Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

much ado cast

Much ado about rehearsals with Bob Graham (Leonato), Chris Kaye (Claudio), Tom Rees (Don Pedro) and Richard Taylor (Benedick). Pictures: Colin Hill

Much Ado About Nothing

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


There is a considerable challenge to the putting on of any Shakespeare play and then delivering it to a modern audience, but nowhere is that challenge greater than within amateur theatre.

The language is perhaps the first obstacle in needing a full grasp of the subtleties and tone of the text and this, coupled with the fact that practically every character needs a solid performance for the whole to make any kind of sense, can be a strain on the available talent within a company.

However the Nonentities seem to take all of this in their stride with this current production of Much Ado about Nothing. There has clearly been a whole lot of work put into this and indeed it’s hard to concentrate on the opening lines as the curtain lifts. We first see what looks like a good sized semi-detached Italian house that has somehow been shoehorned on to the modest Rose theatre stage, courtesy of Keith Higgins and The Nonentities team.

While you take that in, the stage seems to fill with more actors than the company seems to have, I think there are 20 in this production. The first five minutes then is something of an overwhelming of the senses and indeed the shuffling of feet and humdrum meant some of the early lines were hard to hear.

Thankfully the crowd dissipates just in time for the action of the main story to begin. As a quick reminder the plot is as follows. A band of soldiers are returning from their escapades to a small village. A young man Claudio sees and falls in love with the beautiful Hero, whilst his cohorts further conspire to romantically connect two disinterested parties, Beatrice and Benedick. The light hearted jousting and playful nature of their deeds turns to tragedy, until a cunning plan is hatched to punish the wrong doers.

Beatrice and Benedick

Tori Wakeman as Beatrice and Richard Taylor as Benedick

Tori Wakeman as Beatrice and Richard Taylor as Benedick are equally matched in their command of their roles and seemed happy to try and act each other off the stage. It’s fair to say it was a draw and their later scenes together were powerful and emotional, underscored with just the right level of emotional soundtrack.

Tom Rees was a solid Don Pedro, the prime architect of their union and the eventual victim of his wicked brother, Don John’s deception. That role was played by the seldom seen John Spencer who revelled in the seething jealousy he has for his brother and cut a fine figure in his Italian military uniform.

The ill-fated lovers Claudio and Hero were played by Chris Kay and Beth Grainger. Mr Kay seems like a gentle man and perhaps could have done with a bit more fire when he is challenged to a dual, but none the less was a doting and able Claudio. Miss Grainger was delightful as Hero and yet convincingly broken when she is wrongly accused of infidelity.

Bob Graham was Leonato and added a backbone of experience to this excellent production whilst Tony Newbould ably assisted him as his brother Antonio. Fine support came too from Jane Williams as Ursula and Jess Schneider as Margaret. A special mention goes to the ladies of The Watch, complete with their wacky assortment of household weapons and kitchen paraphernalia, who added some madcap Dads Army style comedy to the tragedy. 

It’s remarkable in its writing how relevant Much Ado still remains even today. Hearsay, fake news, lies and misreporting seem to be the staple diet of our press and social media and can and have led, to both tragic consequences and loss of life.

Directed by Jen Eglington, The Nonentities balance this production with a lot of skill and fully maximise their available talent. It’s a given that for a modern audience to fully appreciate Shakespeare, it must not only be faultlessly spoken but be well acted and here both boxes are ticked. Add to that a great set, costumes and production and it seems the company has made quite a lot out of a Much ado about Nothing. To 29-02-20

Jeff Grant


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