The Rose Playhouse
I’m not sure whether to review this as a play, or what it really was – a joyous celebration.
At midnight – the very start of Shakespeare’s birthday, or deathday, or however you wish to commemorate it – the Rose Playhouse hosted a cut down version of the Much Ado About Nothing production they were currently hosting. I say cut down, and I mean it – we came in at a very impressive 43 minutes running time by my watch – but it still had all the heart and joie de vivre (and most of the plot!) of the play.
Set after the Second World War, the tone was set with some impressive swing dancing – especially in such a confined space – and maintained throughout with the cast also showing off their skills in singing (Hey Nonny Nonny works really well when set to a swing rhythm, and see previous posts about how much I love the different ways people tackle sing and dancing), playing the trumpet, and rolling with the punches (not literal!) which come from audience participation.
If you’ve read this blog at all you’ll know the plot to Much Ado, so I won’t go on at length here – standout casting/moments for me included Claudio’s (Clark Alexander) Scottish brogue, bringing with it the hint of Puritanical displeasure that helped make his displeasure with Hero seem a little more in character, Robert Hazle’s dual roles as Don John and Dogberry (the watch scenes had a wonderful Dad’s Army riff about them), Ian Hathway’s singing Prince and the transparent affection in which he was held, which really softened Benedick’s final “ Get thee a wife” jibe…
Beatrice and Benedick were great and very evenly matched. Rhiannon Sommers was a surprisingly serious Beatrice, her wit seeming more shield than plaything. Benedick seemed the typical gilded prince (literally – he was very blond), and he was also a witty and engaging presence, leading the way with fabulous audience interaction (he asked an audience member to tie his tie and ended up with a floppy bow which was – in the word of Don John when he saw it, without batting an eyelid – “very fancy”).
The staging used the space (and what a space it is ) really well – especially a sparkler-lit funeral for Hero which suited the birth/death/celebration nature of the evening. And it ended with a gin and tonic. What could be better?