Royal Scots Club (Venue 241): Mon 17 – Sat 22 Aug 2015
Arkle’s Much Ado About Nothing at the Royal Scots Club overcomes a less than well thought-out central concept to deliver a solid, enjoyable production.
Shakespeare’s comedy tells of the war of the sexes, the dangers of gossip, infidelity and a number of things that – as the title suggests – don’t amount to a whole hill of beans in the end.
Much Ado About Nothing. Photo: Arkle
Director Danielle Farrow presides over a pacy, abridged version of the story that rattles along merrily. The main point of interest is the decision to cast almost every role against gender, so we have a female Benedick and a male Beatrice.
To be honest, this does not entirely work. None of the dialogue is changed, and at the end of the play it is no clearer whether the concept was intended as a serious attempt to re-interpret the play or just as a bit of fun.
Fun is certainly provided, with elements of pantomime creeping in – not least in the costumes, which immediately suggest Messina is inhabited by troupes of Dames and Principal Boys. Bronagh Finlay’s excellent Benedick and Paul Beeson’s Beatrice are particularly effective together, with their exchanges in the ‘kill Claudio’ scene managing to tread a fine line between seriousness and humour.
Beeson is not quite so good when appearing with Hero (Ian Dunnett) and Margaret (Sam Rowlands). Considering males would originally have played the roles, this should work, but their scenes together are uncomfortably reminiscent of the kind of rugby team stag night you would pay good money to avoid.convincingly villainous
By contrast, Benedick’s scenes with Don Pedro (a poised, careful Ciara McGuinness), Claudio (a tremendously wounded and pious Susanna Mulvhill) or Leonato (a suitably pompous Helen E. Nix) work so well as to suggest that an all-female production might have been extremely interesting.
Beverley Wright and Ruth Gibson are convincingly villainous as Conrade and Borachio, the sidekicks of Sue Gyford’s coolly villainous Don John, while Debbie Cannon is dignified as Antonio.
Elsie Horobin and Tierney Murray do a sterling job of finding the comedy in Dogberry and Verges, backed up by Pat Hymers and Carolina Rodenas as the constables.
The cross-dressing adds a layer of confusion that makes it a little difficult for Shakespeare novices to follow, but otherwise this is a production that has much to recommend it.
Running time 1 hour 30 minutes
Royal Scots Club (Venue 241), 29-31 Abercromby Place, EH3 6QE
Monday 17 – Saturday 22 Aug 2015
Daily at 6.15 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/much-ado-about-nothing
Company website: http://www.arkletheatre.co.uk/