Open-air Summer Show
Distinctive amateur drama
in Northampton since 1932
Registered Charity No. 294848
Much Ado About Nothing
by William Shakespeare
Thu 24 July - Sat 2 August 2014
at 7.30pm (no performance on Sun 27 July)
In the open air in the courtyard of Abington Park Museum, Northampton Map >
CAST & CREW
Beatrice Rachel Bedford
Maid Katie Bunting
Hero Hannah Burt
Conrad Charlie Clee
Dogberry Patricia Coleman
Messenger Peter Collins
Friar Francis Barry Dougall
Leonato Victor Guse
Benedick John Myhill
Watch Tamsyn Payne
Verges Emma Robson
Watch Lisa Shepherd
Ursula Ruth Sherry
Don John Jeremy Smith
Claudio Edward Toone
Borachio Ian Tuckley
Antonio Owen Warr
Sexton Alistair Way
Margaret Amy Whitestone
Don Pedro Martin Williams
Director Matthew Fell
Stage Manager Jo Molyneuix
Costume Design Emma Banks
Costumes Pam Mann, Clare Brittain at The Works
Set Mark Mortimer
Lighting The Works
Music by Tarantism
Hospitality Manager Suzanne Richards
Programme Design Graham Follett
Front of House Masque Theatre members
Maggie Holland, Masque Theatre member
Watching the performance of Much Ado About Nothing was my introduction to this play and I found it to be a competent production, well directed, with no weak performances and interpreted clearly enough for me to understand the meaning behind the Shakespearian very wordy text.
If this seems to be ‘damning by faint praise’ let me continue to say, however, I came back a week later and was mesmerised almost throughout the show. Many of the characters had grown with the confidence of the actors.
What really stood out in a play with lots of words and little action was the physical performance.
John Myhill’s comedy expressiveness lived up to high expectations and was joined by a comedic side to Rachel Bedford that I had not seen before. In spite of the almost slapstick nature of some of their scenes their characters were seriously believable and also showed vulnerability.
The all-female Suffragette Watch were a wonderful interpretation although I am not sure if Shakespeare ever intended Dogberry to flirt so outrageously with Leonarto, Ms Coleman!
It was, however, two of the more poignant moments that brought a lump to my throat.
First, the silent distress growing in Margaret at the wedding as she realised how she had been tricked into destroying her friend. Amy Whitestone’s pain was palpable without distracting from the other characters.
Second was a drunken, heartbroken Claudio at what he thought was the tomb of Hero. The lost expression on Ed Toone’s face made me want to leap on the stage to comfort him.
As well as the big picture it is the little details that matter, and although not perfect, there was very little to be criticised, either in the acting or the direction, (so I won’t be petty enough to mention the one or two minor things I disliked.)
Before watching the play, I must say I was a little dubious of the idea of transposing Messina to pre-First World War England, but under Matt Fell’s imaginative direction it worked very well.
For me Matt’s idea really worked, with the Edwardian Aristocracy and their relatively carefree lives. In this time of war centenary commemoration this was brought into sharp focus with one of the closing lines. When told that the enemy troops were gathering nearby, Benedick says ‘We will worry about them tomorrow, tonight we will dance’.
Matthew Fell, director
Considered to be one of Shakespeare's best comedies, Much Ado About Nothing seamlessly combines musings on the ideas and themes of true love, desire and honour whilst engaging in wonderful verbal sparring between the main protagonists of the play: Beatrice (played by Rachel Bedford) and Benedick (John Myhill).
The comedy certainly has its darker elements and if indeed comedy is tragedy averted so it is with this play.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, it is very feasible Much Ado About Nothing could have trodden a well worn 'Romeo and Juliet' path with regards to the Hero (Hannah Burt) and Claudio (Ed Toone) storyline with misunderstandings, misinformation and general misdemeanours perpetrated by the villain of the piece, Don John (Jeremy Smith) at their expense resulting in a potentially tragic outcome.
The story of Hero and Claudio explores directly the notion of 'love at first sight' with what follows challenging each character's understanding and awareness of the true meaning of love. Juxtaposed to this is the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick where true feelings emerge despite (or perhaps because of) their ongoing battle of wit with each other.
Comic relief is also provided via the Watch of the town which I've been fortunate to be able to cast a very merry 'band of sisters' in the form of Patricia Coleman as Dogberry and, new to Masque, Emma Robson as Verges with the troupe completed by Tamsyn Payne, Lisa Shepherd and Katie Smith.
Also new to Masque is Charlie Clee playing Conrad, a follower of Don John with Ian Tuckley playing another up-to-no-good-type-chap the louche Borachio.
Other parts are played by Martin Williams (Don Pedro), Victor Guse (Leonato), Owen Warr (Antonio), Amy Whitestone (Margaret), Ruth Sherry (Ursula), Barry Dougall (Friar), Peter Collins (Butler) and Alistair Way (Sexton).
Although the play is set in Messina, Sicily, we have transposed the action to a pre-First World War England. However, whilst the play starts with Don Pedro and his band of followers returning victorious from battle, it is not meant to represent the early days of the war, the centenary of its commencement which will fall two days affter the production's run, but rather a representation of the generation that would in a few years go to war, many not to return.
The play is, in part, a celebration of innocence (both of virtue and reputation) and we've chosento contrast that with setting it at a time when the country, arguably, was about to lose its own.
The director, Matthew Fell, has previously directed The Hypochondriac (2013), Clear Heels (2013) and Teechers (2012) for Masque Theatre. He was last seen playing the part of Macheath in The Beggar's Opera (2013)
Page last updated: 09/02/2015 Masque Theatre © 2015
John Myhill as Benedick. Photo by Joe Brown