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Tremor Cordis - Much Ado About Nothing

Central Studio, Basingstoke, 15th November 2002.

This is from the Newbury Weekly News.

Flush of success

'MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING', at Central Studio, Queen Mary's College, Basingstoke, on Friday, November 15

This young and dynamic theatre company yank Shakespeare into the 21st century by setting most of the action in a toilet.

Amid sounds of flushing sanitary ware, young men and women preen at mirrors to entice the opposite sex in this, Shakespeare's comic play of the relationship between the sexes, adapted and directed by Stephen Thompson.

It's nothing new, and it can be strange to hear the bard's poetry in a contemporary setting. But it all works beautifully, with not a line fluffed by any of the seven actors from Surrey-based touring theatre company, Tremor Cordis.

Bringing the play into a modern context emphasises Shakespeare's appeal to everyman. What his characters feel and experience is as common today as it was in his lifetime. Only the language has changed.

Originally set in Sicily, indicated by one word, Messina, projected onto a backdrop, much of the dialogue takes place on imaginary mobile telephones, another contemporary touch, with fight scenes including heads stuffed down toilets, rather than more traditional sword fights.

The audience can participate in the atmosphere of the play by sitting at tables on the theatre floor. Initially, I thought this part of the set, but realised otherwise as people entered and took up seats, an enjoyable experience, but perhaps restricting the view of those sit-ting in the lowest, outer tier.

A minimal set of four white plastic chairs allows the imagination to freely roam, becoming for example, the mirrored area in the toilet where women gossip, when the actors lean over them to apply make-up.

There were excellent performances from the entire cast, with some nice comic touches. Especially good was Matthew Flexman as Benedick, particularly in his impassioned soliloquy on love and jaundiced view of the emotion, while enthroned on the toilet.

Also good was a nightclub scene, with women skilfully and unrecognisably transformed from tarty, girlie slurpers into macho, bum-slapping, gum-chewing nightclub bouncers.

This excellent young company receives no funds and relies on ticket sales, so it was a shame that the theatre was only half-full. The production would have instant appeal to young students, who may find Shakespeare dry, dull and dauntingly old-fashioned.