Much enjoyment and admiration about the ADC theatre tonight as ETG’s 60th anniversary play, Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ comes back home to Cambridge. After having toured from France to Switzerland and onto Belgium, I was very excited to see the much-anticipated European Tour’s performance, and such high hopes did not prove to disappoint! With some outstanding acting, meticulous set-design and manipulation, accurate and intelligent directing by Geraint Owen, and fantastic management by Katherine and Alex Ridley, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ certainly has everything to boast about!
Set post-war in the carnivalesque scene of celebration, the play opens with the literal unfolding of the set that expanded into assorted stage backdrops, equipment, props and costumes, marking the end to the war and the commencement of festivity. Such festivity was certainly dramatized to the full upon the stage as the ADC sprung to life, the audience roared with laughter, and slap-stick, comedy and humour infused the acting. The main roles of Benedick and Beatrice were well enacted by Stanley Thomas and Shimali De Silva as they partnered to create a couple opposed to the concept of love and institution of marriage. Contrasted with the pairing of Claudio and Hero, Tom Taplin and Saskia West, the two double couples that dominate the action of the play worked very well alongside each other, both complimenting and contrasting one another to bring believable liveliness to the stage.
Yet it would be dismissive to ignore the other actors, as the group of 11 worked fantastically well together and delivered a play that was not only comprehensive but truly brought to life the Shakespearean comedy. Often difficult to remember and understand yet even more challenging to dramatize and convey to another, the Shakespearean language was brilliantly manipulated as the plot, characters, and action were all created comprehensively and effectively. Although often perceived as ‘foreign’, the language in this performance did not distance from the play’s success and, due to skilled acting, in-depth knowledge of their roles and lines, and great directing.
Moreover the set was well designed, very neatly fitting into a single box that served to open and close the play effectively. Offering varying household, street, and church scenes were created through manipulation of props and stage equipment which was well-matched by lighting accessories to emphasise the ambiance of festivity, ad enhanced by the acting surrounding each scene, bringing it to life.
Yet the most resonant quality of this drama was its pure ability to entertain. The audience were in fits of laughter, moved to hilarity through the acting skills, the farce-like facial features and physical slap-stick, and the accurate enactment of lines with corresponding action that brought to life the Shakespearean rhymes. In particular, the scenes of trickery and foolery surrounding the plot – especially that of Benedick’s deception into believing Beatrice’s admiration of him – stood out in providing laughter from all and a thoroughly enjoyable and very memorable scene! One of my personal favourites!
Overall, a fantastic rendition of Shakespeare’s play – something that is difficult to achieve given the much-performed and many-times adapted nature of Shakespearean theatre. It offered humour, moments of sensitivity, suspense, and a driving comic force that swept the audience up in its whirlwind of post-war carnivalesque celebration and propelled them into the Shakespearean world of love-haters Benedick and Beatrice, and hopeless romantics Hero and Claudio, and their companions. A wonderful performance that there certainly is ‘much ado about’ – unmissable!