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Much Ado is open air joy

PUBLISHED: 18:21 22 June 2009 | UPDATED: 14:36 24 August 2010

Simple staging: Director Timothy Sheader's use of colour and space was brilliant

Simple staging: Director Timothy Sheader's use of colour and space was brilliant

Alastair Muir

by Tim Cole In summer Shakespeare should be enjoyed in the open air. The Regent s Park Open Air Theatre is the perfect summer outdoor venue and Much Ado About Nothing is perfect summer Shakespeare. A Midsummer Night s Dream is undoubtedly

Perfect pair: Sean Campion as Benedick and Samantha Spiro as Beatrice

by Tim Cole

In summer Shakespeare should be enjoyed in the open air.

The Regent's Park Open Air Theatre is the perfect summer outdoor venue and Much Ado About Nothing is perfect summer Shakespeare.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is undoubtedly the most regularly performed work at this time of year, for obvious reasons, but the tale of Beatrice and Benedick, Hero and Claudio, is just as easy on the ear and eye.

Timothy Sheader, Much Ado's director, hasn't 'mucked about' with the mood and magic of the work - but instead, lets the words do the work here.

The stage is simple - wooden decking sweeping down from three access points through the trees at the back.

The split levels provide a strong dynamic for every entrance and exit, especially when the cast enter as a group to music, and they also give space under which to hide.

Two citrus trees, one orange (complete with a swing) and one lemon are there for the leading characters to attempt to conceal themselves behind with due comic effect, and the lemons and oranges fall at will.

The central characters in the production are both superb.

Sean Campion as Benedick is clearly played as a man who doesn't quite believe his own hype as a lifelong bachelor and it is also clear that he will be hen-pecked beyond belief after marriage.

His ability to wage a long term war of words with Beatrice is always in doubt.

Samantha Spiro is an inspiration as his sparring partner, bringing the whole stage to life as every one of Beatrice's lines is given due measure.

She is convincingly the stronger-willed, but also the one who, in reality, is more desperate for love.

Due credit as well to Anthony O'Donnell and Simon Gregor, who milk every laugh in the script out of their roles as Dogberry and Verges. They make the comedy look easy - a very hard thing to do.

The production is presented in classical vein, with costume and style of delivery of the period, and the dance and music thrown in are not, for once, a distraction to the story.

A marvellous evening out - even when viewed with an intermittent damp in the air.

* Much Ado About Nothing runs at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre until Saturday. Box office: 0844 826 4242 or www.openairtheatre.com

tim.cole@archant.co.uk


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