On a damp and drizzly Tuesday evening I made my way to St. Paul’s Church, also fondly known as The Actors’ Church, to watch a promenade performance of Iris Theatre’s Much Ado About Nothing. Directed by Amy Draper, this performance made full use of its beautiful location, and coupled with the wonderful talents and chemistry of the cast, most certainly delivered the comedy it is famed for, and I felt as though I could have been in the height of summer.
Cleverly using the blooming gardens of the church, the production expertly moves the audience around the garden to watch the different scenes, promenade style. Each setting (designed by Amber Scarlett) is equally as stunning as the next, being kept simple enough but highlighting the beauty of the surrounding gardens. I can imagine each scene would be even more magical when accompanied by some sunny weather. The final scene lead us into the church itself, which created a grand finale for a successful show. Though fun at first, the act of moving between each scene became tiresome, possibly because of the weather, and did seem to slow the pace of the show.
Despite this minor criticism, the seven small-but-strong members of the cast were infallible both individually and as an ensemble, with many of them doubling up in roles and interacting directly with the audience. Jennifer Clement certainly deserves some sort of award with the amount and diversity of the roles she took on. From scheming, bitter Don John to singing Margaret and kind Abbess, she made each role her own and transformed herself every time she entered the performance space. Emma McDonald and Anne-Marie Piazza also played two delightful duos. In their smaller roles they reacted to anything that was thrown at them as “asses” Dogberry and Verges, playfully making their way through the audience. They then completely transformed to play their larger roles of Hero and Beatrice, and you could see the friendship and loyalty between the two ladies. McDonald plays Hero with such sweetness and sincerity, whilst Piazza is an absolute delight as Beatrice, opting to play her with energy and charm rather than sarcastic and straight-faced. Her wit is infectious, and she is a wonder to watch sparring with Benedick (Nick Howard-Brown) who is equally as quick-witted and funny.
Don’t write off this show if you’re not a fan of Shakespeare, as it is most definitely accessible for anyone of any age. The entire cast is incredibly talented, not only in their acting and interaction but also singing and playing a variety of instruments from the guitar to accordion, and they really make the show their own. The costumes (designed by Kinnetia Isidore) are colourful, setting stunning, and the entire show is infectiously happy.
Much Ado About Nothing is playing at St. Paul’s Church in Covent Garden until 22nd July. I urge you to pick a day which is looking to have good weather and GO SEE IT!