Much Ado Abouot Nothing

first_imgContinuing the theatrical trend for all things al fresco this term, Creation Theatre Company have returned to Headington Hill Park with the chaotic comedy Much Ado About Nothing. Director Charlotte Conquest has played up Shakespeare’s Mediterranean setting with sizzling flamenco dances and vibrant costumes, making it the perfect play for a balmy summer evening. The most striking aspect of this production is its use of space. The stage is a simple red square but the action is projected on different levels by means of a treehouse nestled in a magnificent oak. The expanse of parkland behind the stage proper is used to full effect to create extra comic gems, supposedly taking place off-stage. This heightens the dramatic irony which lies at the core of Shakespeare’s comedy, as we see characters approaching long before those on stage do. The scenes in which Benedick and Beatrice ‘accidentally’ overhear gossip about their tempestuous relationship make particularly good use of the versatile stage set. The pace is relentless with characters entering from unexpected directions, (and occasionally on bicycles) having performed lightning-fast costume changes. The cast have a rollicking good time evoking a real sense of girlish mischief and laddish japing. The mood becomes briefly more sombre at Hero’s ‘funeral’ with an atmospheric torch-lit procession, but the production really excels at the slapstick consequences of mistaken identity. The watch scenes are, as always, a little tedious and silly but they are redeemed by Tom Peters’ wonderful turn as the arthritic Verges with his cumbersome walking frame. Peters makes use of the same physical gags in his main role as Benedick; rubber-faced and dynamic, he plays up to the audience as a swaggering confirmed bachelor. His only match in the strutting stakes is the razortongued Beatrice, played by Elizabeth Hopley. She sensitively tracks the change in Benedick’s sparring partner from cross-dressing livewire into a more emotional, softer character. Dudley Hinton’s lovelorn Claudio is the archetypal callow youth with puppy dog eyes and a boy bandesque white suit. Julien Ball is also consummately smooth as Don Pedro, from his Godfather-inspired entrance complete with mirror shades, trimmed goatee and medallion, to his swift wooing of Hero for his lovestruck friend Claudio. Conquest’s production is full of light comic touches seasoned with splashes of Sicilian colour. As long as the British weather holds out, there is no better way to round off the Oxford term.ARCHIVE: 6th week TT 2004last_img read more