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For my play review I watched the Royal Shakespeare Company's performance of "Much Ado About Nothing, " directed by Jeremy Herrin. I confess this was my first exposure to this specific play - having neither read it nor seen it before. But I was not disappointed...the performance was exquisite.
It was interesting to watch a performance that toyed with two forms: live performance and film. By bridging these two forms, the performance was able to enhance to the unique benefits of each. The lack of props and setting transfixed the viewers focus on the dialogue and the expression of the actors – this was helped by the use of the camera which primarily shot the scene from the waist up. The camera provided a rich perspective to the play because it controlled the viewers focus. The camera would follow the speaker as he or she walked around the stage – making the stage appear larger. Furthermore, the camera would zoom in on actors faces when they were giving a soliloquy and would zoom out on the whole stage when there was a shared group reaction or response to a situation. The use of the camera allowed the at-home viewers to see facial expressions up close whereas physical attendees did not have that opportunity. In essence, the camera allowed the viewer to enjoy the play in a fashion that highlighted the key elements of the plot and dialogue—whereas physical attendees would be limited by their location. The at home viewer was able to watch from the stage and the crowd – enjoying a plethora of perspectives and angles. However, this did limit the audience’s exposure to staging.
Apart from the interesting contrast of form, the acting itself was exemplary. This unadorned simplistic performance bereft of unnecessary props and backdrops focused solely on the richness of the play’s (at times) nonsensical dialogue. Nevertheless, the intricate costume designs helped cultivate the complexity of each character and complimented the strength of the actor’s performance. The sole focus of the play was on character and not their various interactions rather than on external aesthetics or grandiose design. Occasionally the actors would acknowledge the audience and give them a knowing and exasperated look – cultivating a sense of solidarity and participation among the viewers. The multicultural cast subverted traditional expectations of Shakespearean drama – while nevertheless reaffirming its timeless applicability. The play was carried by the performance of Charles Edwards (Benedick) and Eve Best (Beatrice) who’s witty banter and melodrama was exaggerated by the use of the camera which zoomed in on scenes of tension and conflict and out on scenes of lightness and comic relief.
P.s. For all the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fans out there, the butler plays the king!