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Much Ado About Nothing, Watford Palace Theatre

Brigid Larmour's all-female production of Much Ado About Nothing has a keep calm and carry on wartime spirit.

Heading inside the Palace Theatre, Watford, on its press night for Much Ado About Nothing was a step back in time. But not to 16th century Italy where the play was originally imagined, instead to 1940s wartime Britain. And so the war-torn scene was set inside the theatre for Director Brigid Larmour’s rendition of the much-loved Shakespeare comedy.  

Photo: Richard Lakos – TheOtherRichard

The ‘keep calm and carry on’ theme was evident before the play began, with the theatre bearing the sense of an air raid shelter, strewn with sandbags and air raid notices. The actors were already in full swing, circling the bar that was selling rhubarb gin and Victory sweets, talking to guests in their respective character voices about the ‘bomb shelter’ surroundings. Notably, in an amusing and obviously defiant prod to Shakespeare’s all-male theatre companies, Brigid Larmour’s cast are all women, some playing ladies and some men in the story that is, as we know, a lot about nothing.

Photo: Richard Lakos – TheOtherRichard

Her decision to cast all women was a tribute to the first professional all-female theatre company The Osiris Players, who travelled up and down the country to perform in the Second World War to keep spirits high. It was these women that inspired her wartime Britain theme.

From the off we were captivated by Joanna Brookes’ Dogberry, who leads his bumbling policeman in a slapstick, laugh aloud manner on stage, even calling upon a member of the audience to join them in a most amusing scene that jump-starts the second act.

Photo: Richard Lakos – TheOtherRichard

But it was difficult to ignore the indignant and quarrelsome Benedick and Beatrice, with not just their lines from Shakespeare’s quill enrapturing the audience, but their clever acting on stage clearly hinting that their relationship might be a little more about love than hate. Anna O’Grady’s Benedick and Emily Tucker’s Beatrice played out their ‘merry war’ of wits with hilarity, not leaving us disappointed, particularly later when they realise they’ve been tricked into admitting their feelings.

Photo: Richard Lakos – TheOtherRichard

The decision to cast all women in the play only added to its playful spirit, but also celebrated our women from 1940s Britain who held the fort back home. And Brigid Larmour confesses in an interview with Broadway World, she wanted to give women, whatever their age, the opportunity to play the range of characters in Much Ado About Nothing. But regardless of sex, these actors were cast in their parts for their talent and that is plain to see in this charming, laugh-a-minute, yet sad in all the right places, production.
Words: Lauren Bell
Much Ado About Nothing, until Sat 27 Oct. Watford Palace Theatre, 20 Clarendon Road, WD17 1JZ. Box Office: 01923 225671

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1 comment on “Much Ado About Nothing, Watford Palace Theatre”

  • Wendy October 15, 2018

    Amazing!

    Reply

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