Much Ado About Nothing review at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire – ‘joyous and youthful’
Few Shakespeare plays are better suited to the time machine treatment than Much Ado About Nothing.
After all, soldiers returning from battle to the temptations of civilian life is a common theme down the ages, and Split Second Productions has come up with an imaginative open-air version set at the end of the Second World War and staged in the majestic surroundings of Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire.
An all-clear air raid siren sets the scene, and although the cruel and rigid social code of the original setting in Sicily may be missing, director Jaq Bessell and her largely student cast present the groupings of army officers, nobility and comic policemen with infectious enthusiasm, seasoned here and there by a touch of irony.
In most productions, only Beatrice and Benedick behave like generous, loving human beings. Here their jesting courtship is conducted by Maddie Hatt and Angus Berryman with immaculate timing and a superb sense of comedy – along with much audience participation. But there is also a good measure of romance between Ross White`s vacillating Claudio and Hannah Baxter-Eve`s chaste Hero. Only Tom Berkeley`s noble Don Pedro remains lonely at the end.
The comedy is enjoyably knockabout. Al Coppola`s Dogberry feels like he’s auditioning for Dad`s Army, and several of the cast members are adept musicians, playing a host of wartime songs, including – inevitably including considering the setting – A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.