Tag Archives: Josie Daxter

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


Click here to read all our latest reviews


Why is the Sky Blue? – 5 Stars


Why is the Sky Blue?

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 1st May 2018


“rightfully disturbing show but it is also artistically impressive and highly entertaining”


Drawn from the voices of 10,000 children and young people, a group of actors, representing a diversity of age, race and sexuality, portray the powerful impact pornography is having on a vulnerable society. For ‘Why is the Sky Blue?’, director Abbey Wright extracted the essence of interviews she had conducted in schools and theatres all over the country in which she recorded discussions on this sensitive subject and, more generally, on love and connection. With the dramaturgical collaboration of Shireen Mula, she has transformed their words into a theatrical statement on the need to repair the damage done by the accessibility of pornography to this age group. The show is aimed at adults to demonstrate the need to talk and listen to children, but Barnardos and Tackroom Theatre have also joined together on an educational project offering support.

After an ice-breaking opening by one of the youngest members, we meet the rest of this talented troupe whose ages range from 6 to 22, all strikingly at ease on stage. With energy and flair, the testimony of thousands is presented, building a picture of a situation they are part of. They interact with the audience in humorous question and answer sequences and tell stories of real experiences. There are excellent performances of Matt Regan’s pastiches, expertly composed in true musical theatre style. The messages of the pensive ‘question’ song, the melancholy ballad, the upbeat numbers and the grand finale are driven home by the poignant lyrics. On several occasions the mood changes and we listen to their face to face re-enactments of eye opening conversations.

Slick choreography (Josie Daxter), as we pass through the various sections of the show, creates engaging pace and fluidity. Elliot Grigg’s lighting is in perfect harmony with the different elements, notably in the contrasting musical moments. The array of chairs used for the set, designed by James Turner, make for versatile group combinations while keeping the whole cast together – a reminder of the compass of fragile ages touched by this issue. Cleverly, the familiar sight of the young wearing headphones is incorporated to include everyone, but specifically to protect the younger children from being exposed to “inappropriate” material.

The disconnection pornography produces means that it remains a clandestine, unspoken area, individually absorbed, used and hidden. Whether it is revelation for the pre-internet generation or incredulity for those who trust parental blocks, it is painful to be confronted by this aspect of modern life. Although, or perhaps because, the tone tends towards the lighthearted, even though the script is often moving or explicit, one comes away bewildered by the blow of reality; the importance of being made aware sinks in more slowly. ‘Why is the Sky Blue?’ is a rightfully disturbing show but it is also artistically impressive and highly entertaining.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Marc Brenner


Why is the Sky Blue?

Southwark Playhouse until 19th May



Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com