Much Ado About Nothing

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th August 2011


Xandra Burns

at 09:13 on 25th Aug 2011



As seems to be the trend with Shakespeare these days, the N6 Productions version of Much Ado About Nothing is set in the 1950’s, and as seems to be the trend with Shakespeare these days, it is unclear why. Besides the costuming and transitional themed music (some of which is so randomly placed I wonder if it was accidental), there is little mention of this choice. And what’s with all the oranges?

All of the actors are students from years 11 to 13, and their acting ability is of no greater caliber than would be expected. It is clear that a lot of effort and preparation went into their performances; they deliver each line so deliberately that often the acting appears rigid. Fortunately Natasha Holmes, who plays Beatrice, is one of the few exceptions - her acting is the most natural, although it lacks charismatic spark. Freddie Pegram as Don John manages to deliver a believable performance in spite of the cheesy lighting and a bad guy theme song that seem to enter every time his character does. India Crawford, with the challenge of playing Hero, one of Shakespeare’s most boring females, delivers a clear and subtle interpretation, which is enough. Ben Weil’s Benedick, however, is disenchanted, unfocused and so inconsistent that I was confused about which character he was playing a couple of times. Although he acts with his entire body, his gestures are forced. It seems that he, along with most of the cast, is merely reciting lines and re-hashing planned gestures.

The best scene in the play is the one in which the night watch first appears. Clever use of props, staging, and comical costuming complement the three actors, who collaborate effectively. The catch? This new scene was written especially for this production, and, while dialogue-heavy, does not even attempt to follow Shakespearean language. Its success makes me wonder why the group didn’t modernize the entire play, as the actors are clearly more comfortable with this style.

Many of the lines from the original Shakespeare have comic potential that is lost by bad delivery, and sometimes it seems as if the actors don’t understand what they are saying. Yaseen Kader as Dogberry remains one of the few actors who delivers his Shakespearean jokes flawlessly, proving that the original text is accessible to a modern audience.

Although advertised as “toe-tapping,” the production cuts out all the songs from the original text. The flyer also promises “a dance with a mop you’ll never forget” that is either extremely forgettable or simply not in the show. Overall, N6 Productions puts on an average version of a great play. The actors deserve commendation for their effort and for knowing their lines well. If their assignment were to put on Much Ado About Nothing, there is no doubt that this team would pass.


Julia Chapman

at 11:37 on 25th Aug 2011



Changing the setting of a Shakespeare play is a difficult task to accomplish, one which a director must be able to justify. Too often relocation in time and place seems arbitrary, and this was indeed the case in n6 Productions’ Much Ado About Nothing.

Setting Much Ado in 1958 had no obvious purpose, and it solely manifested itself in the costumes and music. With girls in A-line skirts and boys in camouflage trousers, the setting change was like a big game of dress-up. While this did detract from the production, there were some entertaining touches that made the show more worthwhile.

Despite smatterings of wooden acting, there were a few noteworthy performances. Ben Weil lead the way with a suitably brusque yet just-sensitive-enough Benedick, although the change of heart of his character was not as pronounced as it should have been. Henry Zeffman was a very impressive Leonato, particularly because his diction was by far the best in the cast. His words were never lost to mumbling and his grasp of Shakespearean language was clear. Patrick Dodd as Antonio was particularly surprising. Having spoken very little throughout the play, his angry outbreak towards the end was accomplished with shockingly palpable emotion.

The pivotal trap-laying scenes employed clever tactics which were poorly executed. When Hero and Ursula used their parasols as a method of hiding Beatrice in a way that she could still overhear, the scene was not polished enough to pull this off. Similarly, the crime prevention scene, with its unnecessary added dialogue (suddenly Lady Macbeth’s words found their way into Much Ado) and modernising of the subplot, could have been very funny if it had been less clumsily conducted. One adjustment that was interesting was turning the character Borachio into a woman named Astuzia. Another very difficult type of change to warrant, this one was easier to find grounds for, as it added a sexual element between Don John and Astuzia that worked very well.

Technically, the production was unimpressive. The device of switching the lighting suddenly to illuminate characters from below whenever they were angry or scheming verged on the absurd. The costumes suited the fifties, but the fifties did not suit the play. The set, although unremarkable, was timeless and straightforward. The music, however, in the 1950s vein, was used merely as a further attempt to place the play in its new era, and it frustratingly overpowered the actors on several occasions.

Despite its anachronisms, Much Ado About Nothing was a perfectly enjoyable production, if at times straining to find a reason to change the setting. Some stronger actors carried the production and there were a few good moments, however this was not a particularly striking rendition of one of Shakespeare’s best plays.


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