Shakespeare is an easy sell at the Fringe, namely his comedies, and this production of Much Ado is no exception. It is fundamentally inoffensive- the aesthetic is strong, the acting is competent and capable, and the script is cut in a way that makes it feel quick, but not threadbare. But its inoffensiveness also makes it somewhat unremarkable, and while it’s perfectly acceptable, it's missing a real spark to take it to the next level.
It’s hard to find a lot to say about this show beyond saying it is competent
The set-dressing for this production leans into the Italian origins of the show- old 60s-era posters, pastel colors, well-cut suits and lots of Aperol define most of the space that’s there. It’s a cool choice, and one that allows them to make a lot of things feel more realistic, such as the dance scene in the early portion of the show, as well as the initial moments of the Beatrice/Benedick deception. This aesthetic is supported by a litany of strong performances, led especially by the woman playing Beatrice. Her razor-sharp timing, her ability to hold space and her general demeanor as the headlining woman was extraordinary, and held up many of the slower earlier scenes.
That said, it’s hard to find a lot to say about this show beyond saying it is competent. Apart from a few notable moments, namely the relationship between Borrachio and the chambermaid, it was a fairly standard production. The cuts, while necessary, did remove a lot of the more obviously humorous moments, namely Dogberry and the Watch. These would have brought a lot of jokes through. And the reality is, I walked out of this play happy, but not remembering very much that actually happened. At a fringe festival which is full of memorable experiences – to such a degree that being unmemorable is a death sentence – this show doesn’t have what it takes to stand out from the crowd.