Theatre and book reviews by Janice Dempsey
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Adapted and directed by Tom Littler - The Law College Gardens, Guildford
One of the great pleasures of summer in Surrey is Guildford Shakespeare Company’s series of productions in the open air. This week we’re enjoying “Much Ado About Nothing”, staged in the Law College Gardens, in perfect weather. Yesterday evening the great conifers rising behind the actors were bathed in golden light until the interval. Tom Littler has set the play in 1940’s England, with jazz, dancing and tennis on the lawn, land girls digging for victory, whirlwind wartime romances and dashing airman returning home to a hero's welcome.
The Guildford Shakespeare Company has again produced a masterful, original interpretation of a Shakespeare play. Every actor’s performance is remarkable for its authenticity and clarity of interpretation and delivery.
Sarah Golbran is a feisty, no-nonsense Beatrice to Matt Pinches’ graceful facetiousness and perfect comic timing , which turns to sincerity and loyalty as the plot develops.
As Leonata (the female incarnation of Shakespeare's original Count Leonato), Fiz Marcus’ despairing anger over Hero’s supposed infidelity is full of tragic passion and Richard Pepper as Claudio also gives his renunciation of Hero a moving edge, allowing even a modern audience to sympathise, just a little, with his cruelty.
Simon Nock plays Squadron Leader Don Pedro with urbane panache. Tim Hudson flawlessly plays both Sergeant Borachio, drunken associate of Don John, and Friar Francis, the kindly priest who saves Hero. Hayley Doherty completes the ensemble as pretty, flirty maidservant Margaret.
Morgan Philpott doubles with remarkable skill as the sour-faced villain Don John and Dogberry, the “ass” whose team saves the day. We were laughing almost too much for the second half to begin, as the Watch, who bear a strong resemblance to Arthur Lowe and his Home Guard platoon, marshalled latecomers back from their interval drinks.
It's definitely worth booking this week, with the certainty of a beautiful evening and great entertainment.
A longer version of this review is also published on http://www.essentialsurrey.co.uk/, in the Theatre and Arts section.