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Much Ado about Nothing

Belgrade Theatre

*****

ODDSOCKS Theatre has tackled Much Ado seven times in its 27 years of touring and, I must say, this is my kind of Shakespeare; nothing but the pips.

It is potted (and potty), hugely energetic, ‘lite’ and, if it starts getting pretentious, someone ’has a word’. There is, to be fair, quite a bit of friction on stage.

The central couple, Beatrice and Benedick (Rebecca Little and Joseph Maudsley) sharpen their wits at each other’s expense and, though neither relishes the thought of marriage, that’s where they end up - with a little help from their friends.

Soldiers and their retinue, Benedick, Count Claudio (Ben Locke) Don Pedro and creepy brother Don John (both Gavin Harrison) are newly returned (by chopper!) from the war and stay in Messina in the house of Leonato (Andy Barrow) whose daughter Hero (Anna Westlake) catches the eye of Claudio. Beatrice, Hero’s cousin, knows Benedick of old: ‘Loves women but not relationships’. This company of hard-working, versatile six actors also take the smaller parts and Rebecca Little as Dogberry the sadistic Neighbourhood Watch chair is a scream.

Things go sour as baddie Don John gets bored. On the night before the wedding, he tells Claudio that Hero has a secret lover and he is to eavesdrop under her balcony where her maid Margaret has been persuaded to impersonate Hero.

Claudio decides to shame Hero at the wedding and Hero appears to have died of shock. The accusation is finally seen as the work of Don John and things proceed unhindered; though Leonato tells Claudio that his penance is to marry his brother’s daughter unseen. Happily, it is Hero unharmed and back to life.

Did I mention music? There is some beautifully corny, well-known music to speed the action – with those hard-working actors as instrumentalists/singers too. ‘War, what is it good for?’ starts and ‘Love is all around us’ finishes off.

I don’t remember laughing quite so much at Shakespeare before; frankly, I was crying with laughter. There’s a colossal amount of slapstick and, after 400 years of rolling in his grave, I hope Shakespeare had a quiet night – he would approve.

Jane Howard

21-06-16

ODDSOCKS

Directed by Andy Barrow, Much Ado runs to 22-06-16 at the Belgrade and then on national tour, along with Oddsocks version of Macbeth, through the summer, with further Midland dates at: Oakengates Theatre, Telford -Macbeth, 29 June, 7.30pm, Book Online Tel: 01952 382382; Avoncroft Museum, Bromsgrove - Much Ado, 10 July, 6.30pm, Book Online Tel: 01332 258328; mac, Birmingham - Much Ado & Macbeth, 16 & 17 July, 7.30pm, Book Online Tel: 01214 463232; Nottingham Castle - Macbeth & Much Ado, 22 & 23 July, 7pm, Book Online ; Markeaton Park Craft Village, Derby - Much Ado, 26 - 28 July, 7.30pm, Book Online Tel: 01332 255800; Mary Arden’s Farm nr. Stratford-upon-Avon  - Much Ado & Macbeth, 29 & 30 July, 7.30pm, Book Online Tel: 01332 258328; Victoria Gardens, Tewkesbury - Macbeth, 30 August, 7.30pm, Book Online Tel: 01684 295074. 

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