‘Much Ado About Nothing’ at Manor Heath Park

Masked Games Beatrice and Benedict in Heartbreak Productions' take on Much Ado About Nothing
Masked Games Beatrice and Benedict in Heartbreak Productions' take on Much Ado About Nothing

SHAKESPEARE knew a lot about bad weather. In ‘King Lear’, ‘The Tempest’ and many of the history plays, his characters face ordeal by storm, flood and hurricane.

On the other hand, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, one of his best-loved comedies, belongs to a balmy sunlit evening.

I don’t know what sort of summer open-air theatre specialists Heartbreak Productions have endured touring round the country in the wettest June and July on record but one can imagine that the smell of damp grass and midge repellent has become quite familiar.

Fortunately the rain stayed away for this production in Manor Heath Park - part of the impressive Halifax Festival programme - but there were plenty of umbrellas and waterproofs in evidence among the audience, just in case as people munched their picnics.

The company employed a framing device for Shakespeare’s classic comedy, imagining the play being staged in a village barn at the end of the second world war.

This was a neat way of giving the five actors time for a quick costume change but it rather complicated the action and broke up the dramatic tension.

The community singing and audience participation probably worked well on a warm summer evening but was less successful in the gathering gloom.

Quibbles aside the cast of five worked hard to balance the witty sparring between confirmed bachelor Benedict and fiesty Beatrice (Oliver Hume and Susan Casanove, both excellent) with the play’s darker elements of arrogance, revenge and a heartless disregard for others.

The wartime singlong urged us to ‘Smile, smile, smile’ - and we mostly did.

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