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

It's a lot to do with everything

Much Ado about Nothing

Highbury Players


WITH Highbury's season drawing to a close it is a case of possibly them having saved the best till last. Their production of Much Ado about Nothing is perhaps one of the best amateur productions I have ever seen of the play.

To get past the language of Shakespeare and produce this quality you need a strong understanding of the text and how it relates to the overall plot and to each character. If you want an audience to follow and understand it you have to do more than simply delivering Shakespeare's lines, you have to act it out physically.

That's what Director Nigel Higgs and his 20-strong team of players have done. There is not a gesture or intonation out of place and everyone on stage is doing something or reacting appropriately to the scene.

Higgs has injected generous amounts of quiet space into the performance with the addition of some contemporary music and whilst adding some nice staging touches it also gives you an interlude from the bombardment of the bard's clever words.

I have always said that Shakespeare contains many a blueprint of the best contemporary rom coms and Much Ado is a classic example. Two potential lovers Benedick and Beatrice who despise one another are tricked into finally being together whilst two others, Hero and Claudio who are to be married, are tricked into ending their relationship.  

The cast have been working some time on this production and it's quite an achievement to have coordinated the 20 players into such a fluid production.  Richard Ham as Benedick resurrects a few elements of his Cinderella Buttons that he played at a rival theatre and confidently engaged the audience in some of the many solo monologues. Suzy Donnelly was full of zest and precision as the witty Beatrice and delivered her sarcastic and clever jibes with a total understanding of the part.

Jack Hobbis as Claudio was again excellent in the role of a young to be married suitor as was his opposite Karrise Willets as Hero.

In contrast to the youth element were the very convincing seniors. Martin Walker played Leonato, Governor of Messina and father to Hero and effectively held many of the scenes together but came into his own during the complex, tragic wedding scene with an emotional performance.  Rob Phillips as Dogberry, the bards clown in Much ado, was a very amusing Policeman Plod trailed by the doting Verges played by Sandra Haynes.  

A favourite of mine was Wiley Bowkett as Don Pedro who is a natural when delivering Shakespeare's lines. With his lovely clear speaking voice, every simple gesture and reaction he made was measured and in place. Several cast member played two parts as did Kerry Frater as both the villainous Borachio and then Balthasar singing the poignant tomb side song Sigh No More.

It would be unfair not to include the reminder of the cast of Reg Tolley, Alastair Barnsley, Brian Hill, Andrew Leigh-Dugmore, Cos Calogirou, Hannah Parry, Rob Gregory and Bhupinder Kaur Dhamu and the production team all who helped make this version of Much ado about Nothing, a lot about something.

If you still harbour some resistance to Shakespeare and the language then this is a great way to gently overcome that. It's a fine interpretation that keeps you interested and involved in the story and after the many months of sheer hard work by a great many people it deserves to be seen. Well done to all involved. To 15-06-13.

Jeff Grant 

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