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Theatre in the Forest Much Ado About Nothing review: Shakespeare’s so samey so thank God for Red Rose Chain

PUBLISHED: 12:50 04 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:51 04 August 2018

Joanna Sawyer, Claire Lloyd, Jack Heydon and Fizz Waller in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: BILL JACKSON

Joanna Sawyer, Claire Lloyd, Jack Heydon and Fizz Waller in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: BILL JACKSON

Bill Jackson

Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Red Rose Chain, Theatre in the Forest, Jimmy’s Farm, to August 26

Fizz Waller and Ricky Oakley in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: DAVID NEWBORNFizz Waller and Ricky Oakley in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: DAVID NEWBORN

Let’s be honest, Shakespeare’s work - like that of Jane Austen, whose Pride and Prejudice owes much to this play - is pretty samey. So thank God for Jo Carrick.

A barmy adaptation for a balmy night, her footloose and fancy free interpretation of this much revered comedy was a welcome gust of fresh air; breathing new life into what is for me a tired tale.

Benedick (Ricky Oakley) and Beatrice (Fizz Waller) trade barbs while Claudio (Jack Heydon) falls for Hero (Joanna Sawyer).

The second coupling, aided by Don Pedro (Oliver Cudbill) and Leonata (Claire Lloyd), trick the first into falling in love. It’s all fun and games until dastardly Don John throws a spanner in the works.

Claire Lloyd and Ricky Oakley in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: DAVID NEWBORNClaire Lloyd and Ricky Oakley in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: DAVID NEWBORN

Irreverent yet respectful to the text, the Second World War setting worked well and there was great chemistry among the cast, particularly Oakley and Waller.

A good thing to, if you don’t buy into them, you really do have much ado about nothing. The original battle of the sexes, they are arguably the fount from which movies like His Girl Friday and TV series like Moonlighting spring.

How good was it too that Leonata was a woman, not a man?

Carrick has dialled up the comedy this year.

Fizz Waller in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: BILL JACKSONFizz Waller in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: BILL JACKSON

There was some slapstick, little interludes harking back to the era of silent film, bawdy humour that just shies clear of mum and dad answering awkward questions on the drive home and one meta joke midway through the first half that was genius.

I loved how involved the audience were this year.

There was loads of interaction and some great asides, particularly from Waller and Oakley, clearly relishing the chance to unleash his comedy chops after the heaviness of Put Out the Lights earlier this year.

If this sounds too much like panto, don’t worry.

Ricky Oakley and Jack Heydon in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: DAVID NEWBORNRicky Oakley and Jack Heydon in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: DAVID NEWBORN

There was plenty of pathos too, notably during Claudio’s rejection of the wronged Hero on their intended wedding day.

Many would have you believe this is Red Rose Chain’s best yet. It didn’t quite reach the heights of Taming of the Shrew or The Comedy of Errors for me, but I look forward to changing my mind when we go to see this year’s show a second time. Bring on Alice in Wonderland this Christmas.

Oliver Cudbill and Jack Heydon in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: DAVID NEWBORNOliver Cudbill and Jack Heydon in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: DAVID NEWBORN

Joanna Sawyer, Jack Heydon and Fizz Waller in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture BILL JACKSONJoanna Sawyer, Jack Heydon and Fizz Waller in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture BILL JACKSON

Fizz Waller in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: BILL JACKSONFizz Waller in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: BILL JACKSON

Fizz Waller in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: DAVID NEWBORNFizz Waller in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: DAVID NEWBORN

Fizz Waller and Oliver Cudbill in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: DAVID NEWBORNFizz Waller and Oliver Cudbill in Red Rose Chain's Much Ado About Nothing Picture: DAVID NEWBORN

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