Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is a romantic comedy that includes a vicious plot to destroy a romance and those involved in it. The comedy of the play lies in another plotline that follows two warring wits who are brought together in love via a cunning trick. The joy of Much Ado comes from the banter of these wits Beatrice and Benedick and from the misuse of words by Dogberry, an eager but none too bright leader of the force who uncovers the vicious plot and saves all.
That is to say, the enjoyment of this play really depends on the language being given space and support so that the humour can shine through. In Running Torch Theatre Company’s production it seems the director has instructed these school pupils to rush through their lines in order to make way for musical numbers which are not always apt. This apparent directive is further underlined by the show running somewhat over its time despite the speed with which the lines have been delivered.
Understanding of the text and attention to detail are necessary requisites for a good show and both are lacking here. It was clear from mis-sayings and inconsistent use of pronouns where a character had become female in this production, that so much of what was being said was not understood, let alone connected with in thought and feeling. There were moments that worked – when given a little space to breath, Beatrice showed some understanding and emotion after having been tricked and Benedick did manage to play with the humour somewhat. Claudio – who is made to believe his beloved was untrue – had some feeling to his main character and showed further acting potential in a comic role as well. Leonata, parent to the bride dumped at the altar due to the vicious plot, showed some thoughts very clearly, and Don Pedro gave a committed performance, with more variation than others. Don John was actually allowed some pauses and used these well.
Costume worked, with frilled shirts, corsets and jackets for something of a period feel, but only the most basic use was made of the set – a table, table cloth, chair and tree made with branches and a step ladder. The direction really was lacking in detail and understanding of the text, with some cuts also dubious in maintaining the meaning of lines and the lack of understanding among the cast left obvious.
These performers have impressive musical skills, with a number of them playing instruments well and some having fine and confident singing voices. Choreography was decent and provided pretty much the most fun to be had, though Dogberry and his sidekick Verges did entertain. Such talents should be displayed more fully in a truly musical production suited to their skills rather than via a few popular songs shoehorned into a text which has not been properly worked nor understood and requires some very different abilities to create a Musical Much Ado that works.
By Danielle Farrow
15 – 20 August, 13:30 (14:30) @ theSpaces on North Bridge