Anuli Changa reviews Much Ado About Nothing, part of 3MT’s Shakespeare Festival
Ensemble Estate is a new production company presenting their debut performance of Much Ado
About Nothing in a uniquely Mancunian fashion.
This performance was utterly hilarious yet well contrasted with the serious moments. Cleverly directed by Tyler Angus Holland and Grace Currie, this performance existed somewhere between a traditional presentation of the play and a Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare rendition and did so with great success.
In the well-chosen black box of the Three Minute Theatre, hidden away in Afflecks Palace, the festival vibe was evoked by a simple and effective set of overflowing rubbish bags full of beer
bottles and cans.
The Shakespearean speech fits so well into the drama of a festival or a night out in 42s or Antwerp. Near the beginning, the music was at times too loud for the dialogue but I imagine this was first night madness rather than a particular fault.
The integrity of the Shakespeare was not only intact during this modern reimagining but celebrated, with clever changes to modernise the setting and demonstrate just how easily the exaggeration and farce of the play fit into modern life.
A highlight for me was the choice to make the masked ball a rave where the actors were wearing cardboard masks of the Queen, Liam Gallagher, the Chuckle Brothers, and more.
Tom Carswell and Georgia Brown were outstanding as Benedick and Beatrice, demonstrating great emotional range between the comedic moments hiding behind the set and the tragedy of Hero’s ‘death’.
Another stand out performance was Charlie White, with great comedic timing as the wronged father, Leonato. The gender-bending of the cast was of a conservative nature and I think the cast was the better for it.
It came across clearly that the gender changes were not included for the sake of tradition but actually added to the performance. The stand out in this respect was Elle Burns as the disdainful, darkly funny villain, Don John. Burns was cunning and mischievous, the audience were never in doubt as to who the ‘baddie’ was.
The abridgement of the play worked really well, removing a few confusing subplots and making the play more accessible to those less familiar with the show.
I cannot believe how cohesive the whole performance was with only three weeks rehearsal! An absolute testament to the talent of the cast and creative team and an asset to the Shakespeare festival.