Much Ado About Nothing is a Shakespeare classic, a comedy about falling in love. Though quarrelsome Benedick and Beatrice appear to hate one another, when their friends and family conspire to bring them together they find that, actually, they’ve loved each other all along.
Northern Broadsides bravely sets this classic piece in the wartime era, allowing plenty of opportunities for creative costumes and a simple but effective set. It modernises Shakespeare without going OTT on quirkiness, which I like.
The first act is truly smashing, with all of the actors filling their roles brilliantly. Robin Simpson as Benedick leads the cast with humour and charm, putting his own stamp on classic lines. Isobel Middleton as Beatrice is fierce and fiery but displays her vulnerability subtly. The rest of the cast are strong but without the fantastic performance of the leads I don’t know how memorable the show would be.
Conrad Nelson’s direction storms it in the first act. and I’m left excitable in the interval for the next half. Unfortunately the second half lets the show down. It’s as if everyone’s put their full efforts into creating a cracking first half full of wit and clever interpretation and then totally stopped bothering after the interval. I found it hard to stay focussed – which must have been the same for school groups in the audience.
There are a few irritating additions, such as small outbursts of comedic song designed to bring a bit of humour to proceedings. Unfortunately this doesn’t really work a lot of the time, though I do enjoy the ‘proper’ songs and chorus numbers that break up the long scenes of Shakespearean dialogue.
This is by no means a traditional retelling of Much Ado About Nothing, but it’s certainly an interesting recreation. Catch it at York Theatre Royal until Saturday 18th May.
Photograph credited to Nobby Clark