Merriment, music and more

Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing

REVIEW: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre On Tour – Much Ado About Nothing, at Alnwick Playhouse, Thursday, April 17.

The title may refer to making a fuss about nothing (although in Elizabethan times, it had several meanings), but I am going to make much ado about a fantastic night of theatre.

Even prior to watching the performance last week, I was impressed that this calibre of theatre, featuring a cast and crew with a host of theatre and television credits to their names, was coming to the Playhouse for two nights.

I cannot comment on the first night on Wednesday, but I can only assume that the play, heralded as one of the Bard’s finest comedies, was warmly welcomed by a packed house as it was on the Thursday.

Essentially the tale of two pairs of lovers, one shy and naive and bashful in each other’s company and the other who profess to disdain the other, much of the comedy comes from the banter and repartee on marriage, love and the opposite sex between Benedick and Beatrice.

But the light comedy of the first half is replaced for much of the second half with serious drama which deals with issues relating to honour, shame and the role of women.

And while I found the shift in tone slightly jarring – more to do, I believe, with the source material than the acting or production, happily, it all comes together in the end with two weddings, and no funerals.

During this tour, the performances take place on a small-scale Elizabethan-style stage, which was well-used by the relatively tight cast.

The scenes when Benedick and Beatrice were tricked into revealing their feelings for each other, involving a crate of oranges in one case and a tub of water for laundry in the other, were extremely funny.

The play opened and closed with live music and singing and scene changes were also enlivened with music.

The array of musical instruments played by the cast of eight was impressive, only surpassed by the acting.

Simon Bubb and Emma Pallant were suitably charismatic as Benedick and Beatrice, while Chris Starkie, with little to do as Don John, almost stole the show as he returned as Dogberry after the interval.