Edinburgh Fringe 2014
A high energy interpretation of Much Ado About Nothing, liberally sprinkled with original prose and modern language, and topped up with a generous number of witty asides, plenty of double entendre and enough unexpected Spoonerisms to keep a packed audience on their toes.
The girls are playing charades, waiting for Don Pedro and his men to return from war and trigger love, laughter and music. Beatrice and Benedict, however, are constantly bickering – just what are they trying to hide? But Claudio goes all gooey at his first sight of Hero and declares his love is unstoppable. Or is it? Will Pedro’s bastard bother, Don John, succeed in driving a wedge between them to stop the billing and cooing? Meanwhile, Dogberry and the local watch, the Messina Youth Movement, are trying to prevent trouble. But will this equivalent of the Keystone Cops recognise an evil plot even if it bops them on the nose? Can they save the day?
Shakespeare adaptations are thick on the ground most Fringe years, but the 450th anniversary of his birth this year has resulted in a glut. Year Out Drama Company’s is up there with the best, with this short, high energy interpretation liberally sprinkled with original prose and modern language, and topped up with a generous number of witty asides, plenty of double entendre and enough unexpected Spoonerisms to keep a packed audience on their toes. But the icing on this quite delicious cake is the music, some of it original, some adapted and some covered. Most of it was acappella and much of it four-part harmony. All of it was delightful, especially “Our Boys in Blue”.
A cast that seems to run into thousands gets on and off stage with little effort, important given the many short scenes, and the costumes make it clear who is in which gang. Some impressive physical theatre sees Dogberry’s crew become a lemon grove, olive trees and various other pieces ordinarily played by inanimate objects. Props are simple but extremely effective – sunglasses featuring extensively (and humorously) as masks, for example. It’s hard to fault the acting either, even if one or two lines did get lost in the hurly-burly. Beatrice and Benedict stood out with the passion of their early disdain melting believably into love. Claudio was suitably drippy when wooing and showed rather touching remorse at Hero’s rather impressively staged “funeral”.
This was an impressive production and it was all over too quickly. But then lots of good things come in little packages and it’s always best to leave them wanting more.