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Much Ado About Nothing review at Gray’s Inn Hall, London – ‘accessible and diverting’

Nicholas Osmond and Chiraz Aich in Antic Disposition's Much Ado About Nothing. Photo: Scott Rylander

Antic Disposition’s latest Shakespeare production situates the characters of Much Ado About Nothing in rural France after World War II. With a company of Anglo-French actors, uniformed British soldiers and French maidens make eyes at each other below the red, white and blue bunting draping the walls of Gray’s Inn Hall.

The best consequence of Ben Horslen and John Risebero’s choice of this setting is their multiple physical comedy references to the films of Jacques Tati, particularly in the character of Dogberry (Louis Bernard). Lucie Pankhurst’s choreography for this and the characters’ deconstructed traditional dancing combines with the live music played onstage for a very polished production.

As Beatrice, Chiraz Aich’s wry facial expressions are effortlessly funny, but Nicholas Osmond as Benedick lacks her likeable edge. A perennial public schoolboy type, he never quite matches her, seeming rather ineffectual, but Alfie Webster’s pale intensity as the conniving Don John makes a small, lightly sketched role distinctive.

Osmond is stronger when participating in the production’s physical clowning. While the dominance of these scenes in the production play up the straightforward ridiculousness of this plot, they also move the focus away from Beatrice and Benedick’s romance: there’s little time for the audience to want them to get together before it seems they already have.

Besides that, Antic Disposition has produced another smooth and diverting Shakespeare, easily accessible in a way few tend to achieve.

 

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Verdict
Musical and physical comedy works better than the central romance in Antic Disposition’s entertaining production
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