The Northern Broadsides theatre company has brought what is generally thought to be Shakespeare’s greatest romantic comedy to the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under Lyme and it has to be said that if the press night was anything to go by the whole production is a triumph and well worth a visit.
Artistic Director Conrad Nelson has updated the story of the two pairs of lovers in sixteenth century Messina to Britain at the end of the Second World War complete with RAF officers and Land Army girls.
Claudio (Linford Johnson) falls in love at first sight with Hero, (Sarah Kemeela Impey) daughter of Leonato (Simeon Truby) when he comes back from the war. They decide to marry almost at once, but haven’t taken into account the scheming Don John ( Richard J Fletcher) who wants to cause as much chaos as he can.
Meanwhile the play’s other main protagonists, Benedick (Robin Simpson) and Beatrice (the excellent Isobel Middleton) dance around each other, apparently arguing and scoring points off one another but the audience knows all along how this will end. After all the play’s run does take in Valentine’s Day.
As so often in Shakespeare’s plays the plot is driven by deception as Don John tells a bare-faced lie in order to cause Claudio to reject Hero, but by the end of the play order has been restored to the world and good has triumphed over evil.
Shakespeare’s humour is given full value by the entire cast but especially by David Nellist as Dogberry the Watchman, who plays the character as a type of Geordie version of Captain Mainwaring from Dad’s Army.
A word also for the New Vic Costume Department for the wonderful overblown 1940’s costumes and to the musical director Rebekah Hughes who has interspersed the action with 1940’s music and dance. And of course for the entire cast who show their abilities with a selection of various musical instruments.
“Much Ado” is Conrad Nelson’s sixteenth and final production as a director with Northern Broadsides and he could not be signing off in a better way. He’s moving on to Claybody Theatre along with his wife, Deborah McAndrew, a well known face at the New Vic, and so look out for productions from them in the near future.
Much Ado About Nothing runs until March 2nd 2019 at the New Vic Theatre.
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