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Much Ado About Nothing

Dundee Rep
Four stars

There may have been a summer nip in the air in Dundee on Saturday night, but onstage in Irene Macdougall's grandiloquent looking revival of Shakespeare's most serious of rom-coms, heat was being generated on every level. On the Sicilian streets crickets chirrupped through the night, but when Beatrice and Benedick rubbbed up against each other in a mutual desire to prove who was cleverer, the temperature soared.

In Emily Winter and Robert Jack's hands, such japes look closer to flirting than fighting, with the ongoing sexual chemistry palpable to all except those directly involved. Such a fine romance is offset by the more troubling affair between Hero and Claudio as manipulated by Ali Watt's scheming Don John. In this way, the light and shade of the play is starkly realised, with a clear lurch into darkness at the top of the second half.

While there are plenty of biscuit-coloured pillars and hidey holes to manipulate all manner of indiscretions from, Macdougall and designer Ken Harrison keep the stage expansive enough to allow the cast to navigate their way through each intrigue.

But above all, this is an actor's play, and, as the play's central couple, Winter and Jack rise to the occasion with an increasingly frantic comic energy that permeates throughout. When the penny finally drops and Benedick attempts to be both deep and macho, Beatrice swats him away like the silly boy he is. Marli Siu and Ewan Somers provide a counterpoint as Hero and Claudio, in a vivid and handsome interpretation of a play that revels in how beautifully mixed up a love story can be.

The Herald, June 13th 2016

ends

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