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Creation Theatre Company - Much Ado About Nothing

13th June to 16th August 2008.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Feelgood for summer

Creation Theatre: Much Ado About Nothing, at Oxford Castle, until August 16

Creation Theatre Company's first production of the summer is a revival by Charlotte Conquest of her 2004 Spanish-set show, then staged in Headington Hill Park. Now relocated to the Oxford Castle complex, and retaining Pete King's catchy flamenco-pop tunes, all that is needed is constantly good weather as a recompense for last year's deluges.

Creation is beginning to feel like a repertory company with Much Ado because the original leading actress, Lizzie Hopley, repeats her role as the plain-speaking, feisty Beatrice (Amy Stacy takes over in July and August). Conquest uses the same stage designer (Sara Perks) whose set is unfussy (a few orange trees) and the tactical deployment of a wheelbarrow. It is into this garden implement that Nicholas Osmond's impish Benedick hides when learning from his friends Don Pedro (Guy Burgess), Claudio (Tom Golding) and Leonato (Gregory Cox) of Beatrice's supposed love for him. These jokers spend their time winding up the gullible Benedick and ensure that he is thoroughly drenched by their watering can.

The production is so much more upbeat than the doom-laden Red Shift version which was located during the Yugoslav war, seen at the Arlington Arts Centre earlier this year. These characters inhabit the sunnier squares of Spain, rather than the gloomy basements of Sarajevo. It is only with Don John (Gordon Cooper) and Borachio (Kevin Murphy) who plot the besmirching of the virginal young Hero (pretty newcomer Olivia Mace) before her wedding to Claudio that introduces evil to the fiesta. Even here the stupidity of the town's security, led by the buffoon Dogberry (Cooper, again, very funny) mitigates the nastiness of the plot.

Where Red Shift's ending hinted at ongoing battles (in love and war) Conquest's interpretation calls for an unequivocally happy ending. Hero lovingly weds Claudio, ignoring her husband's lack of faith in her. Claudio acquiesces in marrying a woman sight unseen: now what does Hero really think of that? Benedick is husband to Beatrice despite knowing that she thinks nothing of assassinating Claudio for his gullibility. The joyful song and dance finale masks these worries.

A feelgood comedy for the summer.