Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Tamara Harvey
Reviewer: Taylor Simmons
Much Ado About Nothing, a light-hearted tale of love and mischief, is one of William Shakespeare’s best loved comedies. Stylised by its stichomythic exchanges between Benedick and Beatrice, the play powerfully represents the struggles of love in a society where marriage is revered – a theme that resonates as much today as it did in its Elizabethan counterpart.
Set in a Portmeirion-inspired garden, designed by the glorious Janet Bird, Tamara Harvey’s reimagining of this classic tale is everything and more. For the first time in its history, Harvey transforms the theatre into a traverse setting enabling the audience to ‘sandwich’ the performance and engage more acutely with the action onstage.
Beatrice and Benedick, both avowed singletons, fight traditions of courtly love through professed hatred of the opposite sex. ‘I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me.’ John Ramm, playing Benedick, is the perfect choice for this role. His quick delivery, his boyish swagger and charismatic demeanour perfectly convey the aging bachelor both at ease and in conflict with his unwillingness to concede to love. Lisa Palfrey, as Beatrice, performs with gusto; her strong Welsh accent and messy appearance perfectly complimenting the role.
Lowri Palfrey as Hero and Nakay Kpaka as Claudio make the perfect youthful couple. Often Hero and Claudio can come across as a ‘weak’ and ‘pathetic’ lovesick couple in comparison to the strength of the main characters – but not here. They bring an honesty to the ingénue roles, creating a lovely contrast to the atypical relationship of Benedick and Beatrice.
Of particular mention is Harvey’s choice to change Leonarto to Leonata. Sian Howard as the matriarch was powerful in conveying the challenges and complexities of a parent. Her commanding voice, spectrum of emotion and strong posture were both powerful and comforting, qualities essential for a mother, and particularly so for Leonata’s challenges in the story. David Bark- Jones as Don Pedro plus Kerry Peers and Catherine Morris also gave notable performances in their supporting roles.
It is clear that Harvey has set out her stall with this production; it is firmly rooted in the Welsh values of Theatr Clwyd but her strong creative choices show that Harvey is giving us a lot more to look forward to.
Runs until July 2nd.