CAST: Much Ado About Nothing

LOUIS SHANKAR expected nothing but the best from the final leg of CAST’s tour – and he wasn’t left wanting

louis shankar

The cast of CAST (Cambridge American Stage Tour, a thoroughly convenient acronym) is meant to be comprised of the cream of the crop of Cambridge’s theatre scene, capable of showing everything we have to offer to our friends across the pond, arriving at the ADC after a run throughout September across America.

It did not disappoint.

The production is clever, energetic and, unlike many versions of Shakespeare’s comedies, hilarious. A well-adapted script has dialogue bouncing around the stage, broken up with some well timed silences for both dramatic and comic effect.

The inclusion of a ridiculous stereotypical American cop as the incompetent guard Dogberry is a thoroughly entertaining decision, despite it being an obvious marker that this production had been tailored for an American audience. One scene even has Dogberry indulging in one of the few things you never associate with Shakespeare: audience participation, where a man was taken up on stage, given sunglasses, a fake moustache and a horn.

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And the cast of CAST shine. Shakespearean words flow clearly and succinctly, although occasionally certain members did slip into a more stilted delivery. Amongst a thoroughly coherent group, though, two actors stand out; Benedick and Beatrice, the enemies turned into lovers played by Henry Jenkinson and Emma Powell, perfectly balanced drama with comedy, injecting an astonishing amount of humour into every witty conversation.

The whole performance takes place in front of a strange metal frame that serves almost solely as a backdrop and seems underused, but taking into consideration that this was a touring production, the set is unobtrusive and serves its purpose. An acutely chosen selection of props – including a deck chair and fairy lights – creates a dynamic, if slightly plain, environment. Throughout, the whole stage bristles with movement. Minimal scene changes are deliberately visible and clearly thought out. The cast moves naturally but with a purpose, using even these scene changes to add a flash of humour.

One of the stand out features is the music. Sound is, at times, used simply and sometimes underwhelmingly – the chirruping of crickets is more irritating than atmospheric – but modern continental music is successful alongside piano solos as enjoyable background sound. And two musical moments will stick with me: a brilliantly choreographed routine to ‘We No Speak Americano’, finally breaking its connotations with The Inbetweeners Movie; and a beautiful and harmonious performance by the cast, but started by the glorious Laura Jane Ayres, of a song taken from the script.

This production is a triumph, with the cast and creatives showing real promise. And although not perfect, this is possibly as close as a Cambridge production will get.