Photos Reviews

Much Ado About Nothing

November 2018

Don Pedro's army returns from war to the peace and comfort of Leonato's home in Messina. Claudio is looking for a wife, Benedick is not. Much Ado tells the tale of how they both end up married, but in very different ways.


Leonato a wealthy landowner in Messina - Howard Eilbeck

Antonia his sister and dowager of the family - Maggie Butt

Hero his unmarried daughter and heiress - Joana Crisostomo

Beatrice his niece, a spinster - Becky Davies

Margaret a gentlewoman and companion - Chris Eilbeck

Ursula a gentlewoman and companion - Jacquie Howartson

Don Pedro a man of honour - Alan Caig

Claudio his lieutenant - Ian Potts

Benedick his follower, a confirmed bachelor - Mike Edwards

Balthasar his follower and messenger - Nigel Mason

Dona Joan the bastard sister of Don Pedro - Clare Philbrock

Conrade a follower of Doña Joan - John Bradley

Borachio, a follower of Doña Joan - Sam King

Father Francis the Parish Priest of Messina - Bill Pattinson

The Sexton and parish clerk - Tom Epton

Dogberry the town constable - Bob Drury

Verges his deputy - David Batty

Seacole, a member of the watch - Keith Palmer

Oatcake, a member of the watch - Cass Thorne

Nightingale, a member of the watch - Lynn Leger

The Woman Watching - Suzanne Dunstan

Production Team:

Director - Rob Hole

Stage Manager - Janine Warre

Production Manager - Maggie Butt

Set and Publicity Design - Phil Keen

Set Construction - Phil Keen

Lighting Design - Peter Tapp

Sound and Lighting operation - Peter Tapp

Props - Janine Warre

Music specially composed by - Chris Hoban

Voices - David Batty Nigel Mason Clare Philbrock Kate Wannell

Oboe - Julia Hill

Accordion - Chris Hoban

Wardrobe - Jill Whitehouse with Christine Meredith and Janine Warre

Front of House - Rosie Munns Sharon Wannell and team

Singing Coach - Mary Pickard

Music recorded by - Ron Murray


From Tim Johns reviewed the Estuary production of Much Ado About Nothing:

This production of Much Ado took off instantly and soared gracefully for the rest of the evening

At almost any time in the Topsham area you may see a swan struggling to paddle itself to take off speed with a panicky waddle and a lot of spray. Sometimes they don't make it and resume their aquatically pedestrian existence until they get their breath back: an image sometimes of amateur dramatic societies who bite off more than they can chew with a surfeit of misdirected energy. However, when swans take off they are transformed into flying giants with a grace and beauty that transfixes the watcher. This production of Much Ado took off instantly and soared gracefully for the rest of the evening. There was nothing pedestrian about it.

As Sir Antony Sher observes in Shakespeare's comedies all the jokes are in code. It is to the enormous credit of the Director and actors that they shared the jokes with us, even the naughty ones, as well as the pathos, the sadness, and sudden changes of mood; as when superficial seeming hit the buffers and was brushed aside by real experience revealing to the audience that there are depths of feeling and emotion within us all that cannot always be suppressed by superficial bravado and laddish or laddette behaviours.

The characters of Beatrice and Benedict played by Becky Davies and Mike Edwards were at all times attractive and engaging; sometimes powerful in a forceful sense but at other times with a quiet word, a look, or a subtle change of mood communicating it to all in the room without, to quote Hamlet, sawing the air or tearing a passion to tatters!

I think most in the audience would agree that Beatrice and Benedick were the dual suns at the heart of this theatrical solar system and that all other characters revolved around them in their own intersecting orbits, but in doing so gave the whole thing meaning and substance. The eccentric orbits of the Watch entered and re-entered the system often enough to provide the light relief Shakespeare intends but also to familiarise us with them so that when their big moment comes we are used to them as a part of that community and are able to accept their interventions with the sense of gravity inherent in their role as the night watch; while at the same time enjoying the humour of their innocent foolishness and careless mangling of their native tongue . If any of that group stand out it must be Dogberry, played by Bob Drury who is, without a doubt, an Ass and I think he deserves a certificate to confirm that for his heirs and assigns!!

Don Pedro and Claudio worked wonderfully as a pair, and it is they who present the worst of laddish behaviour, effectively marrying Claudio to Hero because she has a nice little inheritance, then cruelly rejecting her because she is accused (and only accused) of something Claudio has probably been doing regularly since puberty. Then to cap it all Claudio moves on to a convenient alternative who also has a nice little inheritance. It is hard not to want to box his ears for being shallow and grasping but Ian Potts presents him with sufficient grace for the audience to accept he has learned his lesson, albeit after the event. In this he is backed up by Alan Caig in the character of Don Pedro who mixes his up-market Jack the Lad role (did Sicily have a Bullingham Club?) with an eventual and apparent sense of remorse. One of the nicest bits of business in the play was when Benedict, having recognised his new depth of maturity, hands in his sunglasses to Don Pedro as a sign that he's not in his gang anymore, nor of his way of thinking. It was Don Pedro's acting response, rather than any words which was so significant at that stage of the play. Shakespeare text is wonderful enough but the direction from Rob Hole and the engagement of all the actors maintained the richness the text deserves and, as in all good productions, served also to illuminate it from time to time.

Joana Crisostomo, as Hero (but in fact as victim) managed to seem credible and attractive despite playing the role of female chattel to the laddish Claudio. As is often the case, Shakespeare writes a strength into his female characters which Joana powerfully projected so that I for one felt that Claudio might be wise to build a shed at the bottom of the garden in case he makes any future crass mistakes!

Howard Eilbeck as Leonato represented the pinnacle of Sicilian society and performed the role of touchstone or primary definer to that society, approving and validating the actions of others. As such he projected the calm gravitas required and did so royally; as was hinted at by his wonderful golden suit!!

Borachio, as an obvious baddy, was convincingly played by Sam King ably assisted by John Bradley as Conrad. I hesitate to refer to any one as a minor character because as such, without them, the play would lack the cream which made it such a rich experience, and they were all excellent, but perhaps special mention should be made of Ursula, played by Jacquie Howatson, who played the mischievous confidante to perfection.

Bill Pattinson as Parish Priest was to the manner born and gave that small but significant role a convincing depth which, when lacking, makes that key marriage scene lack credibility and the whole marriage business foolish and superficial rather than creating the rather tense atmosphere which this production achieved.

All of this takes place of course because of Dona Joan who causes mayhem by playing on individual greed or shallowness or simply because, to quote R lll, I am determined to play the villain. Clare Philbrock stood out as evil personified passing through people's lives dispensing lies and deceit and did so with style. Not for her the quiet snake in the grass but instead the obvious villain, often in bright colours, not to be missed. I for one looked away when once or twice she fixed the audience with a determined stare.

At the heart of a good production is the direction which should not be overlooked. The weight and colour given to themes and characters are down to them and the way they interact with the actors. This was obviously a successful symbiotic relationship and congratulations are deserved by all. The little bits of business make a difference too: the Watch playing cards in the cafe, Nigel Mason as the aggrieved waiter, the sunglasses and especially Nightingale's Victoria sponge which I had a slice of; taking it to be a bit of audience participation when I came in after the interval. Thank you Lynn it was delicious!

Music always adds something to a Shakespeare comedy and this was no exception, congratulations to Mary Pickard and David Batty. The quartets and live music added a richness which good music will tend to do. However, the whole cast singing at the finale was the cherry on the cake. This was particularly well done and I think we all left the theatre that night delighted that everything had turned out all right in the end and probably humming the song: I for one also had a broad grin on my face having enjoyed myself royally.

- Reviewed by: Tim Johns


Click a thumbnail to view larger