Live Reviews

Much Ado About Nothing Review

by Eve Davies

“Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,-
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.” 

“I can see he’s not in your good books,’ said the messenger.
‘No, and if he were I would burn my library.” 

“Let me be that I am and seek not to alter me.”

Here are just a few of my favourite Shakespeare quotes, all from his kitsch comedy Much Ado About Nothing. Although far from his most respected plays, Much Ado About Nothing is inevitably one of the Bard’s most light-hearted, feel-good comedies. 

When I saw Act One’s eighties revamp of Much Ado About Nothing being advertised, I jumped at the opportunity to attend their opening show on the 17th March. Exhibited in Cardiff’s Temple of Peace on King Edward VII Avenue, the venue completed an enjoyable, cultured evening. 

This was Act One’s first in-person Shakespeare play in three years, and what a way to bring back live classic theatre. Directors Kirsty Richards and Alicia Pearson, along with production manager Euan Prout, certainly know how to put on a show.  Their groovy interpretation of Shakespeare’s play worked well. The script kept within Shakespearean bounds with interceptions of modern language for comic effect, while the aesthetic of the play was recognisably ‘eighties’.  

Costume director, Jess Bragg, was instrumental in nailing this ‘eighties’ style. Bomber jackets, leather, double denim, halter neck crop tops, wide leg jeans, bold geometric patterns, and vibrant colours, gave off ultimate eighties disco vibes.

With many misunderstandings, the play was caked with dramatic irony. For example, Hero (Rhiannon Green) and Ursula (Cleo Widdicombe) purposely discuss Benedict’s (Ben Price) love for Beatrice (Libbi Kettle), unaware Beatrice is listening in. Don John’s (Rita Martins) schemes were also portrayed with immense dramatic effect.

On the topic of tricksters, Catlin Richard’s performance of Borachio and Meg Shergold’s take of Conrade were splendid. The pair did a fine job of emulating intoxicated drunken behaviour – inspiration was clearly taken from Wednesday nights at the SU!

Quality of performance cannot be discussed without recognition of Ben Price as Benedick. His humorous soliloquies and attempts at playing it cool when it came to interacting with Beatrice made him impossible to dislike. Libbi Kettle impressively captured Beatrice’s sassy attitude and sharp tongue through body language, facial expression, and tone of voice, while remaining a likeable character. These two strong personalities provided some of the most energetic, enjoyable moments in the play. Their bickering was superseded by love, and they ended the play a happy couple.

Rhiannon Green as Hero made a perfect conventional heroine: gentle, kind, and only vocal when spoken to. Joe McCartney also did an impressive job of depicting Claudio’s absolute awe of Hero during the first half of the play. After a 15-minute interval, emotions hit hard. Green’s performance during the wedding scene, where she had a panic attack and begged her father, Leonato (Laurie Walker), to believe her, presented her talent of acting with intense emotion. Similarly, McCartney transformed Claudio’s awe into fervent anger, and Walker displayed the vexation of a disappointed father.

Not forgetting Maisie Granger’s and Finlay Crawford’s performances as Dogberry and Verges respectively. They nailed the comedic police officer roles.

Act One was open to gender fluidity in their casting, turning Don Pedro and Don John into sisters as opposed to the brothers they are in Shakespeare’s original play. Sian Howells did amazingly well to capture Don Pedro’s noble yet grounded character while leading the storyline. Aware of her power, Don Pedro’s motives remained in the interests of her friends. 

The work of the behind-the-scenes crew was also applaudable. Natasha Sood nailed the sound, ensuring it was at the right level to fill the large, high-ceilinged hall without echo. The lighting, sometimes cutting into blackouts, was atmospheric thanks to Lottie Dunkley. The set design and props, including the colourful sofa and alcohol bar captured eighties interiors in a subtle way that accommodated action throughout the plot.

Ultimately, marriages, deception, love, flirtation, misunderstandings, humour, and eighties music paired with the outstanding acting of the cast, superb creativity of the production team, and impressive technicality of the crew made for an evening of pure entertainment. 

The Directing Team:

Kirsty Richards – Co-Director

Alicia Pearson – Co-Director

Euan Prout – Production Manager  

The Cast:

Ben Price as Benedick
Libbi Kettle as Beatrice

Laurie Walker as Leonato 

Sian Howells as Don Pedro

Joe McCartney as Claudio 

Rhiannon Green as Hero 

Rita Martins as Don John 

Caitlin Richards as Borachio 

Meg Shergold as Conrade

Bryony Willcock as Antonia 

Maisie Granger as Dogberry 

Finlay Crawford as Verges 

Kaya Thakkar as Margret

Cleo Widdicombe as Ursula 

CJ Woodhouse as Balthasar / Watchman 

Luke Knights as The Friar

Thomas King as Sexton

Zachary Brown as Messenger / Watchman 

The Crew: 

Lottie Dunkley – Lighting 

Natasha Sood – Sound 

Joe Lloyd-Perks – Stage Manager 

Bronwyn Jurevicius – Deputy Stage Manager

Billy Edwards – Props Master 

Gruffydd Edwards – Set Design 

Jess Bragg – Costume 

Ally Dell – Hair & Make-up 

Anesha Hamood – Hair & Make-up

Act One’s next production is 39 Steps, taking place between Thursday 28th April and Saturday 30th April.