Review: Much Ado about Nothing @DundeeRep

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I am grateful to have so many opportunities to enjoy Dundee Rep, though I am shaking my fist to know I will miss for the second time my pal Gary Robertson’s latest play Scaffies which will be on in late January after I have to return stateside. However, I’m looking forward to their production of The Scottish Play in the Botanic Gardens: what a great idea!

Saturday we caught Much Ado about Nothing, the Bard’s light-hearted tale of trickery, mockery and a little love. Designer Ken Harrison prepared what seems like an enormous castle with a lot of different spaces for people to listen and mishear. Director Irene Macdougall has the actors making good use of all the walls, pillars and corners even between the acts, as there is no curtain.

The cast were all terrific. I loved that the evil Don John is costumed as a kind of Puritan or maybe Huguenot in contrast to the other merry folk. I particularly liked Jo Freer as a bawdy Margaret and Anne Louise Ross (Granny Island!) did doubly duty as the solemn Friar or Abbess and as the stiff comic foil Verges with Anthony Strachan’s Dogberry. Great comedy work there.

Of course the heart of the story is the witty battle between Beatrice and Benedick. Robert Jack brought a great physical ease to the role which often tends to rest on the words alone. Lots of fun. Emily Winter was in every way his match, confident and strong as well as hilarious. Beatrice is a complicated role because she also has to make you weep for poor, wronged Hero (Marli Siu) and Winter really tore your heart out with the speech that includes those indelible lines, ‘O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place.’

Running two more weekends. Go see it.