Since 2002 Oxford Shakespeare Company has been the sparkling jewel amongst the plethora of outdoor Shakespeare productions that descend on
Much Ado About Nothing has in its central couple a modernity that has solidified its standing as one of the Bard's top tier of comedies, and in Beatrice, a figure of immense wit and determination who loses none of this by embracing marriage. Oxford Shakespeare Company successfully accentuate this thanks to the really rather terrific Ivy Corbin, one of the best Beatrices I have seen, and a fabulous turn from Christopher Jordan as Benedick, who exudes confidence throughout. The Company craft a lively, joyfully light-hearted production around these two marvellous performers.
The play is a tale of returning soldiers and a pair of couples that emerge. First it is Hero and Claudio who are betrothed, then it turns to the coupling of Beatrice and Benedick, "one of Hercules' labours" as all the while the defeated Don Jon plots his revenge. As these plot strands merge together, Much Ado About Nothing, far more then other Shakespearean plays, is driven by a series of games and tricks, each designed to push the narrative further. This production is at its strongest when there is a game afoot.
Oxford Shakespeare Company's production is first and foremost a fun Shakespeare romp. The nine-strong cast bring a wonderful chemistry and a clarity of diction, with much effective doubling taking place. Particular stand outs in the supporting cast are the authoritative David Chittenden playing Leonarto and the charming Christopher Laishley as Don Pedro. The costumes effectively place the action in mid-40s
If there is a criticism it is that the production can't ever seem to solve the weighted duality between the two couples. Where Beatrice and Benedick feel lived-in and familiar to each other, Hero and Claudio are such a new coupling that one can't help but be frustrated with their journey. But that's not to diminish either Samuel Simmonds' sweetly excitable turn as Claudio, now the charm and laughs Robyn Sinclair ekes out from Hero - she has particularly good rapport with Corbin.
Much Ado About Nothing is another triumph for the Oxford Shakespeare Company. Propelled by an energetic cast and headlined by a pair of outstanding performances from Corbin and Jordan, in a