Network Theatre’s take on Shakespeare’s enemies to lovers play is refreshingly modern and original. Beatrice and Benedict’s disdain for each another and their vow of celibacy soon dissolves as their friends conspire to matchmake them. As their defences unravel, the two face feelings of vulnerability and openness. This play is particularly suited for an LGBTQ+ interpretation because of those feelings and the heightened uncertainty that those in LGBTQ relationships may face. It begins with a series of snippets of Beatrice and Benedict together, making the tension in their relationship an undercurrent throughout the play.
The whole cast conveyed the story and its confusing plot effectively. The playful dynamic between Naomi Bowman’s Beatrice and Lio Lylark’s Benedict was exciting to watch, as you anticipate their snide, witty replies to each other. They really brought out the meaning and humour of the dialogue with an effortless, natural delivery. They are both vibrant and eager in their battle of wits. Bowman’s performance was particularly gripping and physically expressive. Lylark’s Benedict had a charisma and likeability as they captured their torment and inner struggle at expressing their love. Hannah Dormor’s Dogberry a duty-bound officer was feisty and robust, providing comic relief with a loud, booming voice. Roo Gehring’s Borachio was sleek, aloof and charming. Primrose Matambo’s Margaret was self-assured and assertive.
Alex Farrell and Jodie Braddick’s direction was verbally and emotively very expressive but the physical characterisation, movement direction and the nuances in relationships between some characters could have been stronger.
The contrast and diversity between the styles and personalities of the different characters were surprisingly complimentary.
The set designed by Paul Lunnon was minimalistic which worked well, allowing the colourful costumes to take centre stage.
This production of Much Ado About Nothing is full of originality with two particularly fresh and spontaneous portrayals of the two main characters. Network Theatre made this piece their own with colourful characters and truthful portrayals of conflict. https://www.networktheatre.org/show/much-ado-about-nothing/
Reviewer: Riana Howarth
Reviewed: 19th May 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★