Much Ado About Nothing: Review
Updated: Oct 26, 2022
Ramps on the Moon, the theatre company who presented at Nottingham Playhouse this week, aim to normalise the presence of deaf, disabled and neurodiverse actors on the stage. Their production of Shakespeare's rom-com is an accessible version, meaning that there are subtitles, audio descriptions and sign language throughout.
This approach to theatre is fascinating, and unlike anything I have seen before. The play began with the actors describing the stage, and then introducing each character, including what clothes they were wearing, and how they would be interacting with other characters - for example, Hero was portrayed by actress Claire Wetherall, who used sign language to communicate, and voiced by Margaret actress Laura Goulden.
The play itself is one of Shakespeare's comedies, focusing on the relationships between Hero and Claudio (Taku Mutero) and Beatrice (Daneka Etchells) and Benedick (Guy Rhys). Beatrice and Benedick were two of my favourite characters, with cheeky asides to the audience and plenty of quick tongue-in-cheek insults thrown at each other.
Other characters of note include Hero's formidable mother and father (portrayed by Karina Jones and Gerard McDermott), the dangerous Donna Joanna (Fatima Niemogha in the gender-swapped role) and Kit Kenneth as Balthasar, who helped to rouse the characters' spirits with a song on the morning of Hero and Claudio's wedding.
This production has been plagued by cast illness, causing some performances to be cancelled. Thankfully, the show was able to go ahead on Thursday night, with Emily Howlett, Os Leanse and Alexandra Whiteley in the roles of Seacole, Oatcake and Dogberry repectively (yes, they were script-in-hand, but they fitted the roles perfectly - some excellent stand-in performances). Whiteley's Dogberry was a particular highlight, and she had excellent chemistry with her right-hand-man, the fab-u-lous Lee Farrell as Verges.
The play, for me, felt a little long, almost 3 hours in total, and I don't think the relatively simple plot can really warrant such a lengthy production (which is not a comment on this production in particular, more a comment on Shakespeare's writing!). The staging also felt a little odd - the play had obviously been designed for a different kind of stage, and hadn't been translated very well to the Playhouse stage, with certain moments featuring characters turning their backs on the audience and masking other crucial parts of the play.
Overall, this was a fantastic night of entertainment, and I shall definitely be looking for future productions by Ramps on the Moon. An extremely engaging method of story-telling.
For more information on Ramps on the Moon, visit their website here: https://www.rampsonthemoon.co.uk/
Tom Morley, October 2022