“Never did the course of love run smooth.” said Shakespeare, and neither does the course of the weather always run smooth even in the Summer. Nottingham Shakespeare Company were due to be presenting their outdoor production of Much Ado About Nothing on Ruddington’s village green today but the heavens opened and the predicted thunderstorms loomed overhead. A certain King Lear was spotted sheltering in the village Co-op store with his faithful fool clinging to his side. ” Blow, winds and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow. You cataracts and hurricanoes!”
Not ones to be easily thwarted, the valiant troop of players from the Nottingham Shakespeare Company had made plans for such an adverse metrological event and the play was moved into the warm and comfy interior of Ruddington’s central – St Peter’s Church. The setting seems perfect at times when Shakespeare’s wedding scenes are on the cards and the seats are kinder on our legs and bottoms than perhaps a blanket or picnic stool on the grass would have been. I am getting old.
This amusing and energetic production sans interval lasts just an hour and a half and adds to the intrigue and fun by casting some of the male roles with females. Bronwyn K Crooks is fiercely haughty as the dangerous and manipulative Don John. Michele-Louise Wright finds the wheels of her wheelchair have the indoor challenge of manoeuvring up and down some slight steps in this indoor presentation but I am reliably told that her electric wheelchair is a bogger to steer on wet grass too. Michele Louise- Wright also directs this production with great creative verve and fluidity – even to the point of adding in some apposite modernisms to help the play go with a comprehensible zing. There is a fair degree of direct connection with more than willing audience members too. We love it.
The two key roles of Benedick (Christopher Collins) and Beatrice (Emma Carlton) are superbly done and the enjoyment is in the actors being natural and eloquent in their playing and their playfulness. You really can believe that this Benedick and that Beatrice were former lovers who, previously, got carried away with their vocal distain and arrogance towards each other before the recent war. Through new trickery, they are brought back together, each believing that in their true hearts true love is lying dormant and waiting to be ignited. Bless (as Shakespeare often said when pressed).
There is a pleasant mix of naturalism, serious drama and comic nonsense given over to this production and it moves along at a pretty pace. Alistair Fiori- McPhee takes us on his own sweet and sympathetic journey as the lovelorn gesturing Claudio and Grace Deavall is grace itself as the lovable Hero who is played in the style of an attractive tomboy. Deavall also doubles as the very comical Dogberry whose badly-chosen vocabulary is more than equal to any over-confident Facebook Keith or Karen spouting their well-intentioned but ludicrous opinions online for all to laugh at because of their erroneous choice of words. The night-watch – Kasia Cichocka, Emma Carlton, and Bronwyn K. Crooks, are hilarious with their pompous parading as they attempt to arrest Jonathan Mansfield’s often drunk Borachio and his comrade Conrade (Toni Tailor-Bird). Richard Young adds requisite seriousness to the piece as the older Leonato.
Overall, Nottingham Shakespeare Company succeed in performing a very entertaining version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing here in my adopted home village of Ruddington and I am sure that this two hundred plus Ruddington audience will welcome them back with open arms any time they wish to visit our village green or the welcoming confines of St Peter’s Church. It always puzzles me how Shakespeare let his rebellious Don Pedro escape in the background carte blanche after his spiteful wrong doings. Perhaps, that’s another story for another age.