William Shakespeare's romantic comedy features Don Pedro and his officers as they return from war. Leonato, a governor of Messina learns they will be visiting for some time and welcomes this. The Duke’s party arrives with Claudio, who is attracted to Leonato’s only daughter, Hero.
Another visitor is Benedick, a bachelor, who enjoys engaging in witty argument with Hero’s cousin and companion, Beatrice. Leonato hosts a masked ball to celebrate the engagement of Claudio to Hero meanwhile the Duke’s brother, Don John, resenting the celebrations, seeks a way to ruin the happiness. The group enter into many plot twists and plans over the visit with everyone ending up where they want to be in the end.
Saint Monica's Players (SMP) is a North London-based Amateur dramatics group established in 1958. Much Ado About Nothing is taking place in Bury Lodge Park as a promenade performance, the actors and scenes move through the park to various locations and the audience follow. It is directed by David Bowman and produced by Warren McWilliams.
From the moment you arrive you are fully submerged into the atmosphere, you are not a spectator you are a guest and are treated as one. It is a garden party type of set up, the cast are amongst the audience and the action begins instantly a couple of feet away.
As the story grows we move through the park with no barrier between the actors and audience, it genuinely feels like we are all a part of the events. There is a masked ball where we receive a mask to wear, there is a wedding where we are handed an order of service to join in with the ceremony, at points I forget it's not a real event but a play.
The acting and performing is of a very high standard overall, the added outside elements cannot be a walk in the park, for them, but even with birds, bugs, grass, ponds and everyday outside noise nobody appears faltered by it. I can hear every single spoken word clearly.
Ellie Ashby (Beatrice) is a delight to watch, she is a natural at the Shakespearian language and makes it feel modern and fresh, her presence in every scene she is in is confident and stunning to witness.
Throughout the performance we are given the gift of some beautifully sung musical numbers by The Shakespeare Sisters, Debbie Wall, Jo Bakhurst, Kate Sanders (also musical director) and Lynzey Cooper, they provide nearly all of the vocals for the entire show. They follow the action all around the park without any disruption to the scenes, it's a very clever way to bring music into it.
The scenery is mainly the park which has the most beautiful settings, settings you simply couldn't reproduce in a theatre. Absolutely perfect for this play. It is well lit by Phil Stannard, as the night grows dusky lots of fairy lights shine through.
The entire production is just breathtaking, i feel like I'm in a unique interactive experience rather than a play and I can imagine how much work David Bowman (director) and Warren McWilliams (producer) plus the production team and cast, have put into this to have such a well organised, slick production. An experience I won't forget.