SUNDERLAND Empire’s 100th birthday celebrations were in full swing, with the Chapterhouse Theatre Company delivering one of Shakespeare’s better known romantic comedies: Much Ado About Nothing.
Contributing to the week-long programme of special events, the splendidly crafted production attracted an adequate and assorted audience, who were in for a merry night of entertainment.
The production group, renowned for touring open-air theatre, were set for an evening under the stars, performing in Herrington Country Park – had the weather not threatened to rain on their parade.
All was not lost, however, as although the stunning backdrop of Penshaw Monument was lacking, the change in venue meant the performance took place in the very heart of the celebrations, the Sunderland Empire Theatre itself.
Much Ado About Nothing is a tale centred on two very different pairs of lovers; Claudio and Hero, Benedick and Beatrice – both of whom through trials and tribulations eventually find harmony.
Though Hero and Claudio’s relationship is most predominant in the play, a real highlight is the witty banter between Benedick and Beatrice, who are sworn enemies until they profess their true feelings for one another.
The play, written more than 400 years ago, was gently brought into the 20th Century in the Chapterhouse’s interpretation. Set directly after the First World War, the opening scene presents the soldiers returning victorious from war. Though the Shakespearean language remains intact, the play involves the recognisable dress and music of the early 1900s period, such as the popular war anthem It’s A Long Way To Tipperary, which adds a very nice touch.
In a play which presents a rich variety of characters, the versatile and compact cast adopt several roles, giving a performance jam-packed with life and vitality.
Simon Michael Morgan and Nicola Weeks, who play Benedick and Beatrice, in particular colour the stage with much charm and prowess.
Chapterhouse Theatre Company deliver an evening which is fun and full of laughs, adding to the Empire’s centenary festivities in spectacular style.