“a fresh and innovative spin on this classic”

‘Much Ado About Nothing’, one of Shakespeare’s most famous and well-performed works, is an age old tale of love, friendship and betrayal, usually set in the Italian town of Messina. However, last night we were instead whisked away to the wonderful world that we all live in, Durham University. Durham University Classical Theatre Company presented us with a fresh and innovative spin on this classic, which is refreshing to see from the company that has before come under fire for its more traditional approach to theatre. The production had a strong queer focus and altered the presenting genders of a number of the characters. This worked brilliantly and provided an exciting new interpretation to the  romantic relationships between characters, most notably Beatrice and Benedick, who are almost always portrayed as a heterosexual couple. The two leads were excellently portrayed by Lara Eastaugh and Olivia Spillane, whose chemistry was impressive. They worked well on stage as a duo, as well as performing excellently as individuals – in both voice and physicality Eastaugh should be immensely proud of her technical delivery of such a difficult text. 

The general strength of the entire cast did not go unnoticed but I must especially congratulate Raphael Kris and Joe Rossiter whose portrayals of Claudio and Margaret were outstanding. Rossiter lit up all of his scenes and even managed to pull off a chips costume with an air of unexpected grace. Kris injected all of his scenes with a brilliantly camp energy that I feel encapsulated the show as a whole – Kris additionally made all of his lines appear naturally and comfortably delivered and gave the impression that he was fully aware of everything that he was saying – something that can be difficult when performing Shakespeare. 

The directorial team of Lauren Brewer and Ben Johanson should be immensely proud of this fresh and innovative production, a satisfying performance which yet left audiences keen for more! However, I do feel that some scenes, particularly the more comedic policemen scenes, could have been more carefully blocked – which would have ensured that all actors could have been seen and heard properly, as opposed to feeling slightly chaotic and clumped together, which was sometimes distracting.  I also feel that this would have brought out the comic elements of the scenes better.

Another exciting element to see for the first performance in a new venue was how the lighting and sound would work. I was pleasantly surprised by the use of disco lights which did not feel forced and was actually rather amusing at times. The cast should additionally be commended for their strong use of sound – which they had to control completely themselves during the performance. 

I was never aware that I needed the eloquent “yassification” of Shakespeare in my life so much until I left Fabs happy to watch another hour.

Photo credits: DUCT