Shared smiles and laughter both on and off the stageVidya Divakaran

Much Ado About Nothing is a classic Shakespearean romantic comedy, following the journey of two couples, Claudio and Hero, and Benedick and Beatrice on the road to love. Whilst Claudio and Hero fall in love instantly and tread the smooth path towards happiness, sabotage strikes on their wedding day leading Hero to a deathly heartbreak and Claudio alone. In contrast, Benedick and Beatrice, do anything but fall in love at first sight; Beatrice gifted with her quick tongue and Benedick with his boyish nature, their relationship is tumultuous. Luckily with a helping hand and (slight manipulation), their paths become intertwined in a joyous and loved-up reunion. So whilst I was awaiting the rollercoaster of mischief, manipulation, comedy and romance that was to come, I was slightly apprehensive about understanding the difficulties of a Shakespeare play- the language, irrationally complex plot and over-dramatic monologues. My qualms were eased, when the music started and the actors united on stage, for this was the most enjoyable and accessible piece of theatre I have seen all term.

The first thing I noticed was the absolute energy on stage. From the opening dancing scene to the closing wedding ceremony, all the actors were constantly bouncing off each other, sharing a clear camaraderie and passing this electricity on to the audience. The acting throughout was superb from everyone, but standout performances were seen from Naphysa Awuah’s Beatrice, Mei Alozie’s Benedick and Joy Adeogun’s Don Pedro. Awuah perfectly captured the sassy, headstrong, independent-woman as well as girlish nature of Beatrice through her spirited and expressive performance. It was as if we could read her mind, for every emotion from her disgust at Benedick at the start, to her tongue-in-cheek nature throughout, she was a joy to watch and hilarious. The same goes for Alozie’s Benedik boisterous, boyish, arrogant and too-cool-for-school persona, which was heightened by her effortless stage presence and equally expressive and comedic performance. Adeogun’s portrayal of Don Pedro completely complimented Alozie’s performance, as a leadership figure in the play, she completely took charge of her banterous laddy possy, exhibiting a powerful authority as protector come matchmaker for Benedick and Claudio. Laughs were heard almost exclusively for this trio, a completely top tier performance.

"All the actors were constantly bouncing off each other, sharing a clear camaraderie and passing this electricity on to the audience"

Credit is due for Hannah Samuel-Ogbu’s direction, which was absolutely spot on throughout. Shakespeare is understandably hard to navigate, but every line was delivered as if it was the most important, side-stepping the sometimes monotonous and lengthy dialogues of Shakespeare to make it completely accessible to the audience- a difficult feat without the knowledge of an expert director. This show encapsulated a collective, creative cultural perspective from members of the BME community, making it inclusive and enjoyable.  Over 50 talented BME individuals, including actors, designers, directors, musicians and builders, came together to put a twist on this classic. From the hip-hop inspired music and dance, special mention to Mei Alozie’s rap, to the beautiful, colourful and bold Afro-Caribbean and Indian inspired costumes. Costume designers Tonye Igali and Alessia Mavakala completely transformed the aesthetic of this play. The brightly patterned and fabric clothes were not out of place. Instead, the pieces elevated the tried and tested Elizabethan costumes, whether it was a formal prince outfit or wedding attire, into something daring and bright, matching the energetic and lively performances on stage. The set dressing was equally lively, with flowers adorned across the stage and the colourful backdrop- a brilliant design from Abdullah Khan.

"These individuals gave a cracking performance and have even more to give"

I was positively surprised that a live band was involved in the performance and enthralled to find them present on stage. This creative decision facilitated some particularly special moments when the band interacted with the actors on stage or even played amongst them. However, I felt that we did not hear their full potential. The music was a strange mixture of pre-recorded background music and live band participation. Whilst sometimes being effective, there were notable musical clashes due to technical difficulties. Although these were noticeable, they did not majorly disrupt the performance and can definitely be polished up over the week.  It is a testament to the band that I think the pre-recordings were unnecessary- they were talented enough to have carried the soundtrack alone.


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I look forward to the BME Shakespeare showcase every year, it makes me, amongst other members of the BME community, feel slightly more at home in the theatre setting. Whilst ethnic minority representation onstage is still minute compared to other groups, this show allowed for this plethora of talent to have well-deserved stage-time, to participate in a hugely respected play in theatrical history and show off their full potential. The problem of misrepresentation is completely forgotten by the love and enjoyment that theatre brings to our community, and was evident by the shared smiles, laughs and culture both on-stage and off. And whilst I hope to see many of these performers, designers and directors in future shows, whether BME-specific or not, I understand accessibility in theatre still has a long way to go. Instead, I hope for more BME inclusive performances in the future, because these individuals gave a cracking performance and have even more to give.

BME Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing is on at the ADC Theatre at 19.45 until March 12th