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Much Ado About Nothing

William Shakespeare
Salisbury Playhouse
(2004)

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To many people, Shakespeare is rather like the dentist - grim in prospect but quite tolerable in reality. An impression sustained by empty seats at Salisbury Playhouse where Douglas Rintoul's production of Much Ado About Nothing has opened the autumn season with some panache.

While there's more than a hint of dentistry about Simon Deacon's intrusive, contemporary 'blues' troubador, and even Mark Bonnar's Benedick seems to have studied singing with the town clerk of Nuremberg, the whole thing eventually comes out quite well.

Yet Rintoul will not be forgiven that first, uncomfortable half-hour of much unseemly jostling for places on a half-empty platform with simultaneous uncertainty as to how the bard's lines should be delivered in a small theatre.

It's hard to complain about Tanya Moodie's almost clumsy Beatrice, or about Bonnar's initially impenetrable Scottish accent. These, when all is almost said and done, are among the features which charm us out of our natural instincts not to enjoy these venerable Shakespearian icons.

Yet since ballet, opera and canvasses have been inspired by them, to say nothing of Irving and Terry, then even if the young lord of Padua can take refuge in Northern bluster, there has to be something like quality about this formidable woman, especially as she stands next the simple Hero of Katie McGuinness.

Whatever happens in the dressing room, the production thereafter gathers pace. There is a crispness about the development of the story of the luckless Hero and the fates of Beatrice and Benedick revive in the wake.

Into this refreshed production enters the cavalry, led winsomely by Becky Hindley as a Peggy Mount of a Dogberry and ably, or not as the case may be, supported by her bungling comrade Gavin O'Donoghue. Their spectacular arraignment of the two criminals is the most memorable scene of the night.

Much thanks, here, to Adam Wiltshire whose design otherwise appears short of the final touch. Perhaps this was it!

No reason, then, for the leading man to be seen to take the first train out of town after the performance! Especially since the production continues until 25th September.

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole