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Creation Theatre Company - Much Ado About Nothing

4th June to 24th July 2004.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

A full dix points

Creation Theatre Company: Much Ado About Nothing, at Headington Hill Park, Oxford, until July 24

Eurovision Song Contest composer Pete King provides the effervescently catchy flamenco-pop soundtrack for Creation Theatre Company's opening summer Shakespeare in the Park, Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Charlotte Conquest.

Effortlessly, the music of Spain is evoked by King's engaging score and with June's fine weather, the warmth of Seville had come on holiday to Oxford. When Don Pedro and his compadres saunter towards the stage from the woods, dressed as mariachis in their cool shades and open-necked white shirts, the Iberian imagery was complete.

With a plot similar to The Taming of the Shrew, the fun in Much Ado emerges as the mutually antagonistic lovers, Benedick (Tom Peters - knowingly handsome) and Beatrice (Elizabeth Hopley - plain but intelligent) fail and then succeed to fall in love.

In a subplot that veers away from laughter to near tragedy, Benedick's youthful mate Claudio (Dudley Hinton) proposes to ingénue Hero (Lisa Devlin) only for the evil Don John (Justin Webb) to wreck his wedding plans by causing him to believe Hero to be unfaithful.

The marriage scene is sombre and appropriately filled with bitterness when Claudio rejects the shell-shocked Hero by remarking nastily with a suitably Spanish metaphor "give not this rotten orange to your friend".

It would not be a Creation show without plenty of invention. Excellent use is made of the parkland behind the stage, while a balcony built half-way up a tree trunk serves a multitude of purposes.

There is a tremendously funny turn from Webb who doubles as the linguistically-challenged Dogberry.

With a ponderous Welsh accent and manic hand gestures, somehow this prototype policeman manages to organise his team of bobble-hatted watchmen (and woman) to foil Don John's malicious plans. Amazingly, they apprehend the unfortunate villain Borachio (Adam Kay) who, tortured by Dogberry's poor grammar, spills the beans.

Only Richard Earthy seems to be in a different play, his First Watch too fussy with redundantly extravagant gestures and idiotic grunts. Conquest has pruned scenes so that the play whizzes along with the panache of a matador.

In Eurovision terms, this production gets from this jury, dix points.