Courage Performers' production Much a Shoo Be Doo About Nothing takes William Shakespeare's much loved comedy Much Ado About Nothing and the 'merry war' between Beatrice and Benedick and the tragedy tinged romance of Claudio and Hero and resets it in 1950's Mafia ridden Italy complete with black clad Mafia Dons and musical numbers. Imagine Mambo Italiano at the masked ball, Claudio declaring his love with Quando, Quando, Quando and Benedick belting out la donna e mobile and you’re nearly there.
Shakespeare's play remains almost intact beneath the musical makeover and this edited version cuts to the core of the piece concentrating on the central stories of the lovers. It races at breakneck speed through the text, cutting out extraneous characters and adding some passages to keep the narrative on track. The problem with the editing is that a reasonable knowledge of the storyline is needed to keep on top of it all.
Particularly well realised are the deception scenes with Beatrice and Benedick. Dogberry too makes a brief appearance with a puppet ferret in tow, but the delivery isn't strong enough, some of the jokes hit their target but most go wide of the mark. There are problems with poor diction and projection and a lack of understanding of the text and some struggle with the metre which is so essential to convey meaning. An outstanding success though is the young actor playing Benedick, Tom Babbage is an absolute natural both in his delivery of the lines and in his acting.
The music is well chosen and the songs add a light touch to the proceedings. The costumes though let the staging down, they don't evoke a particularly strong sense of period which is inexcusable as it's such an easy era to get right.
The whole piece is done with great energy and affection which transmits itself to the audience and it's hard not to leave with a smile on your face: a perfectly pleasant performance, just don't go expecting anything new.