Set in the historical, wood-panelled Gray’s Inn Hall, Antic Disposition’s Much Ado About Nothing is a fun and carefree portrayal of the Shakespeare’s comedy. Gray’s Inn Hall is one the original venues in which Shakespeare’s plays were performed and was home to the first production of Comedy of Errors in 1594. It is in this historic hall that the scene is set. Though the sixteenth-century hall lends itself to the Bard’s creations, Horslen and Risebero set this production in post-World War II France, in the small village of Messina. Thus, the directors strategically layer the history of the play as well as show the timelessness of the story.
The show is performed in the centre of the hall while the audience members sit along the edges, thus allowing an intimate view of the action. Additionally, this setup allows the actors to make full use of the hall. The set is modest, with red, white, and blue bunting, and the tables of a quintessential French café. Thus, throughout this play, the audience is transported to rural France. Furthermore, while looking around the beautiful venue, one can also imagine the plays which were performed during Shakespeare’s time.
The plot, like many of Shakespeare’s comedies, revolves around the love of young couples. Hero falls madly in love with the noble Count Claudio, but the couple must overcome hurdles thrown at them by the conniving Don John. Béatrice and Benedick, on the other hand, do not have a simple, romantic love. Rather, they battle wits in their combative courtship, which their companions readily encourage.
The entire cast engages with the blatant comedy within the show; however, Louis Bernard as Dogberry and Scott Brooks as his sidekick Verges steal the show with their physical humour. Dogberry and Verges, originally the minimal roles of the Constable and his deputy, respectively, are taken to new heights in this adaption as they become the café owner and his awkward waiter, as well as being members of the seemingly chaotic neighbourhood watch. Appearing in nearly every scene, Bernard and Brooks remind the audience just how enduring this story is. Though written more than four hundred years ago, Much Ado About Nothing remains a story which is relatable for its romance and entertaining due to the comedic jibes which the characters hurl at each other.
This play is amazingly layered in its venue and setting, as well as in the abilities of its actors. Each actor engages the audience in a way fit for his or her character—the gentle lovers are soft-spoken, the competitive lovers are loud, and the jesters are mirthful. Antic Disposition’s Much Ado About Nothing is playing at the Gray’s Inn Hall all to briefly, and to miss it would be to miss a rare way to experience the wonders of traditional Shakespeare and modern directing.