Thursday, July 26, 2012

'Much Ado About Nothing' by William Shakespeare

26 July 2012

On Sunday afternoon I joined the crowds in beautiful sunshine at The Dell, the RSC’s open-air performance space next to the river in Stratford-upon-Avon, to watch the Royal Navy Theatre Association production of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ as part of the RSC Open Stages National Showcase. The stage at The Dell is under an open-sided marquee, with views through to trees and foliage behind. We had all just found a spot to sit on the grass in sight of the stage when we were surprised to hear the national anthem – but of course the Royal Navy Theatre Association would start their performance with the national anthem. Outdoor performances of Shakespeare require a different technique: they have to be slightly broader and exaggerated compared to acting in an intimate indoor theatre. The Royal Navy Theatre Association really made the play work in this setting. Much of the comedy was really funny and Sarah Miatt and Tim Stokes were excellent as Beatrice and Benedick. I was also impressed by Surgeon Captain Mike Howell as Don Pedro. ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ starts with soldiers returning from a war and there was an added poignancy to this production knowing that many of the actors have recently returned from active service in Afghanistan. Using genuine contemporary uniforms, and with some added naval references, there was a clear reality underpinning the comedy. Even the uniformed stage crew brought a naval efficiency to shifting the props and furniture. And it was wonderful to see this article about The Royal Naval Theatre Association in The Guardian last week:

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