Pros: Features a super confident cast delivering performances that linger in the memory.
Cons: Although billed as a re-imagined version of Much Ado About Nothing, I Know You Of Old predictably relies on Shakespearean prose.
Nestled in a theatrical hot spot, the Hope and Anchor in Islington was previously best known as a venue for up and coming bands including the Jam, U2, Clash and the Police. Hope Theatre is now making a name for itself with a diverse roster of productions. I Know You Of Old is a reboot of Much Ado About Nothing: a tale of two intertwined love stories, Beatrice and Benedick in a perpetual state of denial, tormenting each other over failed amorous encounters and Claudio’s unabashed pursuit of true love Hero. But the twist in this version is the death of Hero. We pick up the story on the eve of her funeral. The circumstances of her death are open to speculation as her fiancé Claudio is wracked by grief and guilt. When Beatrice arrives to pay her respects with Benedick in hot pursuit, Claudio sees an opportunity to right previous wrongs and do one last thing for his beloved Hero. Can he bring the warring lovers together?
With Hero represented only by a coffin, the piece is reduced to just three characters; no Don Pedro, Leonato or mischievous constables Dogberry and Verges, as all other characters are jettisoned from the plot. So the traditional context of the play is discarded, allowing greater focus on the relationship between Beatrice, Benedick and Claudio. By and large, this works reasonably well but David Fairs falls back on Shakespeare’s original text to create a parallel dark comedy. No bad thing in itself, but the promotional blurb suggested a reimagined adaptation. I was (naively) hoping for contemporary dialogue but the production only hinted at modernity by including Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time, a version of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game and A-ha’s Take On Me, the latter of which formed a backdrop to one of the funniest sequences in the play.
That bugbear aside, the cast were brilliant, with all three actors playing off each other to great effect. David Fairs was excellent as Benedick, looking strangely cool in shades and a leather jacket (in a sweltering performance area!). Ditto Conor O’Kane as Claudio and Sarah Lambie was sensational as Beatrice, expertly reattaching her braces without missing a line!
Adapted By: David Fairs
Original Author: William Shakespeare
Director: Anna Marsland
Box Office: 033 3666 3366
Booking Link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/169594
Booking Until: 1 July 2017