Much Ado About Something, Just not Sure What it is.

 

As part of the ongoing Shrewsbury summer season, tonight at the Shrewsbury High School we were treated to Heartbreak Productions incisive interpretation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Although billed as an outdoor production, due to the rain, the whole venue had thankfully moved into the school hall. This did have an effect on the dynamics of the event, as people were there with their wine and picnics and expecting an al fresco do. However, nobody seemed to mind and to be honest temperatures outside were much more of a November hue than a fiery summer’s night in August.

Firstly, here is my take on the Shakespearean text - I struggle with the Bard some of the time and this is a play that for me proved difficult to follow. Struggling with the language, I missed a lot of subtleties that Shakespeare put in and some of the characters left me confused. That said, that was more down to my poor understanding and not of the production, which I believe to be absolutely stunning.

Heartbreak Productions, working under the direction of Maddy Kerr, held us all with a beautifully directed and artistically beautiful performance. The vocals in the songs, yes songs, was wonderful, such tight and well rehearsed harmonies indicated that this troupe of actors are so comfortable together that it resounds through the whole performance. The singing was as inventive as the contextualisation of the piece.

A modernised adaptation set on the last day of World War Two, a group of villagers come together to perform a Shakespearean play to commemorate the famous Churchill speech marking Germany’s total surrender to the allies in 1945. This provided a link to the text as it begins with Don Pedro’s victorious return from his battles in Messina. So throughout the text we had some wonderful renditions of the old war time classics. Chattanooga Choo Choo, In the Mood, Siegfried Line, they were all there and I couldn’t help but sing along as I sure did most other audience members.

They earned ten out of ten for reaching their audience and holding them throughout the show.  They also score a ten out of ten for their performances. As admittedly I am not good with some of Shakespeare’s work but the company certainly catered for the likes of me and my ignorance of the text really didn’t prevent my enjoyment of a great show. As a lot of us know Shakespeare is a dab hand at using a thousand words where ten might do but the deliverance and diction of the players were such that the poetry, emotion, humour and tragedy were all there in spades for the whole audience to treasure.

The revels scene had theatrical impact with a great vocalisation of the instrumental track, In the Mood. Although they added words the playing of imaginary trombones was genius. In fact I would comfortably say the whole of the production was genius and I would imagine Maddy Kerr’s career should be safely mapped out as a director of clarity and originality.

We have had Shakespeare around for half a millenia. Some of the references and humour are not unrelated to life today and we think we are so much more sophisticated than any others that have trod this earth before us; Shakespeare proves we are not and appeals to our imagination, our suspense of disbelief and our participation. This company and this production stuck firm to those objectives and reached us all individually and collectively.

The audience lapped it up and the very, very full school hall almost shook with the thunderous applause at the end. The applause demanded two curtain calls from the actors and everyone was left satisfied that this highly approachable company had provided just what it says in the programme, namely a great night out.

Because of the fun, thought and sheer talent this company and the show gave us this is a five star production. The top mark of my grading system as regular readers may know is a five, it is worthy to note I have reviewed great theatre all over Shrewsbury and the UK and haven’t until now felt inclined to mark a show as a five star performance.

Well done to all concerned, to the organisers and sponsors and actors - a great time was had by all.

Owen Lewis

 

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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