Much Ado About Nothing performed by Everyman Theatre Company, Directed by David Mercatali the Cardiff open-air festival in Sophia Garden’s was a fantastic evening of classic theatre combined with extraordinary comedy.
This show had a somewhat slow start and took a while for the story to establish itself and for the audience to understand who is who and what the general ideas of the play are going to be.
Benard, who played the role of Claudio, appeared to channel a slow-witted sidekick who provided very many of the entertaining moments of this play. His physicality and facial reactions were excellent, he was very comical which had the audience laughing. It was really interesting to see this character portrayed as a side-kick to Benedick and the captain and I think this help establish the character’s position in the group.
Benedick himself, played by Luke Mercent, was a very believable ‘baby-face’ hero. He was a very relatable character while being strong and inspiring from the audience. The really interesting aspect of the character was his monologues. Traditionally, monologues are delivered on the stage as if the character is talking to themselves with the audience ‘overhearing’ it, but this production had the character of Benedick (among others) delivered their monologue within the audience and spoken directly to members of the audience.This makes it much more personal and was a really great inclusion which shows both classic theatre understanding as well as flawless modernisation from a directorial perspective. Glyn Thomas delivered a chillingly scary portrayal of the character ‘Don John’ who is the main villain of the play. His voice was frightening and he expressed the character as methodical and calculating. He personified the character perfectly and could be used as an example of how aspiring actors can play the Shakespearian villains.
One of the most comical characters in this play was dogberry who was played by Sarah Bawler. She performed this role with a strong Welsh accent and was a character of the typical Welsh women. Her chemistry with Verges, played by Phil Gerken, provided many hilarious scenes due to the contrast of the two characters.
Two of the things that this show did excellently was the use of voice and musical instruments. Many of the actors used multiple voices to show how their character really feels. We had characters vocally being scared, in love, excited and over the top fake acting (which was one of the funniest scenes in the entire play.) these were performed clearly and perfectly. The use of instruments was also fantastic as they actually had the performers play on stage. I have seen productions of shows where the actors pretend to play instruments which is obviously fake and distracting for the audience. However, this was not the case for this play and the music itself provide a small break from the complex and deep story-lines of Shakespearian theatre.
Obviously, Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy and so the directors have organised the play accordingly. They managed to perfectly blend the concept of a Shakespearian comedy (where there is a marriage, use of double entendre and irony) with modern comedy (which includes slapstick and physical comedy) to create the perfect comedy play. The reason this is so important to this play is because of the complex use of Shakespearian language, this is not something we are used to. It takes a lot of focus and concentration from the audience to fully understand what is being said and the inclusion of comedy allows a small break in the intense concentration which was done excellently by this cast.
However, I did feel that at times this play tried to be something it’s not. Much Ado is a classic piece of theatre and if the directors want to reimagine it to be modern that that is great but this play seemed to all go halfway into the new generation. At the end of the play were heard Crazy In Love being played which is an extremely modern song by Beyoncé but the play still used the traditional language and was set in a time much before this decade. Also, at two points in the play, the actors started to sing which was interesting as it is a play and not a musical. Thirdly, there was a small scene in Act Two with audience participation and people from the audience being brought onto the stage which didn’t really make sense or add to the story and in all honesty, could have not been included.
Although it was not the cast or crews’ fault, there was bar holDing up the cover of the seating which blocked my view of center stage and at times I could not see what was happening on stage and also there was very loud motorbike noises throughout which did distract from the play and made the dialogue hard to hear.
Overall, this as a play that respects the classical traditions of Shakespeare theatre while adding some new contemporary elements. The comedy in this play was excellent and the actors performed very well and made all the characters appear believable and relatable. I would rate this production 3 and a half stars and would encourage any fan of classical theatre to catch this show before it leaves the festival on Saturday the 20th July.