Olivia Le Anderson brings the character of Hero to life Atri Banerjee

The CAST team return for a home run at the ADC after what must surely have been a very successful tour. The entire production was polished and confident, bringing new life to one of Shakespeare’s best loved comedies.

For this up-to-date version, the governor’s estate in Messina is transformed into a European holiday destination complete with sun loungers and bemused cleaning staff. The entire first half of the play has a thoroughly enjoyable party atmosphere with countless great comedy moments, from Beatrice and Benedick’s famous scenes of bickering to new additions such as the night watch recruiting from the audience. Don John’s quest for revenge is reimagined as something of a petulant tantrum as he sulkily bursts all the balloons after the party. Meanwhile, the inept entertainer Balthasar is a boy attempting to learn 'Smoke on the Water' on the guitar. Often modern adaptations of Shakespeare can feel jarring, but this show mastered the change in setting beautifully, with great attention to detail and consistency. 

The second half takes a darker turn as the villainous Don John’s plotting takes its toll, and the whole the cast are to be congratulated for playing this shift in tone in such a believable manner, in which some more restrained, naturalistic performances were especially powerful. Comic relief is still provided by the simple minded Dogberry (Luke Sumner), as he unwittingly discovers the truth, and this was balanced well with the more dramatic performances.

The whole cast put on excellent performances, but particularly worthy of mention were Emma Powell as a sharp and cynical but ultimately likeable Beatrice and Henry Jenkinson, whose comic timing as Benedick kept the audience chuckling. Olivia Le Andersen must also be congratulated on injecting fun and mischief into the quiet and often easy to ignore character of Hero, who together with Aydan Greatrick’s naive and lovesick Claudio makes an endearing couple.

Overall, this production was great fun and the party atmosphere was kept up by a cast clearly enjoying themselves throughout (particularly during the dance sequences). I would highly recommend that both fans of the play and those new to it make the trip to the ADC this week.