Reviewed by Donald Madgwick for The Croydon Advertiser
The open-air production by Theatre Workshop Coulsdon in the garden of The Woodman pub maintains a tradition, begun in 1993, of providing quality entertainment under the summer sky.
About three-quarters of Shakespeare’s enigmatic comedy is in prose, mainly exemplified by the witty verbal fencing of Beatrice and Benedick, which are at the heart and soul of Tina Bretman’s vivacious production, and the most interesting part of it.
Mark Taylor and Tatiana Allison play the embattled lovers, she flashing like a rapier in the sunlight and drawing him on to deeds of emulation.
But if it be not churlish to mention it – she is after all the assistant director – she does scant justice to what are arguably the two most startling words in the entire Folio: “Kill Claudio!”
Mark Taylor is also busy in another direction, as composer of a colourful score, dramatic or stately as the occasion requires, and amusingly pompous for Dogberry and his companions of the Watch.
The dark plotting of Don John and his associates (which incidentally was altogether omitted by Berlioz from his opera Beatrice et Benedict) sometimes verges on the tiresome.
Here we find, in Micheal Brown’s genial Don Pedro and the saturnine Don John of Paul M Ford, a pair of brothers of remarkable similarity of appearance from where we sit. Paul Breden and Daniel Ireson are a suitably sinister pair as the latter’s followers.
Sinead Russell’s guileless innocence as the wronged Hero puts to shame the surly arrogance of Neil Grew’s Claudio, and shows up the unthinking prejudice which leads even the great and good to jump to the wrong conclusions.
Leonato is played with expansive benevolence by Chris Argles, matched by the warm brotherly regard of Pete Gregory as Antonio. Rachel Handler’s native wit as Margaret also pulls it full weight and more.
“Sixth and lastly”, Richard Lloyd’s Dogberry is a glorious aberration of absurdities, a muddle of malapropisms with a Brian Glover accent: and Tim Young gives excellent support as his blockish sidekick Verges.
The scenes in which they and the watch appear are low comedy indeed, played to a high standard.
Paul M Ford
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