Much Ado About Nothing

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A rom-com by William Shakespeare, this contemporary adaptation directed by Robert Hastie, is impressively performed by the huge cast of 18. It’s full of twists and turns, crossed wires, honour and deceit and ultimately love.

Following a victory in the wars, Don Pedro and his men visit the estate of Leonato and Antonia. Claudio reveals he is in love with their daughter Hero, and at a masked ball the two become engaged. To help pass the time until the wedding, Don Pedro and the others hatch a plan to trick their friends Beatrice and Benedick into falling in love with each other, not a small task considering they are equally cynical about love. A second, more sinister, plot is also underway. Donna Joanna, Don Pedro’s sister, decides to sabotage the wedding by tricking Claudio into thinking Hero has been unfaithful. The household staff overhear Donna Joanna’s comrades discussing how they have fooled Claudio and arrest them, but are too late to stop Claudio refusing to marry Hero, telling everyone at the wedding she has slept with someone else.

Hero and her family decide to pretend she has died of shame, hoping this will cause Claudio to regret his actions. Beatrice and Benedick declare their love, and she persuades him to challenge Claudio to a duel to prove his love for her. On hearing the confession of the villains, Claudio is filled with remorse and agrees to marry Hero’s cousin. At this wedding, it is revealed the cousin is actually Hero, they marry and she forgives Claudio.

It’s a big story with a lot of characters, lots of plot themes and with the Shakespearean language it can be little hard going while you get into it, however it is endearing, witty, and the characters all have their unique personalities, due to the cast, which are all enjoyable to watch. You do get drawn in and engaged into the story.

“Every performance features the use of integrated creative sign language, embedded audio description and captioning.” The show comes to Ipswich from the world-famous Sheffield Theatres and is made in association with Ramps on the Moon, the pioneering initiative committed to putting deaf and disabled artists and audiences at the centre of their work. 

At the very start of the performance each character stated their name and what they were wearing. There was also a description of the stage, set and props, it was described in a very natural way and conveys the information clearly to the visually impaired, with zero distraction to any non-disabled audience member. There was a captioning screen at the top of the set, which I admit, I did use a little while I got myself used to the language and it was welcomed.

The whole play was signed with BSL (British Sign Language), mainly by the actors who were able to sign for another actor when they themselves were not part of the action.  It worked exceptionally well being integrated into the play, it was not distracting to a hearing audience member but would have enhance the show for those that needed it. It was a visual storytelling play with physical theatre, making the show clearer and more accessible to all by being all immersive and covering a wide spectrum of disabilities.

It was a wonderful interpretation with exceptionally talented deaf and disabled actors, it’s a cast that is widely representative across so many margins and individually they were all spectacular. It’s unusual to have a play where all 18 actors are filled with so much passion while they are on stage. Very enjoyable.

Photo Credit Johan Pearson

This review appeared on GrapevineLIVE

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