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Much Ado About Nothing

by on 17 July 2019

Much ado about seeing this play!

Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

Richmond Shakespeare Society, The Fountain Gardens, Twickenham until 20th July

A review by Viola Selby

2019; the 100th anniversary of the first female MP in the House of Commons and so far a year with a lovely sunny summer! What better way to spend it then with a picnic watching Fiona Poole’s exceptional and female focused rendition of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. But how, you may ask, can one celebrate such a political anniversary through such a light-hearted comedy, written in a time where women had little if any political power? Well, Poole has managed to cleverly set her play a century ago, during the suffrage movement, with characters dressed in period-perfect attire, creatively crafted by Junis Olmscheid, Miriam King and John Gilbert. Along with the stunning, yet minimalistic set design, realised by Junis Olmscheid, Ron Hudson, Peter Messum and Fiona Poole, this play is both a feast for the eyes as well as the ears! There are also some toe-tapping musical numbers that bring the period even more to life, thanks to the maestra in charge of sound design and composition, Sarah Hill!


In addition to this, Poole has also chosen a powerful cast, each of whom shows an extraordinary level of performing expertise through their clear understanding of their character. For example, when Leonato’s daughter is shamed in front of everyone at her wedding, having been accused of sleeping around with another man who is not her betrothed, Vaughan Pierce, as Leonato, does not just fly off the handle at his daughter, but instead portrays a man who is a mixture of emotion. He is both shocked at this claim, furious by the shame it has brought his family and also upset due to the effect it has had on the daughter he loves so dearly. PICS MUCH ADO 3As well as this, each thespian delivers the lines with such passion that they will have you sitting on the edge of your seat (or rolling on the grass) with laughter. This comedic element is especially true when Benedick and Beatrice are on stage. Francis Abbott (Benedick) and Dorothy Duffy (Beatrice) make a sublime double act, whom one may think are an old bickering married couple, when in fact the pair cannot stand one another yet later end up marrying one another! Whilst Ben Collingwood Best and PICS MUCH ADO 5Deborah Tinsdale will have you in stitches as they create an almost Laurel and Hardy – esque portrayal of an officer and his second who manage to catch Conrad and Borachio, played by the craftily cunning Francesca Ellis and Dominic Upton, in their plan to ruin the forthcoming wedding.  It is a plan devised by the evil Princess, yes you read that right – a brilliant change made by Poole to focus the play on the power of the females, Donna Julia. Nicola Doble’s portrayal of Donna Julia is villainously victorious, as she uses both tone and body language to create a socially cunning classist whom no one would expect. Finally, this play would not be the same without Claudio and Hero, one of our main couples involved in both the weddings and “funeral”. Matthew Tyrrell is regal and upstanding in his depiction of the Prince’s favourite, and his chemistry with Héloïse Plumley as Hero passionately breathtaking, even though Plumley manages to create a character that is demure and gentle.


Altogether the cast and crew have given new life to this play and have made it their own. If you are a Shakespearean fan or completely new to the bard, there is much ado about seeing this play! A magnificent way that celebrates the skill of Shakespeare whilst also paying homage to the wonderful wit of women!

Viola Selby
July 2019

Photography by Simone Best and Sally Turnstill

From → Drama, Reviews

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