Tag Archives: Helen Murray

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing


Duke of York’s Theatre

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at the Duke of York’s Theatre


Much Ado About Nothing

“it is the high exuberance of everyone that comes through the strongest”


The National Youth Theatre REP Company celebrates its 10th anniversary with a joyous romp through Shakespeare’s couples comedy in one of the West End’s most prestigious theatres.

Reinterpreting the text for a youthful cast and audience, in a version not ‘adapted’ according to the programme but ‘remixed’ by Debris Stevenson, the setting becomes Nowhere Island, a reality TV dating show. We get to see the players both on and off camera, on set and behind the scenes and, most engagingly, how the characters are manipulated and controlled by the TV show’s creators. There is, as appears to be the norm nowadays, a lot of additional non-Shakespearean text, including a plasma screen that rolls ‘live audience’ social media comments, but this should not upset the purist. This is a well thought through concept – ninety minutes, no interval – and it works.

Josie Daxter directs a sixteen-strong ensemble around a revolving set (Designer Zoë Hurwitz) which we witness being de-constructed at the end of the show to reveal the bare walls of the space behind. The large number of people on stage sometimes looks cluttered and their movements clumsy, but it is the high exuberance of everyone that comes through the strongest.

With a sassy rendition of Sigh No More Ladies to start things off as a theme tune to the TV show, we hear the players humming Hey Nonny Nonny even when not on camera, an earworm that they can’t shake off. This is an ensemble of good-lookers with pecs and midriffs on show. The girls pose and pout. The boys show off with testosterone-imbued hip-thrusting movements. Subtle, it ain’t. But in contrast, any personal insights into a character’s feelings are admitted privately in front of a screen in the ‘diary room’. Genius.

In Much Ado we have to rely on a strong Beatrice and Benedick and in Isolde Fenton and Daniel Cawley we are in good hands. It is an inauspicious start, however, with the early repartee between them performed in rap but things can only get better and they do. Fenton soon shines, her confident performance leading into an especially passionate display of Beatrice’s ‘O were I a man’ speech whilst Cawley’s cheeky chappie approach to Benedick is endearing and loveable.

Despite the radical re-creation of much of the play, this young cast exhibits a good feeling for the poetry – something that another large house was unable to achieve in a recent production. Hannah Zoé Ankrah as Friar, as well as Fenton and Cawley, are particularly strong in this regard.

Other special mentions go to Jessica Enemokwu as Leonato – the TV show producer – who is in full control of proceedings (ditch the megaphone though); Tomás Azócar-Nevin as Conrade, understated but just right; and Jasmine Ricketts as Don John who, after all is done, returns alone to a bare stage and exhibits a brave postlude breakdown that hints at her character’s mental illness. Finally, for one of the bravest and raunchiest staged love scenes between Borachio (Dalumuzi Moyo) and Margaret (Nathaly Sabino) I have seen – Bravo.


Reviewed on 8th February 2023

by Phillip Money

Photography by Helen Murray




Previously reviewed by Phillip:


Much Ado About Nothing | ★★★ | Jack Studio Theatre | August 2022
Ghost on a Wire | ★★★ | Union Theatre | September 2022
Playtime | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | September 2022
A Single Man | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | October 2022
The Mirror Crack’d | ★★★ | Royal & Derngate | October 2022
The Two Popes | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | October 2022
Amadeus | ★★★★ | Bridewell Theatre | November 2022
How To Build A Better Tulip | ★★ | Upstairs at the Gatehouse | November 2022
Newsies | ★★★★ | Troubador Wembley Park | December 2022
Hamlet | ★★★ | Southwark Playhouse Borough | January 2023


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Linck & Mülhahn


Hampstead Theatre

LINCK & MÜLHAHN at the Hampstead Theatre



“Wilson and Bain are remarkable, deftly switching between the comedy and the subtler, more poignant moments”


Linck and Mülhahn is billed as an epic romance inspired by the true story of an 18th century gender pioneer. I expected it to be an interesting story, and an important one. What I did not expect, was for it to be funny. But funny it is. Very funny.

Much of this is down to Ruby Thomas’ script, which is both witty and bawdy, full of inuendo, and lightning-fast flirting. Owen Horsley’s direction pumps the play with energy, and it races along, aided by punk rock scene transitions by sound designer Max Pappenheim. Despite the heavy subject matter, the play rushes along with zest and spirit.

All that survives of this true story are the court transcripts, documenting Anastasius Linck’s life and their gender non-conformity. Ruby Thomas has framed this story as a romance between Linck and Catharina Mülhahn. There are shades of the screwball comedies in these lovers’ fast-paced flirtation. Both are radical, passionate about the contemporary political philosophy and enjoy a racy joke. Their sizzling romance begins with the feisty young Mülhahn (Helena Wilson) gawping at the dashing Linck (Maggie Bain) through a window. Her unabashed lust, and boldness, is refreshing in a period drama. Throughout the play the dialogue crackles out from the era, making the characters feel so real, it’s easy to forget they’re all long dead.

Both Wilson and Bain are remarkable, deftly switching between the comedy and the subtler, more poignant moments. A particular highlight of both performances is a quiet scene where they bathe one another. Their chemistry and connection are the heart of the play and there is no doubt that these two belong together.

Another stand-out performance is from Lucy Black, as Mülhahn’s mother. It’s a fascinating character, she is bitter, trapped in her internalised conventionality but hopelessly bored and lonely. Black seamlessly navigates the complexity of this role, making her at once both a villain and a victim of her own era.

Simon Wells’ set is modern and evocative. It is a revolving two-storey structure made of veiled screens and doors, which often light up in different colours, courtesy of lighting designer Matt Daw. This creates an illusion of privacy in more intimate scenes, but also the sense that their privacy is as flimsy as the screens themselves.

There are moments where the comedy muddles the emotional punch, especially in the second half. There is also a narrator, which at times feels melodramatic, and unnecessary given the strength of the story itself.

But it is a great story, and this play has spun it in a way which feels fresh, and vibrant. This is not the story of a downtrodden victim. It is the bold and unapologetic cry to leave shame behind and live your own truth.


Reviewed on 6th February 2023

by Auriol Reddaway

Photography by Helen Murray


Previously reviewed at this venue:


Big Big Sky | ★★★★ | August 2021
Night Mother | ★★★★ | October 2021
The Forest | ★★★ | February 2022
The Fever Syndrome | ★★★ | April 2022
The Breach | ★★★ | May 2022
The Fellowship | ★★★ | June 2022
Mary | ★★★★ | October 2022
Blackout Songs | ★★★★ | November 2022
Sons of the Prophet | ★★★★ | December 2022
The Art of Illusion | ★★★★★ | January 2023



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