Much Ado About Nothing

May 2005

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Much Ado About Nothing - by William Shakespeare
Performed - May 25th to May 28th 2005

Much Ado about Nothing has long been celebrated as one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies. The central relationship, between Benedick and Beatrice, is wittily combative until love prevails. Broader comedy is provided by Dogberry, Verges and the watchmen. The drama ranges between the destructively sinister and the lyrically romantic, giving the whole a complex and sometimes problematic character.

The plot includes manipulative matchmaking, control freakery par excellence, downright wickedness and, in Beatrice and Benedick, a pair of the sparkiest lovers Shakespeare ever dreamed up. Something for everyone.

The action of the play takes place in Messina, Sicily.

Some months before the casting of Much Ado, Boston Playgoers were in receipt of a very apposite gift. An unknown donor called at Blackfriars box-office and left an envelope addressed top Playgoers. It contained a programme of their 1937 production of Much Ado About Nothing.

We were obviously delighted and the covers of the programme for the 2005 production (see picture above) are replicas of that original. What caused even more delight was the inclusion in the cast of that production of 68 years ago, in the part of Dogberry of E.A.Lingard. Friends of Boston Playgoers will know the work of John Lingard and indeed evidence of his father's role in the first Much Ado production persuaded John, who had decided to take time off from this play, to change his mind and take part in this production. 
So we owe a double thanks to our mystery benefactor. Thank you.

Playgoers on classic form as cast 'step up' to Shakespeare
My only qualifications for writing this review of Boston Playgoers' production of Much Ado About Nothing are firstly, I was asked to do it, and secondly, I paid good money to see it, so in my view that entitles me to an opinion. The reader must bear in mind that it is only my opinion.

In the programme the director states he has set the play in 1750 but gives no explanation why. Perhaps like me he just likes the style of that period.
Don't get me wrong: there was no problem setting it when he did - in fact it gave the set designer the opportunity to produce a well thought out and presented set. This along with the flamboyant costumes, made it very clear to the watcher what period of history we were in.

So what of the actors? I will start with the two characters around whom the plot revolves.
Peter Kay gave a very good performance as Don Pedro, clearly giving us a compassionate man of the people but with the subtle grace of a prince.
I've probably seen John Lingard in more stage roles than is good for either of us, but for me this was his finest hour. He gave a great performance as Leonato. I really believed in him as the wise and benevolent Governor of Messina.

So far so good, but now it is time to give my one main criticism. Too often the cast went into a crescent shape formation mid-stage, only delivering their lines when centre stage. As I said earlier it was a fine set and I would like to have seen the cast use more of it.
Back to the actors. I had wondered how Ricky and Brett Roberts would 'step up' to Shakespeare. The answer is very well. Ricky portrayed Benedick's great wit very well but I thought he shone best as the character when faced with the dichotomy of supporting his brother in arms or 'doing the right thing'.

Brett was equally impressive as Claudio. Here was an actor at ease in his role. He sounded good and moved about the stage wearing his character and costume with great panache.

Shantelle Gaston-Hird gave a very believable performance as Hero. She was wispy, gentle and romantic. Occasionally she spoke too quickly for my ears but this is a minor point. A nice portrayal of Hero - and a great stage faint!

Beatrice the quick-witted friend of Hero was played by Lorna Bucknall and she was outstanding. For me she breathed real life into this character.
Her words were clearly and thoughtfully delivered but what really impressed me was that she acted with her whole body. You could see her emotions reflected in her posture and movements. Well done.

The rest of the cast gave good support to the key players and helped make this Shakespeare accessible to any audience. The director should be thanked for bringing together a fine cast with a lot of young talent.

Sadly they will have learnt that you do not always get the audiences the play deserves. 
Boston Playgoers should be commended for taking a risk with this project and I hope that the finance involved doesn't stop them from doing it again. 
Pete Read, Boston Standard 01/06/2005

Actors names on right:

Leonato - John Lingard
Messenger - Adam Minards
Hero - Shantelle Gaston-Hird
Beatrice - Lorna Bucknall
Don Pedro - Peter Kay
Claudio - Brett Roberts
Benedick - Ricky Roberts
Don John - David Edgar
Ursula - Kathryn Walker
Balthasar - Ben Baker
Conrade - Chris Tinsley
Borachio - Scott Kibby
Margaret - Jemma Topham
Dogberry - Liz Worsley
Verges - Kathy Fullerton
First Watchman - Ros Blowers
Second Watchman - Judy Mugleston
Third Watchman - Lucy Taylor
Fourth Watchman - Laura Molson
Friar Francis - Jon Molson
Sexton - John Jackson

Production Team

Director - Stuart Farrar 
Producer - Glyn Ruskin
Stage Manager - Ros Blowers
Asst Stage Manager - John Jackson
Set Design - Sam Zwemmer
Set Construction - Paul Gibson & members of Playgoers
Set Decoration - Sam Zwemmer & members of Playgoers
Backcloth designed and painted by: John Lingard
Consultant - Alan Dropkin
Male Costumes & Wigs - Violet Truelove Wardrobe
Female Costumes- Glyn Ruskin & Liz Worsley
Properties - Melanie Clarke
Lighting - Paul Gibson
Sound - Paul Gibson
Make Up - Molly Barrett
Prompt - Carol Kane & Glyn Ruskin