Much Ado About Nothing, Theatr Clwyd

Much Ado About Nothing     
Performed in English
Theatr Clwyd, Mold (Wales, UK)
June 9-July 12, 2016

Theatr Clwyd's Much Ado About Nothing featured a Portmeirion village inspired set with a chess board lawn, upon which Beatrice and Benedick waged their battle of wits. The design echoed that of the RSC's Love's Labour's Lost/Love's Labour's Won (2014). Theatr Clwyd transformed their Anthony Hopkins Theatre "to make the production more intimate, exciting and absorbing". The audience sat on banks of seating on either side of the stage, with additional seating available at tables on-stage. In addition to celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, the production marked Theatr Clwyd’s 40th birthday and its 400th show.    

Directed by Tamara Harvey
Cast Included: David Bark-Jones, Siân Howard, Nakay Kpaka, Catherine Morris, Lisa Palfrey and John Ramm
Design: Janet Bird
Lighting: Johanna Town
Composition/Sound Design: Richard Hammarton
Choreography: Joe Walking   

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Selected Reviews:
Daily Post review (5 stars): "Tamara Harvey has cleverly transferred the setting to Portmeirion in Gwynedd and the mid-1960s."
"It's [sic.] innovative, fun and it works."
"a very enjoyable production"

Reviewshub review (4.5 stars): "firmly rooted in the Welsh values of Theatr Clwyd"

British Theatre Guide review: "If Tamara Harvey continues to offer such entertaining and accessible theatre as this Much Ado About Nothing, then the future of Theatre Clwyd looks bright indeed."

The Guardian review (4 stars): "Tamara Harvey has stated that she wants Theatr Clwyd to become a home for writers. But her first act as artistic director is extraordinarily divisive. The 40-year-old auditorium has been sliced into a traverse formation with members of the audience occupying garden furniture on stage. It seems we are in Clwyd, it says that we are in Clwyd, but it doesn’t look like Clwyd. So where are we?

The chequerboard lawn, bizarre topiary and Italianate follies of Janet Bird’s design evoke the surreal Welsh enclave of Portmeirion. Even the constellation of 1960s lampshades resembles the ominous bubble that used to persecute Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner.

The off-kilter atmosphere feels perfectly suited to the amorous pursuits of a jolly platoon returning from war with too much time on their hands."

The Times review (2 stars):
"Tamara Harvey rounds off her debut season as Theatr Clwyd’s artistic director with her production of Shakespeare’s comedy. Neatly, 2016, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, also marks Clwyd’s 40th birthday, and Much Ado is its 400th show.

So it would be cheering to report that it offers cause for celebration. Sadly, it’s dispiritingly fizz-free. The cast is capable and there are a few flourishes among the performances, but the heady delirium of love, the heat of jealousy and the pain of betrayal are stifled by the prevailing blandness."

"The production is mildly amusing and pretty to look at. Pleasant enough, in its way, but unlikely to pop many corks."

The Stage review (2 stars): "Tamara Harvey was credited as “master of the play"" when she directed an all-female production of Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2004. Now she’s at the helm of an entire venue, and revisiting the play for her directorial debut suggests that big changes are afoot here, especially when Janet Bird has been given a designer’s carte blanche to reconfigure the Anthony Hopkins auditorium into a traverse space for the first time in Theatre Clwyd’s 40-year history.

The staging seems high in ambition, with cabaret-style seating bringing the audience into the action and a sun-lit chess-board setting evoking Portmeirion, the pseudo-Mediterranean coastal location used in the television series The Prisoner. But having set the scene, the 1960s theme and Prisoner imagery are never developed and an overall sluggish pace means the production doesn't breathe enough fresh air into the play’s comedic energy, while the collision between the sexes, with reluctant lovers Beatrice and Benedick meeting their match after a merry war of words, has little impact."

Behind the scenes video: