselves to people’s crisps, while Claudio rehearsed his seduction techniques on various ladies in the audience, getting them to give him marks out of ten. There was a tremendous atmosphere as the garden floodlights came on to lighten the gloom, and an eerie mist descended with the start of another steady downpour. You sensed that audience and cast were itching to get inside the church for some much needed warmth. As so it came to pass, as the play reached its climax.
Overall, this was a beautifully executed production that benefited from an outstanding cast: Darrel Bailey a commanding Don Pedro; Graeme Dallin frenetically intense as Claudio; Jennifer Clement assured in the role of Don John; Denis Delahunt holding court as Leonato; Nick Howard-Brown, always convincing as the stubborn, infuriating Benedick. Emma McDonald as Hero and Anne-Marie Piazza as Beatrice proved to be a really great combination, particularly when they doubled up as Constables Dogberry and Verges. What happened to that heatwave? Maybe next year!
Author: William Shakespeare
Director: Amy Draper
Composer: Candida Caldicot
Producer: Iris Theatre
Box Office: 020 7240 0344
Booking link: http://iristheatre.com/event/much-ado-about-nothing/
Booking until: 22 July 2016