THEATRE REVIEW: Much Ado About Nothing at Sheffield Crucible

“I HAD rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.”
Photo by Johan PerssonPhoto by Johan Persson
Photo by Johan Persson

“I HAD rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me."

This line of Beatrice’s from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing has stayed in my head ever since I studied the play for my A levels.

Granted, it’s not as well-known, say, as “To be, or not to be: that is the question,” (Hamlet), “Now is the winter of our discontent” (Richard III), or “The course of true love never did run smooth” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream).

But as a 17-year-old that particular barb about love from fiery, independent Beatrice really struck a chord.

Fast forward a couple of decades and it is fantastic to hear it spoken on stage by Daneka Etchells’ sassy and compelling character as Sheffield Theatres and Ramps on the Moon bring their fresh, modern production to The Crucible.

The involvement of co-producers Ramps on the Moon — a consortium of theatres which aim to enrich stories and story-telling by putting deaf and disabled artists and audiences at the centre of their work — means the performance is enhanced by surtitles, and a diverse range of actors, some using British Sign Language.

Indeed, Chloë Clarke, audio description director, has quite rightly described it as “an excellent piece of theatre that speaks (and signs) for itself alongside all the other Much Ados out there”.

Some distinctly modern phrases are added to the mix by director Robert Hastie.

After dismissing those that fall in love, Guy Rhys’ Benedick shouts over his shoulder “I pity the fool” before exiting the stage, in a nod to 80s American TV show The A-Team which draws a big laugh.

Throw in some line-dancing, spa massages and the watchmen using walkie-talkies and it’s clear this is a modern take on the Messina-set play.

But even with the cast being counted in “5,6,7,8” purists need not worry — there’s still plenty of “hey nonny nonny” in the lyrics Balthasar sings.

And the plot is as faithful as ever, with bickering and bantering Beatrice and Benedick unknowingly set up by friends and family (“Some Cupids kill with arrows, some with traps”, signs Claire Wetherall’s Hero), while her own forthcoming wedding with Claudio (Taku Mutero) is threatened by the nefarious Donna Joanna (Fatima Niemogha).

But this is a Shakespeare comedy, so will love save the day?

All I can say is “All’s Well That Ends Well!”

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