Much Ado About Nothing

Date 18th June 2022
Society Todmorden Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society TAODS
Venue Todmorden Hippodrme Theatre
Type of Production Play
Director Elizabeth Holland
Producer The Company
Written By William Shakespeare

Report

Author: Paul R. Mason

Amateur companies approach any Shakespeare with both excitement and trepidation. There are many ponderables. Can they muster the large casts, can they costume it correctly, do they have the right level of acting expertise: and many other questions? Todmorden Hippodrome Operatic And Dramatic Society is outstanding in accepting challenges and stepping up to the crease. By setting “Much Ado About Nothing” in the user-friendly environment of an English cricket ground, enhanced by the merry antics of a morris side, we were encouraged to be lulled into quiet excitement concerning the rivalry between two sets of lovers/teams.

The acts were introduced through the device of a R4 John Arlott(ish) style commentary.  These were skillfully scripted and delivered. Did they add meaning and colour to the whole? In my view, perhaps not. I confess to being surprised at first thinking them to be a clever way of reminding us to switch off our phones or rustle our sweet wrappers.  In “Much Ado”  Shakespeare uses prose more liberally than poetry. This already draws us nearer to the antics displayed by ordinary people, or groundlings, just like us, watching in the Globe or the Hippodrome. Yes the brilliant set, complete with its scoreboard (updated to follow the progress of the scenes) successfully conjured up dreams of lazy Sunday afternoons watching our local team hammering the opposition bowlers beyond the boundary. But such is the verbal sparring in this play that perhaps tennis is a more suitable fit.

Director Elizabeth Holland promised parts to everyone expressing an interest in being challenged to come to terms with acting Shakespeare. The result was, unsurprisingly, a mixture of abilities. Every player was performing confidently of that there was no doubt. However the cut and thrust of the text was not as sparkling as it might have been in the hands of more experienced actors. Lucas Smith as Leonato showed us how to do it. Lucas, using the book, is a professional who had stepped in to cover for illness. His diction, movement and delivery and innate understanding of the script was outstanding. Coming into bat in the middle order Janet Spooner as Dogberry delivered a master-class in comic acting. She was nothing short of brilliant. Using all the tools of her craft, costume, voice, movement and intuitive reactions she produced a performance of show stopping magnificence.

It is true there were many interesting bits of business in this production yet the overall impression was that this was a concept that was still trying to find its way

PRM.