2nd Year English Literature student, Reece Doughty, gives a review of RUDS’ performance of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing…
RUDS’ production of Shakespeare’s timeless comedy relocated to floral Hawaii. The stage is decorated with faux-Greek pillars, dressed in garlands to match the cast, equipped with lights and floral shirts.
Their production does not shy away from the gender hierarchy present in Shakespeare’s script. Whilst the women laugh and talk, we are introduced to Pedro’s male troupe through their unannounced, riotous charge through the curtains. The characters’ joviality at their return to Messina is expressed not quietly, but through intoxication and partying.
Masculinity is emphasised, with Tom Sparrow’s Benedick, not portrayed as the traditional dandy wit of the play, but instead as a man who can be loutish, and even a braggart. Beatrice, played by Alice Underwood, is presented therefore as a character who defies the gender dichotomy, matching and thwarting Benedick in his masculine posturing. In ridiculing Benedick, he is emasculated, transforming a political issue into a comic facet.
A highlight of the play was the clowning of Dogberry’s constables, a belligerent threesome of incompetent guards who prove the unlikely key to resolution in the play. The motley crew capably acted their roles by portraying the guards’ humorous mix of misplaced confidence and yet restraining self-doubt. Becca King’s comical habit of gliding off stage on Heelys as Verges also went down a treat with the audience.
Despite the well-balanced humour, the patriarchal realities of Shakespeare’s play remain present. Hero’s complex role in the plot is portrayed beautifully by Hollie Diplock, playing a character who is passed between men; she is courted by Don Pedro, who then hands the reins of her affection to Claudio, and is handed off at her wedding by her father. Each action is emphasised by the fraternal intimacy between the male characters in the production, who appear to see cooperation as a natural favour owed by merit of their shared gender. Once Hero is rejected by these male figures, she is ‘dead’, and temporarily absent from the play in her mock-death.
The emotional climax of the play comes after the interval, with Hero’s rejection at the altar by Claudio. The play is ultimately presented as one of transformation. Hollie Diplock excels in this seamless transition as Hero, her voice descending from soft into a torturous, shrieking sorrow. The once placid figures of Claudio and Leonato devolve into a rage. Claudio’s honour is turned against him by Don Juan, cast female as Alice Robb, who appears to take great cruel enjoyment in subverting male pleasure.
VERDICT: A confident, humorous, talented performance by RUDS.
Check out their next performances or get involved at ruds.co.uk.