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Globe Touring - Much Ado About Nothing

21st July to 2nd August 2015

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Drama of bittersweet love

A standing ovation for The Globe on Tour in the Bodleian Quad

Globe Touring: Much Ado About Nothing, at the Bodleian Quad, Oxford from Tuesday, July 21, to Sunday, August 2

Max Webster's 2014 Globe Theatre production of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing has been revived for a UK tour. The second stop was the now traditional fortnight in Oxford's historic Bodleian Library Quad, promoted as part of Oxford Playhouse's Plays Out season. As in previous years the play is performed on an Elizabethan-style booth stage with the entire cast of eight actor-musicians forming an impromptu band for intervals between scenes.

This is a traditional, clear and accessible production. The first accentuates the comedy as the bickering couple, the proto-feminist Beatrice (Emma Pallarit) and the bullish, arrogant soldier Benedick (Christopher Harper) edge towards accepting they are lovers. Webster makes good use of the orange imagery in the play's best gag where Beatrice puns on civil/Seville, the tangy oranges. Oranges are juggled and used for audience involvement where they are thrown to and from the seats into a crate. When Benedick tries something similar to demonstrate how cool he is, his aim is awry and the audience oohs in sympathy. When Benedick's officer friends con him into believing Beatrice loves him, it is behind the crate of oranges that he hides. Love, like the Seville oranges, is bittersweet.

The second half is much darker. The vengeful Don John (Alex Mugnaioni) destroys the happy relationship between Hero (Jessica Warbeck) and her fiance Claudio (Aaron Anthony). Don John frames Hero by duping her fiancé's friends into thinking they see her in the arms of someone else. Claudio dumps Hero at the altar in a very public humiliation, a shocking rejection that he could have done in private. Hero's honour is saved when the asinine policeman, Dogberry (Mugnaioni, doubling in the production's most well-received performance) and his Watch, foil the Don's plot by accident.

However, doubts remain about the suitability of the couples. The 'dead' Hero is wed to Claudio by pretending she is a cousin, whilst Beatrice is revealed as a woman who sanctions murder as a tool for revenge.

At the end, the contented audience, consisting of many foreign tourists and youthful language students, gave the show a standing ovation.