Event Review: Much Ado About Nothing

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This year's Junior Production of Much Ado About Nothing guided audiences through Shakespeare's much-loved comedy at breakneck speed.

Edited down to fit into an hour and a half, the young cast deserve sincere credit for their breathless performances and high-energy delivery, all of which turned a dense and knotty play into a breezy continental liaison.

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Borachio and Margaret engage in a nocturnal tryst...

An imaginative and delicate production design care of Mr Waring saw the Miles Theatre reconfigured into a thrust staging arrangement which ensconced the action of the play and heightened the material's inherent sense of claustrophobic intrigue.

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Phoebe McNally breaks into a stunning song.

This feeling of overly-close summer romance was further emphasised by Mrs Webb's outstanding costume design and Mrs Carr-Gomm's scenery painting; Director Mrs Goldring framed the action in post-war Italy, transporting the play from Renaissance Messina, and all of these production elements, given their final sheen by Mr Bryan and Matthew Grant's lighting design, made for a heady combination of coupling, couplets and conspiracy.

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Grace Stannard's Antonia cradles an overcome Hero while Beatrice stares daggers...

For those less familiar with the story of Much Ado About Nothing, the tale sees a family in a state of post-war recovery, with Leonato (made Leona in this production, care of a strident Firdest Karaca) welcoming friends into a country home.

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Antonia conspires with a defiant Leona.

Complicating matters, Leona's villa is also occupied, in this production, by her fiery sister Antonia (personified by Grace Stannard) and Leona's two daughters - the impressionable Hero (played admirably by Molly Olrod) and the hard-edged Beatrice (artfully embodied by Samantha Houston).

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Imogen Lock's Constance, Hero, Beatrice, Antonia and Leona.

Guests to Leona's villa included, in this production, the sensitive, suggestible prince Don Pedro (played, with aplomb, by Gilbert Warner-Bore) and his allies in war and romance Claudio and Benedick (the charismatic Earl Cave and rambunctious Luke Noble respectively).

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Claudio, Don Pedro and Benedick.

Also invited to the party however were the skulking and bitter Don John, Don Pedro's illegitimate brother (embodied, with near-pantomime villainy, by the inimitable Jonny Keegan) and his dastardly friend Borachio.

With some of the play's less savoury plot twists neatened away, and some broad laughs elicited care of the Night Watchmen sub-plot (Thomas McGovern's Dogberry and Flynn Matthews' Verges threatened to steal the show at points), the production rattled by at pace, climaxing in a complex wigwam of romantic declarations, a trial, wedding and spectacular dance sequence that bade audiences farewell on a definite high.

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Verges, Dogberry and the watch. 

Particular praise ought to go to Samantha Houston and Luke Noble, both of whom demonstrated not only an incredible stage presence but also a capacity for nuance in performance well beyond their years; both are young actors to watch.

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The love-struck Beatrice and Benedick.

Otherwise, it goes without saying that the collective efforts of Bede's young actors, stage managers, designers, make-up artists and their many teachers and parents all did a sterling work, creating together another joyous Junior Production which will be remembered for years to come.

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