Touring – reviewed at The Lowry, Salford
Guest reviewer: Gillian Potter-Merrigan
Transplanting a Shakespeare to a more modern timeframe is always a task fraught with difficulty; will the jokes translate, will the themes remain intact and will the overall storyline hold up to such a move? I am happy to say that the Northern Broadsides and New Vic’s touring production of Much Ado About Nothing at The Lowry manages to tick all three boxes.
Moving the action to the end of the Second World War provides the audience with a reference point we are all familiar with and evolving the watchmen into a Dad’s Army evokes a well-loved comedy routine. The sergeant played with the right touch of camp with an ever-present string bag of provisions, the Pike-esque character and the right amount of pomposity from David Nellist in the role of the head of the unit, Dogberry.
As we have come to expect from Shakespeare there are two plots running during the play; Sarah Kameela Impey as Hero and Linford Johnson as Claudio are the more innocent lovers, swept along in the machinations of others. The second concerns the sparing and reluctant to admit it loves of fiercely independent Land Army girl Beatrice played by Isobel Middleton and RAF pilot Benedick played by Robin Simpson.
Both plots are interwoven nicely whilst still standing on their own and as usual both conclude in a satisfactory manner; the aaaah from the audience when Beatrice and Benedick finally declare their love is a testament to how well these two parts are played. Robin Smith especially excels in the comedic side of his role and the scene in the orchard is a tour de force in timing and the use of one of Shakespeare’s most loved comedic devices, the aside.
The play is long running at 185 minutes (including an interval) but for all that the pace fairly rattles along with the sharp and witty dialogue of Shakespeare a joy to listen to. It may be Shakespeare but thanks to the ensemble cast and their excellent interpretation it could not be described as stuffy, taking the audience from high comedy to moments of dramatic tension in minutes. The design by Lis Evans along with the direction from Conrad Nelson also helps to update the play to a familiar territory well used by drama writers and the production is to be commended for their full use of the music of the day to plant this production firmly in the era.
Much Ado About Nothing runs at The Lowry until Saturday 11 May.
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