Tag Archives: Nic Farman

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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The Elixir of Love

★★★★★

King’s Head Theatre

The Elixir of Love

The Elixir of Love

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 30th September 2019

★★★★★

 

“Most impressive, perhaps, is that we can understand exactly what everyone is singing – something I’ve found to be an unfortunate rarity in traditional opera”

 

When presented with a modern undertaking of an opera, we’re so often only given a crumb of a crumb of modernity – contemporary costumes or a change of scenery perhaps. But lo and behold, when the curtains rise, it’s just the same old script, poorly disguised in trainers and a t-shirt.

Opera D’draig and the King’s Head Theatre’s shiny new take on The Elixir Of Love, directed by Hannah Noone, is not such a production. Wrenched from its original setting of 1830’s Spain, we find ourselves instead in 1980’s Barry, Wales – much better. But that’s just the start: Writers Chris Harris and David Eaton have near on chucked away Donizetti’s much lauded L’Elisir D’Amore, retaining only the key plot points and looking to their contemporary audience for inspiration rather than a bunch of tired old tropes and traditions. And what a success it is! There really is something gloriously satisfying about hearing a beautiful, soaring soprano singing ‘f*ck’.

The story itself would require a lot more meat as a straight play, but perhaps it’s the contrast of the usually conservative opera format and the unbridled irreverence of this production that makes it so compelling: We open with Adina’s caf, complete with wipe-down tables and menus, lots of big hair, shoulder pads and classic ‘80s knitwear (Amanda Mascarenhas).

Nicky (David Powton) is a wet blanket who spends all day gazing lovingly at café owner Adina (Alys Roberts) from afar. When Adina’s lover (Themba Mvula) returns from the army, Nicky becomes worried that he’ll lose his chance if he doesn’t act fast. In walks Dulcamara (Matthew Kellett), an oil slick in a suit selling various tonics to any sucker who’ll buy them. Spotting an ideal customer in Nicky he quickly persuades him to part with all his cash in exchange for an ‘elixir of love’, guaranteed to solve all his problems… And so on and so forth, with all the usual twists and misunderstandings of a comic opera.

Though this production would certainly appeal to a much wider audience who have perhaps felt alienated by opera in the past, it equally fulfils all the quality criteria of a seasoned opera-goer, with a cast of beautiful voices, Alys Roberts in particular deftly combining little flecks of Welsh dialect with rich, velvety top notes. Most impressive, perhaps, is that we can understand exactly what everyone is singing – something I’ve found to be an unfortunate rarity in traditional opera.

This is not opera as we know it. No more archaic, stodgy language and plotlines based around extinct social practices. The Elixir Of Love is gorgeously witty, furiously fast-paced and thoroughly contemporary.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Bill Knight

 


The Elixir of Love

King’s Head Theatre until 26th October

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Unsung | ★★★½ | April 2019
Coral Browne: This F***Ing Lady! | ★★ | May 2019
This Island’s Mine | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Vulvarine | ★★★★★ | June 2019
Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World | ★★★ | July 2019
Mating In Captivity | ★★★★ | July 2019
Oddball | ★★★½ | July 2019
How We Begin | ★★★★ | August 2019
World’s End | ★★★★ | August 2019
Stripped | ★★★★ | September 2019

 

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