Much Ado About Nothing, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Bishops Palace, Wells

TLCM Much Ado Raglan Castle - Photographer Jack Offord - Low Res-3242“THAT is how it should be done” was just one of the comments I overheard at the end of the most delightful, authentic, entertaining, musical, and funny evening in the garden of the Bishop’s Palace at Wells, in the company of The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Named after one of the main acting companies of Shakespeare’s time, a company which visited large houses around the country as well as performing in the first purpose-built theatres and at court, TLCM aims to present the work of the bard in Elizabethan costume, in the open air, with an all-male cast, exactly as it was intended to be seen, and they have certainly done it yet again with this year’s production.

Apart from the modern picnics, drinks, folding chairs, and the single helicopter and small plane which punctuated the otherwise clear sky, the evening was timeless, from the magical opening musical number, with just a note from a recorder to start things off, and the whole company joining in to welcome us, to the closing song and dance, similarly unaccompanied, but with rich harmonies and synchronised steps, we could have been sat in exactly the same place over four hundred years ago, enjoying the same music, comedy, wit, pathos and drama, as Beatrice and Benedick are drawn together, the bungling Dogberry gets his man, and all ends reasonably happily. I did wonder this evening why Malapropisms are not called Dogberryisms, as I think his wrong use of words is far funnier than Mrs Malaprop in The Rivals?
TLCM Much Ado Raglan Castle - Photographer Jack Offord - Low Res-3868All seven of the cast played at least two roles, and all brought something special to each of their roles, down to the choice of garden tools for Dogberry’s associates. It’s easy to notice Dogberry, and I’ve already typed his name four times, but James Lavender not only captured every nuance of the man, but also brought a gentle sensitivity to the Friar, and a sense of justice to the wronged Don John. Oliver Buckner and Jordan Bernarde played the two main protagonists, Beatrice and Benedick with subtle comic timing as well as great physical humour and the expected strength of character. They were both also part of the Watch party, with its beautiful a capella singing, as were Matthew McFetridge, bringing good authority to Leonato and a humourous sobriety to Margaret, and Nathan Coenen, who was also Claudio.  The final two cast members played one of the Watch and three other roles: Jon Tozzi, not only a sensitive and emotional Hero but also a good baddie in the form of Borachio and a messenger, and Joshua Meredith, war hero Don Pedro, Don John’s assistant Conrade, and the ever-reliable Sexton.
TLCM Much Ado Raglan Castle - Photographer Jack Offord - Low Res-3929This was not just Shakespeare as intended, it was good all-round entertainment, singing, dancing, comedy – honed and timed to perfection, on a beautifully crafted composite set with authentic, detailed costumes. If you can catch these Men on tour anywhere, go and see them, and take someone along who doesn’t usually like the idea of Shakespeare – they will be thoroughly entertained, and pleasantly surprised.


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