Wednesday, 16 September 2015

"Much Ado About Nothing" by William Shakespeare
The People's Theatre Company.

"Much Ado" is one of Shakespeare's finest comedies and the People's Theatre Company bring out every comical line to the best effect. It's the story of two sets of lovers, Hero and Claudio are to be married in a week. To pass the time, they conspire with Don Pedro to set a "lover's trap" for Benedick, an arrogant confirmed bachelor, and Beatrice, his favourite sparring partner. Meanwhile, the nasty Don Jon conspires to break up the wedding by accusing Hero of infidelity. In the end, though, it all turns out to be "much ado about nothing."

Set in modern times in a blank canvas setting that could be anywhere, this production took the Shakespearian script and made it sound modern as well. Some folk are against sexing up Shakespeare's plays but when it's done well, it's very entertaining and opens up the Bard's works to a whole new audience of young people to the joys of the rhythm and rhyme of Shakespearian time.

What I really enjoyed was that this cast spanned the full age range of the cast members and I found that the younger cast had really worked hard to, not only get their teeth into the text, they delivered the words with fluidity and naturalness as if they had been born to perform the piece. There's nothing more off putting to see an actor deliver lines that they themselves didn't either understand or believe in. No fear of that here because the script was delivered as if it were their natural tongue.

Ryan Chadwick (Benedick) for me was the stand out performer, combining great comedy with the more passionate speeches. A fluid actor with a flair for expressing with his face the emotions of the speech naturally as if he had been doing this all his life.

His sparring partner to be, and like all great theatrical lovers they start out seemingly bitter enemies, is Beatrice, played by Hannah Rose. Again a very natural actor who delivers a great show of veiling her feelings for the "class clown" Benedick, even up to the end.

Jak Truswell (Claudio) and Lauren Stephenson (Hero) are the two, soon to be married lovers and both young actors delivered solid, comfortable performances which created a natural pairing between the two, making their scenes believable.

Richard Fife (Leonato) delivered another solid performance, as did Robbie Robb in his dual role as Antonio and Friar Francis, Tom Spencer (Don Pedro), Liam Dexter as the trouble making Don John, Chris Collins (Borachio), Danielle Hall (Conrad), Carly Smith (Balthasar), Mariana Kyriacou (Margaret) and Corrine Welford-Proctor as Ursula. A truly talented and supreme cast. Thou hath not a thumb that is sore within! These were also supported by quite a large ensemble of talent as members of the Watch, townsfolk, messengers and friends and family.

A directorial masterpiece by Sally Nix, cleverly splicing faithful text with modern costumes, swag and attitude, bringing a fresh new coat of paint to an old favourite. It's like hearing a remix of your favourite oldie which brings a smile to your face.

The scene and prop movers unobtrusively placed and removed the props easily with the pace of the action being just as it should be. I was quite surprised that the first act was over so soon, a really good sign for any play, and act two soon came to a close deceptively fast. I was amazed that the whole lot was over in just under two and a half hours. Time really does fly when you're enjoying a class play and troupe of performers such as the People's Theatre Company.

"Much Ado About Nothing" is on until Saturday 19 September 2015 at the Nottingham Arts Theatre and if you have any doubts about Shakespeare, then go and see this bright, fresh and comical play; it may just change your outlook on Stratford Bill as a stuffy old playwright and you may come out thinking him as a dope dramatist, innit!

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