Bear in the Air Productions offer up a condensed and rather entertaining Much Ado About Nothing at the Jack Studio Theatre
“I’d rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me”
In a year full of major productions of Much Ado About Nothing, there’s a job to be done to make yours stand out. And that’s exactly what Bear in the Air Productions with their pocket version – 6 actors, over in less than two hours – which is playing at the Jack Studio Theatre after entertaining audiences outdoors all summer.
Heather Simpkin’s warm-hearted and swiftly-paced adaptation is really quite adroitly done, maintaining the plot at large and unafraid to fillet out some major scenes. That pace does mean that the first half occasionally feels a little rushed – Hero and Claudio’s headlong rush into amour fou works but Beatrice and Benedick’s slowburn love/hate has little time to percolate.
But whereas I might long for a little love lavished on lines such as “there was a star danced…”, the vibe here is just different. Hannah Eggleton’s performance epitomises this, with her no-nonsense delivery matching Beatrice’s quick wit, flipping to a wonderful gormlessness as a member of the Watch. Ross Telfer’s puppyish Benedick occasionally comes across as a little callow but is sweet enough and he too excels when he dons the hat of Watchman One.
The gulling scenes remain a delight, making creative use of garden furniture and picnic rugs. And post interval, a real sense of fun pervades, not least with Conor Cook’s Dogberry (doubled with an active Friar and Don John too!). The wry use of musical interludes, a touch of audience participation to help with love letters, chase scenes…somehow it all works even though ostensibly the narrative has to navigate some of its darker turns here. An entertaining condensed treat.