Creation Theatre has done it again with their summer offering, Much Ado About Nothing, set outdoors in South Oxford Adventure Playground, which the July storms have made a challenging setting.
But with the sun out, the audience was drawn down through the trees to a perfect theatrical dell, chairs arranged much like an amphitheatre where we were rewarded with a joyful, shapeshifting Shakespearian production.
This Much Ado was set in the 1980’s, which gave the team license for some upbeat, down-memory-lane music, with dressing up box costumes touching on the New Romantics, Princess Diana’s wedding dress and so much more.
Throw in some fabulous club-floor dance moves, Elvis numbers, Juliet Bravo style policing and a hugely talented creative team, and the scene was set for a magical evening.
Apropos of the dress – the plot hinges on the feisty, clever Beatrice, played by (Emily Woodward) and an equally clever and witty Benedick, (Anna Tolputt) who are perfectly matched but unwilling to admit to it. Much ‘banter’ therefore ensues, which combined with Shakespeare’s bent for scheming plots, mistaken identity and duels make for a heady mix.
The second pairing is the much more fragile romance founded on good looks and a decent fortune between Hero (Brianna Douglas) and Claudio (Herb Cuanalo), which almost founders on a suspicion that the bride might not be a virgin.
How ridiculous, you may think, but to my recollection, the last time the virginity of the bride was up for public discussion was at the marriage of Charles and Diana, so perhaps not so far fetched after all.
But back to the play – how fabulous were all the actors! Emily Woodward and Anna Tolputt were given one role each, and the rest – Brianna Douglas, Nicholas Osmond, Herb Cuanalo and Lewis Chandler – covered a further 12 parts between them, with rapid costume (and accent) changes, and great style.
The stand-out for us, though, was Lewis Chandler, by turns hilarious and authoritative (but mostly very, very funny – his impression of Elvis Prestley in his Las Vegas phase has to be seen to be believed).
Huge credit, too, to Amy Watts, for costume and set design, and of course, the director Helen Tennison, for giving us a Much Ado About Nothing, with pace, style, fun and pathos.
Much Ado is playing in the South Oxford Adventure Playground off Abingdon Road (not so difficult to find, after all) until August 19.
So give yourself, your family and friends a treat, make a picnic, grab a few blankets and maybe a mac, and have a wonderful, quintessentially-Oxford evening. A wonderfully refreshing, unique, inspired, hilarious and riveting production that can’t be missed.
Book here: https://creationtheatre.co.uk/show/much-ado/