thumbnail_Much Ado About Nothing Emma McDonald (Hero) and Anne-Marie Piazza (Beatrice) Photo Hannah BartonMusical, magical madness. There is no other way to describe one of Iris Theatre’s Shakespearean productions – each summer they brave all weathers to bring the bard to the people via a promenade piece. They never fail to disappoint and Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Amy Draper, is no different.

Claudio and Hero fall in love. Benedick and Beatrice mock marriage. Don John and Borrachio plot to bring down Don Pedro and Leonato.

Love and romance, mistaken identity and some good old-fashioned trickery ensure that the audience are kept entertained by the story, while the cast add their own colourful interpretation, which extends to the costumes and set – as bright and fun as the production itself.

The main comedy in this piece comes from Iris regulars Anne-Marie Piazza and Nick Howard-Brown as Beatrice and Benedick. Two people who despise the idea of marriage more than they despise each other… But do they really? Beneath their mocking and insults, there is chemistry and once their friends convince them the other has fallen in love with them, the trouble really starts. Unconvincingly hiding behind leaves, pillars and trees, even pretending to be a cat, these scenes are hilarious and both actors entertain with ease.

Piazza enjoys another comedy character as Verges alongside Emma McDonald as Dogberry. Playing up to the foolish, yet funny policeman double act, there are whistles blown, failed counting and some fantastic expressions.

For Emma McDonald it is a chance to show her funny side; her role as Hero is a sweet and serious contrast, but the emotional wedding scene that never was is extremely poignant and her chemistry with Claudio (Graeme Dalling) and relationship with Leonato (Denis Delahunt).

The production ends in the church, perhaps slightly disappointing when compared to past finales and the incense is overpowering! Yet, the overall effect of the production with frequent musical interludes that the cast perform with ease, is Shakespeare at its best. Direct, accessible and immersive.

Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Hannah Barton

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING plays at St Paul’s Church until 22 July 2016