The comedic efforts of a talented supporting cast in The Company’s latest production of William Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ resulted in the tale of Beatrice and Benedick’s turbulent path to love being pushed into the background.
In what is considered the first rom-com, the play follows the story of two sets of lovers – the young Claudio and Hero, and the enemies in wit and words, Benedick and Beatrice.
Colourful and detailed, the convincing scenery of an Italian villa set the stage for romantic entanglements. Musician Ed Bancroft’s guitar accompaniments also skilfully helped the audience to grasp the changing tones of a comedic, tragic and heroic storyline.
The meddling of the bastard brother Don John (Neil Sullivan) led to dramatic deception, with Claudio (Jaimie Watts) violently damning his fiancée at the altar in a scene which proved to be the dramatic turning point of the play.
Disputes were resolved and betrayals revealed with the help of the Watch, a band of eager yet incompetent characters. Of particular note was Monica Gallo, whose facial expressions accounted for the greatest comic relief of the play in her role as an enthusiastic watchperson.
The dynamic between Beatrice and Benedick was dominated by the latter (Craig Walton) whose mix of flawless comic timing and sarcasm contrasted with vulnerable expressions of affection, displaying a unique versatility. The transformation of Benedick from a dedicated bachelor of pleasure to a hopeless romantic was performed flawlessly. Beatrice (Vicky Dawes) was the true incarnation of ‘all mirth and no matter’ with her emphasis on physical comedy resulting in the subtleties of Shakespeare’s language being lost in translation.
Unfortunately, the chemistry between the two was minimal, with their final onstage encounter resulting in a brief kiss before they retreated to opposite ends of the stage. The rushed conclusion of the play was not the finale that the cast deserved. In a production where the actors in the background were often those who stole the limelight, the reconciliation of the couples was downplayed. Indeed, within five minutes, Benedick and Beatrice has resolved their issues and were all set for marriage as the curtain abruptly fell.
However, although the darker and more complex side of Shakespeare’s work was overlooked in this production, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ proved to be an entertaining comedic performance showcasing a very talented cast.