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New Vic teams up with Northern Broadsides on Much Ado

Published: 9 February 2019
Reporter: Steve Orme

Northern Broadsides has joined forces with Newcastle-under-Lyme’s New Vic Theatre to stage William Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing.

The production is directed by Northern Broadsides artistic director Conrad Nelson who said, “twenty-seven years ago, I was offered a job with Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company. At the end of run, I was thrilled to be asked to play Hugh Oatcake in his joyous film version of Much Ado. You won’t find the part high on the list of dramatis personae—in fact you may not find it all. But I was there on location for eight weeks in the glorious Tuscan sunshine. It was the place to fall in love and a perfect setting for Shakespeare’s romantic comedy.

“In 2000, I played Benedick opposite my future wife, Deborah McAndrew, for Northern Broadsides—the last time the company performed the play. The hills of Tuscany gave way to the mill rooms and settings of the industrial north, but I still fell in love again.

“The play’s the thing. I know a little bit more about love now and a little bit more about drama and it’s a privilege to bring this feelgood masterpiece to life again. Thank you Mr Branagh for that wonderful summer.”

The cast comprises Robin Simpson (Benedick), Isobel Middleton (Beatrice), Rachel Hammond (Ursula), Sophia Hatfield (Margaret), Anthony Hunt (Borachio), Linford Johnson (Claudio), Sarah Kameela Impey (Hero), James McClean (messenger), David Nellist (Dogberry), Heather Phoenix (Conrade), Matt Rixon (Don Pedro), Richard J Fletcher (Don John), Simeon Truby (Leonato), Robert Wade (Balthazar) and Andrew Whitehead (Antonio / Friar).

Designer is Lis Evans. Lighting is by Daniella Beattie and musical direction by Rebekah Hughes.

Much Ado About Nothing has opened at the New Vic and runs until Saturday 2 March. It then tours to The Dukes Lancaster, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Salisbury Playhouse, Derby Theatre, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, Viaduct Theatre, Halifax, The Lowry Salford, York Theatre Royal and Harrogate Theatre until Saturday 25 May.

You can hear Robin Simpson (Benedick) talking about this production and about stepping into his role at the last minute in the BTG podcast.