Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare, was adapted for the stage and directed by Jan Rae with assistant director Yohann Philip. It was performed in the gardens of Bell House, from 26th June to 4th July 2021.
Leonato, Governor of Messina - Roger Orr
Imogen, wife to Leonato - Rathna Ali
Hero, their daughter - Anna Kandasamy
Beatrice, their niece - Kate Boydell
Ursula, cousin and companion to Hero - Hayley Blundell
Margaret, governess and companion to Hero - Sophie Thompson
Borachio, estate worker and handyman - Jane Jones
Children - Leila Fialho, Reuben Folebendek and Ivy Vulkan
Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon - Tim Devine
Count Claudio - Rebecca Irvin
Benedick - Mark Kelleher
Donna Juana, sister to Don Pedro - Emike Umolu
Conrade, follower of Donna Juana - Josh Stevenson
Army Messenger - Yohann Philip
The Neighborhood Watch
Dogberry, Constable in Messina - Ian Jones
Verges, Dogberry's Assistant - Marcia Bennie
Members of the Watch - Mike Stirling, Lynda Hansom and Katrina Rublowsky
Friar Frances - Tracy Brook
Guitar - Andrew Cunningham
Violin - Simon Wood
Director - Jan Rae
Assistant Director - Yohann Philip
Music Composition - Andrew Cunningham
Choreography - Gill Daly
Stage Manager - Emily Lamm
Assistant Stage Managers - Andrew Cunningham and Clarisse Hassan
Costume - Gill Daly and Jane Jones
Hair and Makeup - Denise Biffin
Poster Design - Michael Marsden
Publicity- Mark Kelleher and Emily Lamm
Box Office and Front of House - Paul Sykes and Severine Powell
by Jess Batterbury assisted by Auriol Rae
After a troubling year or more, normality has resumed with an outdoor Shakespeare production by the Dulwich Players. Here, the Dulwich Players put on a charming, witty, and delightful version of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in the gardens of Bell House, made all the more impressive by the fact that COVID restrictions must have made rehearsals challenging.
The flowering gardens made the perfect setting for this playful outdoor show, with the inventive staging making great use of the surrounding spaces as the actors weaved in and out of the greenery. Great direction and strategic cutting kept the plot pacing on, and the cast kept the audience chuckling away and engaged with the emotional moments throughout.
Mark Kelleher and Kate Boydell had plenty of chemistry as the central pairing of Benedick and Beatrice, bouncing off each other to great comedic and emotional effect. Benedick’s energetic physicality and ad-libbing were excellent, while Beatrice had the sharp wit and timing that any Shakespearean comedic leading lady could wish for.
Leonato (Roger Orr), Innogen (Rathna Ali), and Hero (Anna Kandasamy) worked really well together as a family, bringing both warm humour throughout the play, and dramatic tension to the play’s denouement, aided and abetted by Hero’s playful companions, Margaret (Sophie Thompson) and Ursula (Hayley Blundell). Margaret clearly also had a challenging time as governess to three mischievous children (Ivy Vulkan, Leila Fialho and Reuben Folebendek) who at times managed to upstage their grown-up counterparts.
Don Pedro, the prince and commander of the returning regiment was played by Tim Devine with initially great good humour, before succumbing to the blandishments of his sister, and cruelly aiding and abetting his young protegee, Count Claudio in his dramatic rejection of Hero. The role of Claudio was very ably covered at the very last minute by the Assistant Director Yohann Philip, due to a cast member having to isolate – having appeared to have learnt his words overnight in the first part, he more than held his own among the rest of the cast, ably maintaining the narrative’s key relationship with Hero.
The extended cast were also strong, with some great comedic moments from the Neighbourhood Watch in their pursuit of justice, led (in the loosest sense of the word) by Dogberry (Ian Jones) a part delivered with great comic timing.
Emike Umolu put in a memorable performance as a brilliantly malicious Donna Juana who was well supported by her villainous henchmen Borachio (Jane Jones) and Conrade (Josh Stevenson). Tracy Brook provided a memorable turn as the peace-making and wise Friar Frances, who’s advice leads to the play’s happy ending.
Musical moments with live guitar and violin (from Andrew Cunningham and Simon Wood respectively) contributed greatly to the captivating atmosphere. Very good costuming, use of the surrounding gardens of Bell House, and a final song and dance from the cast invoked a pleasing sense of summer… even in rather changeable and typically British overcast conditions.
After a tough period for us all, and for the world of live entertainment in particular, this was a very welcome reminder of the magic of theatre.