The RSC’s Much Ado About Nothing recently welcomed twenty-two debut actors,creatives and musicians to the stage, of a total team of forty. Director Roy Alexander Weise, Costume designer Melissa Simon- Hartman and Lighting Designer Azusa Ono, take the well-known romantic comedy with its themes of love sought, rejected and found and refashion it in a sumptuous Afro futuristic setting.The opulence of the costumes and the abundance of gold, signal that we are in a Royal Court.
This romantic comedy is about deception, love and misunderstandings. Will Benedick, a war hero, succumb to the trickery to fall in love with Beatrice? Amidst the playfulness is the tragedy of deception. The funeral scene for Hero who was thought to be dead, was particularly moving. The clever use of mobile human lanterns and the achingly tragic funeral dirge, extended the emotional range of this production, giving it remarkable depth.
The acting is compelling, from Beatrice’s playful petulance to the bombastic bumbling of Constable Dogberry.
The success of the production is based on boldre-imagining at every level; the setting in an Afro-futuristic Royal Court, the fusion of African traditional costumes and geometric styles and shapes, the imaginative set and lighting design and the compelling performance of live Afro pop inspired music.All the theatrical elements combined to make this Shakespearean real and relevant to an audience in 2022.
This commitment to making Shakespeare accessible explains the latitude some actors were given to deliver certain comic lines in Nigerian accents.
In response, one Shakespearean scholar, CerenSengerer, described the play as‘energising with its music and spirit. The costumes and make up were exceptionally imaginative. One can feel the breeze from the Caribbean under a palm tree, with soft and subtle light. It is a delight to watch’.
While the pacing of the play lagged somewhat after the interval, overall, it was a triumph. The swift succession of characters in and out of the Royal Court sometimes create confusion, but this appears to be deliberate and underscores one of the main themes of the play of deception. The audience enjoyed the subterfuge, winks and knowing nods even when the relationship between the characters was not always clear.
Much Ado about Nothing treated the audience to collaborative, creative brilliance.The glorious and detailed costumes, imaginative setting and light design, original music, movement and acting all combined to tell this complicated, unpredictable yet engaging story. The versatility of the cast members, who sing and dance with ease, mark this production as original, magical and magnificent. Encore!
The show ended 12 March more about the RSC click here.
Monica Brown is a Communications Coach & Media Specialist