Ramps on the Moon is a group of venues around the UK that creates space for deaf, neurodiverse, disabled and non-disabled performers and creatives to work together. Each venue takes its turn to produce a show and it is the turn of Sheffield Theatres. For their production, as their 50th anniversary celebrations for the Crucible, they have chosen to put on Much Ado About Nothing. Much Ado About Nothing is a classic Shakespearean comedy with love triangles, misunderstanding and plenty laughs. The show is long at three hours in running time but it doesn’t drag too much.
Robert Hastie directs this production and he does a fantastic job at bringing out all the laughs possible. This really is a laugh-out-loud comedy. Peter McKintosh’s set and costume design is simple. An opportunity for some creative usage of the large glass windows that are at the rear of the stage felt missed and some more set pieces to demonstrate different locations wouldn’t have gone amiss. The modern day costumes and setting worked well for the most part. Emily Howlett is the British Sign Language Director for the show – the sign language is integrated into the piece well but at times, it can be difficult to spot who is signing the dialogue. Joanna Goodwin’s movement is simple but works well for the production (although the cowboy themed party scene feels somewhat bizarre!) and Jacob Sparrow has assembled a strong cast.
Kit Kenneth is great as Balthasar and he gets the show off his strong musical talent. Leo Long and Amy Helena as Oatcake and Seacole are a terrific double act. Long brings a huge amount of energy to the stage and Helena is fantastically expressive signer. Lee Farrell and Caroline Parker as Verges and Dogberry are a fantastic comedy duo and bounce off each other perfectly. They both have impeccable comic timing and are great fun to watch. Gerard McDermott and Karina Jones play Hero’s parents Leonato and Antonia. They are a believable couple and both give beautifully passionate performances, with Jones really getting to shine in the second half.
Benjamin Wilson takes on the role of Borachio and his comic timing is sensational. He is hilarious, whilst tapping into the villainous side of the role brilliantly. Laura Goulden is a perfect Margaret, who also signs for many of the other characters. She is hugely expressive and brilliant fun to watch throughout. Dan Parr as Don Pedro has the perfect amount of charm for the role whilst Fatima Niemogha as Donna Joanna is subdued and secretive. Claire Wetherall as Hero is great, gaining strength in the second half. However the directional decision to only have Wetherall sign and not speak verbally doesn’t quite work. It means that Hero is always relying on someone else and she loses some of her agency and independence.
The standout performances of this production came from Guy Rhys as Benedick and Daneka Etchells as Beatrice. They have a fantastic chemistry which develops brilliantly throughout the show. Both demonstrate their fantastic comic timing, with Etchells’ more emotionally charged scenes being difficult to watch (in a good way!).
Much Ado About Nothing is a beautiful celebration of the diversity of our nation and it goes to show that Shakespeare can be accessible for all. Be sure to catch this showcase of diverse British talent when it visits a theatre near you.