VERSA | Much Ado about Student Problems: Garden Play Review

Astonishing, I know, that VERSA, the cultural equivalent of a nappy wipe, has been asked to do yet another theatre review. (Obviously all the hanging around at JazzSoc spouting Proust has paid off… ((yes Isis – Proust)).

As with all serious garden-play aficionados, I was armed: rug, wine, and mosquito repellent – all VERSA hacks need pepper spray… This, however, proved unnecessary. From the off, Trinity’s ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ was marvellous.

If the neat set, framed by ancient yew, was not charming enough, or tinkly taverna music, reminding the audience of imminent vacation, then Jamie Huffer’s swarthy entrance as Balthasar, with Romeo shirt and guitar vocal, kick started the play with a bang, or should I say, a swoon.

The tone was good, informal but polished. The bounteous energy of directors Megan Slattery & Bishan Morgan had translated on stage, and whilst not the RSC, casting was strong, the actors evidently relishing the performance as much as we were.

Nevertheless, for anyone still in doubt, Dan Thomson’s entrance as Benedick secured the play. His guise as a romantic lead was seemingly effortless, and, half in love, we all sighed with satisfaction, and settled in for a good old Renaissance romp, or indeed, rom(p) com.

Snazzy pink waistcoat

For anyone who doesn’t know the play, that’s what it is: Richard Curtis with a few ‘hey nonny nonnies’ chucked in. Think two Italian aristocrats, both despise the idea of marriage, but secretly fancy-the-pants off each other; then spice it up with false identities, a masquerade ball, iniquitous count (essential plot-twist fodder), and a wedding wot goes wrong:

*Disclaimer* Helen Record is much nicer than duck-face

Other noticeable performances were in Claudio (Hugh Tappin), whose ‘50 shades of wan’ was both hilarious and touching in equal measure, and Leonato (Michael Jacobs), whose booming patrician was extremely convincing. The same actors contrasted this with moments of Terry Jones-esque squawking which would have made any self-respecting Wadham’ite wince for vocal appropriation. I, however, guffawed with laughter.

Wan battle-stance

Indeed contrast was the best part of the play. The serious lover-scenes between Benedick and Beatrice (Helen Record) were expertly wrought, and made all the more effective when allied to the slapstick featuring Constable-Dogberry (Oli Williams), and his assistant Verges (Freddie Hopkinson). Williams’ comic timing, combined with the decision to camp-up the character – a mix between Dolores Umbridge and Stewie Griffin – was a directorial masterstroke, making for some of the evening’s best moments.

All in all, ‘Much Ado’ is a light, flexible work, and was thus a clever choice for a garden play. Darting from crises induced by ‘the bloom of lustihood’ to those ‘too cunning to be understood’ (i.e. poor sex-life and poorer Prelims results), it was a great choice for a student audience. At any rate, this reviewer very much appreciated it…

With a cracking cast and some comedic gems, you’re a berk if you missed it!

Tags: garden play — Shakespeare — trinity college