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Laugh-out-loud funny production pulls Shakespeare into the 21st century

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I will lay my cards on the line: Shooting Stars’ production of Much Ado About Nothing is the best outdoor production I have seen in years.

The benchmark, I have to admit, wasn’t very high: last time I watched an open-air production of a Shakespearean comedy it was in a drizzly Droitwich Spa park, it was am-dram and I had forgotten my umbrella. It wouldn’t have taken much to impress me.

But this was genuinely good, laugh-out-loud funny and easy to understand - which, despite my literature degree, remains top of my priority list for anything performed in Elizabethan English.

In fact, the clarity and casual manner with which all the actors passed their lines made the entire performance seem more like sitcom you might watch on E4 than a play which first entertained people more than 400 years ago.

As pulling Shakespeare firmly into the 21st century was director Helen Crosse’s aim, it counts as a large “tick” in the productions favour.

The standout performances were certainly those of Michael Totton (Benedick) and Tabitha Becker-Kahn (Beatrice), who battled like the best of couples, with the addition of some fantastic facial expressions to make sure the audience was in no doubt of exactly how each one felt.

Special mention also needs to go Graham Dron (Dogberry/Friar) and Peter Steele (Verges/Messenger) for some exceptional dancing. It is worth catching this particular production just to see these moves.

But we mustn’t forget the silent star in all of this: Lauderdale House is the perfect setting for an evening of Shakespeare and picnics. I suggest, the next time Theatre on the Tea Lawn returns, you snap up your tickets quickly.

* Much Ado About Nothing was at Lauderdale House in Dartmouth Park Hill, NW5

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