Tag Archives: Alex Wilson

Much Ado About Nothing

★★★★

Wilton’s Music Hall

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 13th November 2019

★★★★

 

“Reaching inventive new heights without pretension, this production feels fresh, striving to relate to its audience”

 

Love is a fickle old thing that can make a person crazy. It can drive wedges between friendships and cause chaos all around it. In an exciting new adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, presented by Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, such effects of love are all on display. Razor-sharp in delivery, this intelligent retelling is as joyously entertaining as it is thought-provoking.

A group of soldiers are on leave from war, and accept the invite of staying with Leonato, the Governor of Messina, and his family, for a few days. What ensues is a gush of mixed emotions as the heady concoction of civilian life, falling in and out of love, and trickery befalls on the party.

Director Elizabeth Freestone has done a tremendous job in finding some original ways of reimagining Much Ado, giving it fresh meaning. The use of filming from phones is an ingenious take on the original text. It firmly places the story in 2019, giving the play a chance to explore current issues such as fake news, online trolling and abuse through social media, which completely works. It makes the premise seem far more plausible for a 21st century audience, and proves that a 400-year old text still has relevance. The hilarious use of fancy dress (I won’t give away the costume theme) during the integral masked ball, is another moment of modernisation that Freestone has so brilliantly encompassed. Despite perhaps being used in other recent Shakespeare adaptations, the fancy dress concept is still clever and highly jubilant.

There’s an electric energy between Dorothea Myer-Bennett and Geoffrey Lumb as the conflicting lovers Beatrice and Benedick, both actors making the witty put downs towards one another fizz and crackle. Myer-Bennett in particular is on plucky form, doing complete justice to arguably Shakespeare’s best written female role. The whole cast should be applauded for really making the text their own, never shying away from originality or the unconventional, yet always making sure it is rooted in truth.

Freestone reveals that she aims for a 50/50 gender balance in her productions meaning gender-blind casting for some of the roles. Here, the melancholy meddler and villain of the show Don Jon, and the jobs-worth constable Dogberry have been given to female actors (Georgia Frost and Louise Mai Newberry) which fits naturally. As women are holding higher positions within the workplace and many more joining military forces, Freestone’s decision reflects this justly. Both actors revel in their parts, Frost bringing a jealous capriciousness, and Newberry an irresistible sass.

Music, as always with Shakespeare, plays a big part. Not only is it used in this production for transitions or decorative embellishment, but entwined within the story, utilised for comic effect and the like. Bethan Mary-James as likeable Margaret, the singer and waiting lady to Hero, is congenitally attached to a ukulele, who strums away to the annoyance or delight of the other characters.

Much Ado is heralded a comedy, but this recent offering from the Tobacco Factory really highlights the surprisingly darker, more tragic elements to the tale. Creating a much needed juxtaposition from the laughs and tomfoolery, the characters go on a believable roller coaster ride of emotions. Reaching inventive new heights without pretension, this production feels fresh, striving to relate to its audience.

 

Reviewed by Phoebe Cole

Photography by Mark Douet

 


Much Ado About Nothing

Wilton’s Music Hall until 23rd November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Box of Delights | ★★★★ | December 2018
Dad’s Army Radio Hour | ★★★★ | January 2019
The Good, The Bad And The Fifty | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Pirates Of Penzance | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Shape Of the Pain | ★★★★★ | March 2019
The Talented Mr Ripley | ★★★★ | May 2019
The Sweet Science Of Bruising | ★★★★ | June 2019
Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story | ★★★★★ | September 2019
This Is Not Right | ★★★★ | October 2019

 

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Jane Eyre – 4 Stars

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

Watermill Theatre

Reviewed – 30th October 2018

★★★★

“This is both a story of 1847 and one of today”

 

Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is the eponymous and block-busting mid-19th century romantic novel. First published in three volumes, its narrator, ‘plain Jane’ describes her childhood in the home of an abusive aunt, her punitive schooling, and her employment as governess to the ward of Mr Rochester at the gloomy Thornfield Hall. Rochester, of course, has a dark secret locked up in his attic. Jane Eyre is a story about confinement, mastery and love. For Rochester, Jane is ‘unfemale’, ‘a wild, frantic bird’ to be caged. But she is ‘no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being, with an independent will’.

This is both a story of 1847 and one of today. Newbury’s Watermill has translated the classic and pioneering novel into a seventy minute show that runs without interval, and that is followed, from Tuesday to Friday, by an interesting question and answer session. 

Adaptor Danielle Pearson explained how almost half of her text was cut away about a week before the show opened, enabling her to create a taut and vibrant adaptation that remains truthful to the novel. Director Chloe France stripped away set too, and the show takes place with the back wall of the theatre visible and just a few simple wooden boxes on stage. Costumes are traditional and appropriate.

Just three actors were cast. Rebecca Tebbett has a luminous quality as Jane, and thoroughly inhabits the Yorkshire in which the action takes place. Wreh-Asha Walton has by far the most difficult task, taking on seven roles (plus Rochester’s dog). Interestingly, she portrays Rochester’s wife Bertha as a Caribbean woman, using some folk-dance inspired moves in a performance imbued with impressive power and authority. 2018 Stage Debut Award winner Alex Wilson has just the right amount of arrogant authority as Rochester. In one demanding and fast-moving scene he switches repeatedly from the role of Rochester to St John Rivers, Jane’s cousin, highlighting the dilemma that faces Jane as she chooses between going to India and returning to Rochester.

By stripping away so much that would be superfluous, this clever stage adaptation focuses on the power and poetry of Charlotte Brontë’s words, with some engaging performances from an impressive young cast. Not a moment is wasted.

You will have to be quick to catch this satisfying and thought-provoking show which closes on November 2.

 

Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Philip Tull

 


Jane Eyre

Watermill Theatre until 2nd November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Teddy | ★★★★★ | January 2018
The Rivals | ★★★★★ | March 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | April 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★★ | May 2018
Jerusalem | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Trial by Laughter | ★★★★ | September 2018

 

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