Students shine in classic Shakespeare comedy

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REVIEW: Alnwick’s Duchess’s Community High School presents Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare, at Alnwick Playhouse, from Wednesday, November 1, to Friday, November 3.

If there is one thing that seems almost endless, then it is the Duchess’s Community High School’s remarkable conveyor belt of talent.

Ethan Allan and Erin Murray. Picture by Jess Rix

Ethan Allan and Erin Murray. Picture by Jess Rix

Over the years, an array of gifted performers have graced the stage, helping to build and maintain the school’s tradition of excellence in the arts.

Recently, there has been a changing of the guard, with a number of esteemed and established household names from the Duchess’s moving on to pastures new, making way for a new crop of enthusiastic actors and actresses.

Indeed, Much Ado About Nothing boasts a string of new faces. But while the cast list might be different, the standard most certainly is not.

The students’ take on this classic Shakespeare comedy is first class and as high quality as any show that has gone before.

Isaac Ellis and Martin Latto. Picture by Jess Rix

Isaac Ellis and Martin Latto. Picture by Jess Rix

It is a particularly fitting achievement as the school recently retained its Artsmark Gold status – and on this showing, it is for good reason.

The emergence of yet another golden generation is epitomised by Erin Murray and Ethan Allan, who play Beatrice and Benedick respectively.

Much Ado is the first time that they have played the senior lead roles and boy, do they shine!

The talented duo are an absolute hoot, injecting energy, wit and pure comedy into the roles.

Cora Drummond and Antonia Scott. Picture by Jess Rix

Cora Drummond and Antonia Scott. Picture by Jess Rix

Allan, in particular, is box-office gold, delivering a show-stopping performance. His antics at the masquerade ball, followed by his attempts to hide behind a large umbrella, are a joy to watch.

Another to shine is Gordon Rae, who is delightfully cunning and gives a pantomime villain feel to his portrayal as the mischievous Don John.

Two others to catch the eye are Cora Drummond and Antonia Scott, who live and breath their characters and deliver a set of humorous facial expressions throughout the second half.

They are ably supported by fellow talents Lauren Robinson (Hero), Martin Latto (Claudio), Isaac Ellis (Don Pedro), Isaac Mills (Leonato) and Michael Robba (Antonio).

Oscar Wilson, Laura Murphy and Caelan Coles. Picture by Jess Rix

Oscar Wilson, Laura Murphy and Caelan Coles. Picture by Jess Rix

In truth, though, the whole cast deserves praise, because each and every one of them is fabulous, helping to give the show a truly professional feel.

Credit too for the fact that the production is made current and easy to follow – which is not always the case with Shakespeare, whose plays can get a little lost in translation for modern audiences.

In his programme notes, director and teacher Martin Allenby says he enjoys developing the skills of enthusiastic actors. On this performance, his job will be made much easier, due to the array of talent he has at his disposal – yet again!

A handful of tickets are available for tonight and tomorrow’s performances, at 7.30pm. For more details, visit www.alnwickplayhouse.co.uk or call 01665 510785.

CAST: Erin Murray, Ethan Allan, Lauren Robinson, Martin Latto, Gordon Rae, Isaac Ellis, Isaac Mills, Michael Robba, Ruby Falke, Megan Hallows, Jack Clements, Jamie Macintosh, Caelan Coles, Oscar Wilson, Laura Murphy, Antonia Scott, Cora Drummond, Harriet Renner, Becca Pitcher. Directed by Martin Allenby.

○ In February 2018, the school will perform We Will Rock You.

Michael Robba and Isaac Mills. Picture by Jess Rix

Michael Robba and Isaac Mills. Picture by Jess Rix

Gordon Rae. Picture by Jess Rix

Gordon Rae. Picture by Jess Rix