Sunday, 26 August 2018

REVIEW: Much Ado about Nothing at Gray’s Inn Hall

Gray’s Inn is a beautiful quiet location just a few minutes from Chancery Lane station and as the sun sets over the square and you enter Gray’s Inn Hall, you will find yourself transported to Southern France where a bar is waiting for you with drinks and snacks, and you will be invited to take your seat around the traverse stage for Antic Disposition’s latest production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing. 

Directors Ben Horslen and John Riseboro set the stage in 1945 as troops are returning home and stopping by the little town of Messina, where the soldier Claudio falls in love with the local Governor’s daughter Hero and Beatrice and Benedick, after having sworn off love, seem more and more drawn to each other as the days progress. Indeed, their friends will engineer situations and fake conversations to bring the two closer together and make them fall in love. The play is one of Shakespeare’s witty, light and very summery plays and the result is a warm and enjoyable production.

The set design by John Riseboro and the lighting by Lizzy Gunby are lovely, submerging the space with warmth, romantic colours and a dreamy sense. 

The cast is very strong and are great to watch together when playing music and singing. There are quite a few musicians and singers in the cast, which gives the production an extra Je Ne Sais Quoi. There are also a few comedic talents, such as Louis Bernard who brings delightful physical comedy to his Dogberry trying to manage his busy café, and switches to a calm wise presence as Friar Francis. Nicholas Osmond as Benedick is a charming and sometimes childish presence that does not hesitate to pump his chest to try to convince us of how macho he is. I loved the part where he overhears his peers talking of how much Beatrice loves him. His reactions as he tries to hide, hitting himself with a tray and screaming “This can’t be a trick!” are very entertaining. 

Chiraz Aïch is excellent as well as the bilingual Beatrice. She marries the two languages perfectly, and this adds to showing off her character’s strong personality. Alexander Varey as Claudio also stood out to me in his emotion with Hero despite wanting to remain disciplined in his uniform.

After its run in France, we can sense how the actors have embraced the play’s
setting, and really take us on a holiday.

One of the issues for me however is that the Hall’s acoustics don’t necessarily lend themselves to theatre of this kind. When some of the actors had their backs to me, sometimes speaking with French accents, I found it hard to understand certain words. Of course, you can afford to lose a few words here and there, but with Shakespeare it can be quite frustrating when that happens.

On a warm summer night, this show is a breath of fresh air and an escape to another time and place. For someone who loves to travel to Provence for some peace, this show did the trick.

Review by Sophie Tergeist

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: free seating (you can also reserve a private table) | Price of Ticket: £30 
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