Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing, written in the middle of his career, is of one of the bards better known comedies and therefore is a brave undertaking by any amateur dramatic company but I think it’s safe to say that the Cheadle Players certainly did it proud.
The play is essentially about some soldiers who have returned from war and about how they reacquaint with people, in particular two women, Beatrice and Hero. The play involves deception, love and courtship and many secrets.
The play had so many wonderful actors that deserve a mention but I must say that the casting of Beatrice (Sarah Howsam) and Benedick (Chris Billington) in particular, was perfect. They both demonstrated their somewhat antagonistic, combative romance to the full, through their ‘merry war of words’. The audience warmed to Benedick and he must be commended for fluidity of role than never lacked substance from start to finish. One of his solo scenes that addressed the audience felt as if you were in on his secrets and nobody else was. This certainly represents the era well and demonstrates Shakespeare’s keenness for a relationship with an audience. Sarah Howsam’s part as Beatrice was simply perfect. She depicted Beatrice’s honesty and the fact she felt she had no wish to fall in love, with equal amounts of sincerity and humour. So many accolades could be directed at her but put simply, her acting was flawless throughout.
A special mention must go to Lottie Shepherd who played Margaret. Whether she was leading in a scene or not her presence could be felt. A wonderful actress with suitable charisma and comedic timing for the somewhat saucy role of Margaret. Another wonderful actor was Robert McGregor who played Claudio- he demonstrated a high quality of emotional content throughout his part and in particular his desperation could be felt on the day of his wedding to Hero when he demonstrated his anger, as he believed he had publicly been shamed.
Dogberry, the Constable of the Watch was hilarious. His role of the simple night watchman showed how he clearly wanted his leadership over the other watchmen to be noted. His larger than life character interacted particularly well with his partner Verges (Jim Whittaker).
It was pleasing to see the junior members of the Cheadle Players perform in the production also- again, their professionalism never faulted.
The stage management and set construction teams should be commended on a set that was simple yet very appropriate for the era. The background scenery of Messina was accurate and the stage set very appropriate. The changing of scenery was carried out without any interference of the play. For an amateur dramatic company the professionalism was outstanding. Music by Vivaldi, Corelli and Albinoni added to the richness of the entire production. I particularly liked the actors entering the stage from the back of the audience, the side door and also via the stage. For such a small theatre this added to the intimacy of this wonderful theatre.
It was my first visit to The Cheadle Players Theatre and I was extremely impressed. All in all, I would say that Much Ado about Nothing at The Cheadle Players was a wonderful representation of this infamous comedy and I would urge anyone in the vicinity of Cheadle and beyond to get a ticket.
Reviewer: Angela Kelly
Reviewed: 30th September 2017