REVIEW: Much Ado About Nothing

A fresh take on Shakespeare that definitely paid off

Almost everyone knows the plot of this play: two people who are madly in love are somehow torn apart, and two people who seem to hate each other gradually realise that they couldn’t imagine life without the other.

It’s the plot of romcoms and romance novels galore but, as with so many things, Shakespeare did it first. This production was very conscious of its Shakespearean roots, but managed to completely disregard any hero-worship and produce a really fresh and honest show.

In the beautiful surroundings of the Peterhouse Deer Park (sadly minus the deer), the pared-back wooden set seemed natural and matched the show’s utterly uncontrived atmosphere – there was a simple wooden bridge and arch with flowers twined round it, and with the casual ninetees costumes and live music, the whole thing felt like a lovely mini festival. It was the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon, and I take my (sun) hat off to the organisation of the whole team behind the play: it was all pleasingly relaxed but they even managed to serve everyone lemonade in the interval! I hope next year sees another summery Shakespeare in the Deer Park, for which this production set a very high bar.

Girl gang! – Photo Credits to Georgia Humphrey

The obvious auditory difficulties with performing outside were dealt with very well, and if at times some of the language was muffled, the acting was so overwhelmingly good that not only did it not matter, but it actually added to the sincerity and genuine feel of the whole show. In the same way, the comedy of the scenes between Dogberry (Elliott Wright) and Verges (Damian Walsh) was made all the funnier by the way they embraced a slightly metatheatrical unrehearsed vibe.

The protagonists, Beatrice (Olly Francis) and Benedick (Comrie Saville-Ferguson) were consistently brilliant: the verbal comedy was superbly executed, and the progression of their relationship from banter to love was utterly sweet and very believable. Their endearing awkwardness accentuated the fact that everything felt very young and fresh, with all of the characters seeming to feel things very genuinely, making the show accessible as well as entertaining.

Benedick (Comrie Saville-Ferguson) and Beatrice (Olly Francis) – Photo Credits to Georgia Humphrey

Comrie Saville-Ferguson gave an outstanding performance, securing many laughs from the audience, but also allowing his character’s vulnerability to shine through, making his part much more than a two-dimensional comic lead. The moment when he reluctantly confesses that he will be “horribly in love” with Beatrice was so touching and genuine, and was made all the more so in contrast to his hyperactive comedy in the gulling scene. He was well matched by Olly Francis’ excellent portrayal of Beatrice, from her relationship with her friends to her frustration and confusion as she overhears them talking about her and Benedick, to her superbly timed comedy and asides to the audience, she stayed in character and produced a very likeable, relatable lead that the audience loved.

One audience member remarked that they usually have to look up the plot of Shakespeare plays before going to see them in order to understand the action, but that they hadn’t done that for this show and that they could understand perfectly. It was true to the original without being too precious, and brought out the relaxed humour at the same time as performing some very touching serious moments.

This show deserves full marks, not because it was flawless, but because its imperfections were so absolutely perfect for the play.

5/5
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