Play: Much Ado About Nothing
Venue: York Theatre Royal
Review by: Julia Pattison
This was a gloriously entertaining production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, a comedy with underlying dark notes, presented by Northern Broadsides. Director Conrad Nelson bows out with this, his last production as director for Northern Broadsides, and what a blast it was, as the loud laughter from the audience clearly showed on the night I attended. It was a joy too, to see Shakespeare presented in such a warm and accessible way, with witty words, wonderful music, and a great big dollop of Yorkshire humour.
I thoroughly enjoyed Robin Simpson’s performance last year in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre York, however, he really came into his own this year, in the role of Benedick.
His sense of timing, and general pace was outstanding; here was a master of his craft at work, from the double takes to his fantastically flustered frolics (there was a particularly entertaining scene involving a member of the audience in the front row).
Beatrice is one of Shakespeare’s compelling heroines, and Isobel Middleton was perfect in the part of this feisty female, who was more than a match for Benedick in their war of words.
It was an inspired idea to set the play as a wartime comedy, and there were some wonderful Dad’s Army moments, as well as beautifully harmonised Andrews Sisters’ songs (directed by Rebekah Hughes) and a whole showcase of musical ability from a talented cast (good to see charismatic Mikron actor James Mclean joining Northern Broadsides for this tour). Loved the running Cinderella gag with the wellington boot too.
Matt Rixon commanded the space with his performance as Don Pedro with Simon Truby as Leonato,
Governor of Messina being scarily convincing in his anger towards his daughter Hero (Sarah Kameela Impey) who was completely innocent of the accusations hurled against her.
It was good to see order and harmony restored by the end of the play; despite being three hours long, the time flew by – a clear sign of a quality, wonderfully engaging show.
The production will be at Harrogate Theatre from the 21-25 May (Box office 01423 502116 and www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk )