Much Ado About Nothing at Gray’s Inn Hall, London
“This production has managed to create a hilarious Dogberry!”
Last year I praised Antic Disposition’s production of Richard III at The Temple Church in London. This year’s tour is the comedy Much Ado About Nothing - on paper an easier affair, perhaps, yet this play has always had three factors that can make or break the show: the chemistry between Beatrice and Benedick; the gulling scene; and Dogberry and his troop.
Co-directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero have set the piece in the village square of Messina, in rural France. WW2 has just finished and there is a joyous atmosphere. British troops are passing through and all seems well in the world. This however creates the potential for accents: the locals are French, after all. Much of Dogberry’s speeches are French gibberish and set the tone perfectly.
Beatrice (played by Chiraz Aïch) and Benedick (Nicholas Osmond) are a striking pair and as the action proceeds they warm into their roles. Aïch, for me, sadly preferring angry passion to diction near the climax, but they make a fine and believable couple.
The gulling scenes are inventive, using the cafe scenario for their staging, but did not fulfill their promise. They could, I am sure, have pushed the comic potential a little further. Still funny, though.
This production has managed to create a hilarious Dogberry! So many versions don’t quite know how to portray the clowns. To make Dogberry (brilliantly played by Louis Bernard) as the cafe owner who is basically there throughout, actually manages to give Dogberry a genuine and truthful setting which he so often lacks. His assistants, who are just as stupid as he, are a joy to behold. Accordion-playing Verges (Scott Brooks) has great fun being the deadpan accomplice. Bernard’s inspiration is Jacques Tati and it works a treat.
The whole company are a tightly-knit ensemble are take us through a cleverly edited version of the play. Antic Disposition are in their comfort zone here: Shakespeare in an unusual historic venue. The audience delight in their antics and the whole performance has a light touch. Praiseworthy indeed.
Photographer Scott Rylander
Producer Antic Disposition
Directors Ben Hoslen and John Risebero
Designer John Risebero
Composer Nick Barstow
Venue Gray’s Inn Hall, London WC1R 5ET
Performances Until September 1st
Times 7.30pm Tuesday to Saturday
Saturday Matinees at 3pm
Tickets £30-£45 (under 26s £10 off)
Box Office www.much-ado.co.uk and 0333 666 3366
Running Time 2hrs 10, including an interval