York Theatre Royal – until Saturday 18th May 2019
Reviewed by Michelle Richardson
Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare’s comedy about love and treachery, has been reimagined by Northern Broadsides in conjunction with the New Vic Theatre. Currently playing in York as part of its UK tour, ending next week in Harrogate, before opening the Shakespeare Festival in Germany in June.
Set in 1945 after six long years of fighting, World War Two is finally over. Set in Messina, servicemen in British RAF uniforms are returning from the battlefields, land girls working in the fields, and in the air, is hope, optimism, and much needed laughter. Two young dreamers, Hero and Claudio, fall head over heels, whilst Benedick and Beatrice have a love hate relationship, who are then tricked into declaring love for one another. Yet amid all this hope, treachery is afoot, a vengeful brother plotting the downfall of the Prince, Don Pedro. How will it all end, can true love overcome, or will gossip and rumour win out?
Sarah Kemeela Impey as Hero and Linford Johnson as Claudio are sweet as the young, innocent couple, before heartbreak descends. Robin Simpson as Benedick and Isobel Middleton as Beatrice are the complete opposite. Their relationship is hilarious and you just know what will happen after their distaste for each over. They had great chemistry together when they were at loggerheads, and the scenes when they were both set up gave the audience laughs aplenty. I must say that the star of the show was Simpson, his acting was brilliant and he showed great comic timing. His interaction with the audience had us all laughing and even had the rest of the cast couldn’t help themselves. Brilliant.
The production is interspersed with music, the cast breaking into song and a band of musicians popping up playing various instruments. By no means is this production a musical, but the music is certainly a key element in the story telling. It showcased the multi-talented cast in how adaptable they were.
The staging and props were very simple, in fact the staging didn’t alter at all, just the props, a few chairs, newspapers and buckets and not much else to be honest, but that is all that was needed.
I have seen a few of Shakespeare’s plays now and I have a bit of a love, hate relationship with them. I have come to the conclusion that I’m not so keen on the more serious wordy plays, but I enjoy the comedies. I have never read the play or seen it in theatre or even in film and had no idea of the story beforehand, so was unsure of what to expect. At just short of three hours long I did not hold up much hope, I honestly thought I would flag, how wrong I was, it was a superb show. At times I was crying with laughter. Could it have been shorter? Maybe, but the time flew by and I was thoroughly captivated by the whole tale.
This production is a great introduction to Shakespeare, with great comic relief but with a darker element. Catch it whilst you can and be captivated just as I was.