Edinburgh Fringe 2013
This is a traditional tilt at Much Ado with Beatrice eventually falling for Benedick exactly as she should and Claudio snaring Hero despite the worst intentions of Don John. This is well costumed and competently directed in an hour of Shakespeare that tells the story directly and with little fuss that is great from such a young company.
It is a well worn path – how Beatrice and Benedick are brought together through intrigue and plotting and Hero and Claudio make it despite the same style of plotting. This has all the costume traditionally associated with the Bard, sticky on beards and the verve and vitality of youth. Stripped down to the bare bones it does zip and sizzle along with a very young cast who show how Shakespeare at that age should be embraced.
The youth of this cast means that we should be understanding over some of the pronunciation or the meaning of the lines? Not a jot. This is Shakespeare as it ought to be seen and heard if the Elizabethan style is what you are after. It does help that we have an excellent Beatrice who understands the rhythm and meter of the piece. This certainly helps with some of the boys who don’t really capture the subtlety of being out of sorts with love. At times they regress rather than progress and I would wonder why such mature young ladies would fall for such immature young laddies. By the end of the piece this distance widens though it does add something to the whole. Despite both Hero and Beatrice being highly intelligent young women they do fall under convention but they are also great catches. It delivers another dimension that the women rebel but eventually have no choice but to conform.
I found the staging to be very appropriate without being inspired. Once again the paring down has been brought to bear. It means we are a little short of hiding places at the right times and some of the suspension of disbelief that is requested is a tad too much. The direction therefore suffers from having to deal with that. It was slightly confusing at times as people entered and were clearly visible and then had to pretend they could not be seen. It was unfortunate because the rest of the direction was so assured.
This was obviously a school/youth group production but of its type it was of a high standard. I could have stayed for their next production. It would have needed to have built upon this and I get the feeling that would not have been an issue. I also got the feeling that this had grown over time. Having an extended run at any production is a luxury for any youth production – once mums and dads have seen it there is hardly ever a market. I could see that moves had settled, looks improved with understanding and the telling of the tale something with which the cast were very comfortable.
It is important to remember that whilst we see this in the context of it being a youthful production it has chosen to be at the Fringe in a commercial market. I have no hesitation in suggesting that seeing this would help your understanding of this classic text. Josh Weldon may have brought us the film version recently you will go far to beat this as a theatrical version for and by young people.