Much Ado About Nothing
BEN BLYTH highly recommends a mixed but ‘well-rehearsed, well executed, and well directed piece of student theatre’. There is also a bit about youporn.
Howard Theatre – Downing, October 5th-9th, 7.45pm, £4-5
Directed by Alice Malin
Perhaps I am going soft, but the Pembroke Players Japan Tour show was nothing short of astonishing. Not for the set – it was minimal and, although well used, fairly redundant. Not for the costume – the bandages for stockings really annoyed me. Not even for the props – that shuttlecock needs to be shot. But if you are searching for a piece of theatre which sets itself by the store of its actors you’ll do well to find better than Alice Malin’s ‘Much Ado’.
The story revolves around the young renegade Benedick. Returning from the wars this macho macho man (yes I did), having sworn to remain a bachelor for three-score years, comes to realise there is more to life than going it alone. Clearly he’s not discovered youporn yet. Teased, tormented, and thoroughly set up by his friends he eventually comes to realise the girl of his dreams has been under his nose all along. Again much like youporn.
‘Much ado about an o-thing’ is a joke about genitals
The aforementioned heroine is Beatrice, who is here wonderfully played by Holly Olivia Braine. So strong was her performance that I had to remind myself that I was nestled in the implausibly comfortable seats of the Howard Theatre and not at the National. She remained nuanced, convincing, hilarious and thoroughly touching throughout. Her control of the meter and frequent modern inflections provided a personal and personable touch to Beatrice – without a doubt the finest rendition of the role I have ever seen.
She was propped up by a strong supporting cast, with engaging and intelligent performances from Liane Grant (Margaret), Matt Kilroy (Don Pedro), Marie-Claire Chappet (Verges & Urusla), Victoria Rigby (Hero) and Okey Nzelu (Antonio) – whose verse speaking was excellent. The strength of the ensemble, however, could not be better qualified than through the performance of Simon Haines. I was told, just last week by a RADA director that you should treat each performance as if it was the most important that you have ever given. His Borachio provided much needed gravitas to an otherwise frivolous production.
And it is this which holds the production back from a 5. Greater attention should have been set at Leonato’s rejection of Hero, or Don Perdo’s inappropriate wooing of Beatrice. Similarly I tired of Benedick’s facial gymnastics. But overall Malin’s control of character direction was superb.
This may not be the most intellectual Shakespearean adaptation you will see this year, but it’s a well-rehearsed, well executed, and well directed piece of student theatre. Highly recommended.