Much (Less) Ado About Nothing
Review by Chad Jarvie-Laidlaw – Showbill.ca Contributor
March 26, 2017
Much (Less) Ado About Nothing is a fresh, truncated take on Shakespeare’s comic romp, with the whole runtime brought down to just an hour of action.
Those familiar with the Bard’s comic works will find much of the core of this classic comedy preserved. At the court of Leonato (Cam Culham), Claudio (Michael Bell) woos Leonato’s niece Hero (Monica Ogden) with the help of Don Pedro (Jared Gowen). Also scheming for the hand of Hero is dastardly Don John (Graham Croft), who hopes to upset and confound their courtship. Meanwhile, witty Beatrice (Christina Patterson) very clearly doesn’t care for roguish Benedick (David Radford). Through the time-honoured tactic of overheard conversations, mistaken identities and timely revelations, Beatrice and Benedick are united, Claudio and Hero wed, and Don John foiled.
(Less) Ado streamlines Shakespeare’s plot, jettisoning subplots and concatenating characters down to the bare essentials. The effect is largely positive, leaving all but the most familiar with the original unaware of anything missing for the duration of the performance. Particularly at the beginning, though, the actors could afford some time to breathe, and give the audience a chance to grab on for this wild ride. Scenes briskly move from one to the next, which keeps the frivolity of the action at its peak and the tempo flowing.
Benedick diving into the audience to avoid being seen by his friends (who, in turn, are trying to be overheard) is pitch perfect comedy. Some scenes fail to live up to the highs previously presented, though. Dogberry’s (Christine Upright) transformation into a Carol Burnett cleaning woman who haltingly talks to her mops and farts her way offstage is bafflingly off-tone from the rest of the otherwise tight piece.
There is not much room for complex technical elements in Craigdarroch’s ballroom, and the inability to swing swords and spill drinks is made up for by Emma Dickerson’s excellent foley work. The clink of ice in a glass and the rattle of a cocktail shaker are mimed and given the feel of an excellently staged radio play. The production could likely afford to go further in embracing the fun of a working foley artist, but either as an artistic choice or as the response to the limitation of not having breakables in the historic ballroom.
The Bottom Line
Tripping through the text briskly, Launchpad Theatre’s production is an enjoyable and unique evening’s entertainment. Despite whatever faults it may have, Much (Less) Ado About Nothing is a jaunty ride through one of Shakespeare’s better comedies.