By Roy Williams
Directed by Maria Aberg
Venue: Tricycle Theatre
Date: Wednesday 26th March 2008
This was something of a disappointment, although it was better than the previous adaptation. The theatre was decked out with a lot of paraphernalia. Metal stairs on the left of the stage led up to a door, which seemed to be the entrance to the club that the young folk were at, while a door below this was the public loos. There was a bench in the middle of the stage, and to the right was a sketchy burger stand. There was a recessed area on the right hand side of the stage, which later became part of a building that the soldiers are hiding in. There are lots of neon signs everywhere, and the setting is clearly contemporary.
The play is based on Much Ado About Nothing, and the plot of that play is pretty much seen off in the first half. Several of the young men have joined up, and are off to Iraq or Afghanistan the next day. The young women are just out for a good time, with no strings attached, but one of them, Hannah, falls for one of the guys. Another of the women overhears her telling her cousin about this in confidence, and she rushes off to blab to the first pair of ears she can find. It’s all resolved by the end of this part, though, so the couple are back together again, while the cousin, playing the Beatrice role, is obviously taken with another of the blokes, for all her loud mouthed ways. There’s also a couple of police constables – one man, one woman – who have to take a lot of flak from the rowdy element, but who do help to sort out the misunderstanding. So all the main characters are there, then, including Hannah’s father who runs the burger bar.
The language was pretty ripe throughout this play, as we expected, but nothing to put us off. The tougher stuff was the battle scenes in the second part. We saw some video footage on a screen (there were several dotted around), where the blokes were sending messages home, or talking about their experiences. There’s a scene where they’re in the building, having been ambushed by some hostile forces. This shows the way the attitudes have changed and relationships developed, differently than they would have back home. Then the final scene is set at a wedding, and Hannah’s chap has been sent back in disgrace having been caught doing something too extreme to tolerate, at least once it’s been made public.
There’s a lot of tension around, and the effects of the fighting and the political situation are covered to a certain extent, but overall I found this section lacked any real punch. We’ve seen this stuff on the news, and so there has to be more to engage me with these characters and their stories. I did enjoy a fair bit of the afternoon’s performance though, and the actors themselves did a good job with what they had, so I was happier at the end than I had been with the previous offering. It’s always risky taking on Will on his home turf (the theatre), as comparisons are both inevitable and “odorous”, but this might have worked better if the reworking of the Much Ado plot had supported the rest of the story more.
© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me