Category Archives: reviews

[REVIEW] THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN, OXFORD PLAYHOUSE, FIVE STARS

Rushing home to tell you this, I felt like a ‘30s war correspondent sending reports down the wire. Charlotte Benyon’s production blazes out in a declaration of theatrical glory, and marks the start of an exciting year in Oxford student drama.

Peter Schaffer’s The Royal Hunt of the Sun is the story of two illegitimate sons who seek to  become gods: one as a Spanish conqueror, and the other with an Inca crown. The first half had problems: inaccurate sound design set by a sadist, with recorded music blaring over nervous student actors, and Schaffer’s sweeping epic wobbling as the characters defined their relationships. To criticise more would be churlish. From the first scene the production celebrates sharply individuated performances from the officers General Pizarro (leading man Jacob Taee) takes to Peru. Before the interval, my impression of Taae was of a performance still emerging, confidence still gathering and a physical characterisation ever slightly out of reach. I expected to write a review focussing on Alfred Enoch as the aristocratic Hernando de Sota, whose maturity and restraint create the play’s most generous performance. Adam Baghdadi and James Leveson are equally good as the Conquest’s crusading priests; James Leveson, as the younger friar, leads us with great sweetness through his manifesto for mankind. Love, capitalism, Christianity and freedom: Leveson’s intelligent eloquence sets the bar high for performance of Schaffer’s all-encompassing text.

But then, after the interval, something happened. Joe Robertson’s boy-god Atahuallpa stepped down from his pedestal, and Taee changed before our eyes, fully replaced by his character. Having crushed the city, massacred thousands of Indians and imprisoned Atahuallpa, the tormented Pizarro offers this Incan Cleopatra freedom in exchange for impossible amounts of gold. When Atahuallpa’s unexpectedly fulfils the bargain, Pizarro is forced to choose between killing his men and sacrificing the boy-god who has become his soul. The second half of the play has dizzying scope, its debates ranging over Church, State and immortality: but as Pizarro’s own death approaches, his incessant cry for purpose, ‘What for?’ is answered only by the revelation that he cannot countenance Atahuallpa’s killing. Unless, of course, the Sun’s son is as immortal as he believes.

The climactic scene of The Royal Hunt of the Sun takes the audience to the threshold of revelation, in a theatrical moment where anything seems possible. Taee and Robertson give outstanding performances; like Benyon, they deserve unadulterated praise. Overall, though, the cast could be braver with their delivery; Schaffer’s black-gold comedy is sometimes lost as their delivery relentlessly drives the savagery home. Horror is more shocking for a little laughter. Benyon’s company, backed by ambitious design and a brilliant lighting plot, have a bravura hit on their hands. Not for a long time has a show made me feel such wonder.

Please hurry and book your tickets – this is a five-star production with only five shows left.

The Royal Hunt of the Sun runs until Saturday 30th October at the Oxford Playhouse. This review was originally written for the Oxford Theatre Review, and appears on their site here.

[REVIEW]: A History of the World in 100 Objects

The British Museum was founded on the death of Sir Hans Sloane, aristocrat, collector and shoe fetishist. Sloane left his 71,000 books, curiosities and antiquities to any government who’d perpetually maintain them for the enjoyment of all races, creeds and colours, free of charge. Fortunately, the British Government of 1753 was still prepared to invest in public education. As Lead Curator JD Hall puts it, ‘Then we had to wait 250 years for the BBC to be invented’.

From the British Museum’s 6-million strong collection of artefacts,  Hall, with writer and presenter Neil MacGregor selected 100 items through which to tell ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’, broadcast daily on Radio 4. Addressing an audience at the Oxford Playhouse, on the day of the final episode, Hall explained the series’ ideology.

Traditional history is based on written records, only covering the last 5,000 years of life, and excluding 2.2 million years of human culture. Objects exist in places before documentary records, bearing witness to histories suppressed or unrecorded, whether because they date from a time before writing, or because, traditionally, history is written by the winners. For JD Hall – and for me, as an obsessive fan of Listen Again – the most poignant of the 100 was the bark shield used by the people of Botany Bay, to defend themselves against Cook and his invaders.

The big difference between 100 Objects on radio and this ‘curator’s cut’ in theatre is that in theatre, we see the objects, albeit as photographs. Arguing for the radio format, Hall argues that TV history is too linear for the series’s discursive, electric approach. For Hall, a TV adaptation would have meant endless Starkey-esque establishing shots, MacGregor walking through fields, and silly reconstructions. But surely these are just the conventions of lazy broadcasting; popular series such as Who Do You Think You Are mediate all kinds of immigrant, emigrant and emotive histories without hand-waving or Henry VIII in a cheap wig. The real issue, sadly, is one of finance.

Despite my gripes, the impact of radio is undeniable. So far, A History of the World in 100 Objects has been downloaded by 10 million people, 5 million outside the UK. A further 3.5 million have been listening via radio; these astonishing figures exclude listeners on the World Service. Discursive and imaginative programming, History was the result of a four-year partnership between the British Museum and BBC Radio 4; a partnership which earned neither organisation any revenue. In these days of the Browne Review and the British cultural Apocalypse, that’s another way of saying: this will never happen again. What would the 101st object be, I wonder, if we wanted to record our present as well our past? A P45?

This review was originally written, while suffering from a filthy cold, for the Oxford Theatre Review.

REVIEW: Theatre Set-Up: The Merchant of Venice

The garden at Hall’s Croft first came to my attention when I learned you could get married, or have a civil partnership in the grounds – it’s a shame you can’t do the same at the Birthplace, but we’re a lot closer to traffic and you’d run the risk of your wedding being papped by 60 ecstatic Japanese tourists. One of the great things about the garden at Hall’s is the potential for outdoor theatre – a couple of weeks ago, some friends and I went to see Theatre Set-Up’s latest production of The Merchant of Venice.

Half an hour before it opened, I was sitting on the steps opposite, staring in fascination as the elderly rich of Stratford (so elderly! So rich!) carted the contents of (what they probably call) their sun lounges, conservatories, drawing rooms and breakfast bars into the green and pleasant land of theatre. There were cloches. There was cutlery. Chairs were de rigeur, and in one party of six septuagenarians, I distinctly saw a snowy tablecloth receive, on platters, two cheeseboards and a quiche.

The sheer stamina on view impressed me. People whom the uncharitable might regard as nearly dead were acting as their own pack mules, deckchair in each hand as they trekked through an Old Town heatwave, determined to live the dream of eating an excellent dinner, while watching mediocre Shakespeare.

Antonio opens the play saying that, in sooth, he knows not why he is so sad, and by the end of the play, I was still none the wiser. Generally, the characterization was unfocused and the relationships undefined. I didn’t know why Portia loved Bassanio, or why he reciprocated – Salanio’s claim that Antonio ‘only loves the world for’ Bassanio describes an intensity of emotion that nobody onstage seemed to feel. The most interesting thing about the production was their use of the text. Not so much individual line-readings; in fact, the performance was characterized by inaccuracies; but with the ingenuous system of doubling and cuts. With a cast of only eight actors, it’s a tribute to editorial skill that the only felt losses were Gratiano’s mocking repetitions of ‘a Daniel’ in the court scene, and a few choppings from Nerissa and Jessica.

The production’s heavy cutting of the ‘salads’ (Salanio and Salarino) should be a model for directors – they weren’t missed. My friends and I were divided on the success of the Lorenzo/Shylock doubling. I, personally, was a fan of both performances, but felt the company wasted an opportunity of shedding any light on the (as ever) under-directed Jessica. As Shylock’s daughter, the actress began with startling vitriol against her father, spitting as she resolved to become ‘a Christian, and [a] loving wife’ to the Gentile Lorenzo, only to transform into a sulky madam the second she actually got him. Perhaps the doubling was meant to show Jessica exchanging one identical set of problems for another, but there was no suggestion that the amorous lover was as difficult as the father.

Only one moment in the production really disturbed me, and it was the audience who caused me unease. It’s always nice when a play by Shakespeare can show you the mass of anti-Semitism eating Eton Mess in an audience. At the end of the trial scene, Antonio (still alive, still fully-fleshed) gets his penultimate kick by demanding that his Jewish adversary ‘presently become a Christian’. Most of the audience laughed.

There’s no humour in that line; no context or delivery could make it funny. There had been nothing in the production to suggest that a presentation of Shylock as cartoonish or laughable was what Theatre Set-Up intended. It makes me wonder, though, how often that line gets laughs, and where. Anyone else who’s seen a production of Merchant, did this happen to you? What’s the most shocking or upsetting audience reaction you’ve seen?

My sudden enforced awareness of the Merchant audience reminded me of Kate Woods’s Britgrad paper on Sophonisba (1605). The play was performed at Blackfriars where, for the first time, the lighting conditions of indoor theatre directed an audience’s attention right away from each other, towards the stage. Before that, daylit productions in the playhouses meant that audiences were completely aware of each other. It was a point I’d never really considered before – funnily enough, my research into theatre spaces really starts with Aphra Behn and discovery spaces. Today, open-air productions are our closest link to that kind of atmosphere, and it made me wonder what other audience are hidden by the comforting darkness of the stalls.

Britgrad 2010

I started a write-up of Britgrad on Sunday, the day after it finished. I didn’t know where to begin – certainly, the quantity of booze consumed with the good people of Exeter University on Saturday night (why has Plymouth overtaken you as the party college of the UK?) didn’t help me separate out the memories of excellent research and fabulous speakers from the nagging conviction that my head was on fire and my eyes too big for their skull.

To make Clamorous Voice a time capsule, just for a moment – if you find this post while deliberating on whether to attend Britgrad 2011, do it. For anybody daunted by the prospect of launching their paper-giving, or even just their conference-attending career, do it in Stratford. The diversity of papers is such that, even if you’re technically a nineteenth-century scholar looking exclusively at performance histories post-1860 (…for example), there will be plenty of research that speaks to yours, and plenty of similarly obsessive geeks who can spot Irving’s intonation in Laurence Olivier’s Richard III, or draw parallels between the situation in Cold War Germany and the tumult of the 1843 Patents Act (…for example).

I can only hope Writing About Women In Shakespearian Performance is as successful, and I know I’ll be mining the (excellent, extensive) Britgrad committee for help & advice over the next couple of months.

NaNoWriMo, murder and the Wallace affair…

This is, I guess, an appropriate post for the run-up to Hallowe’en! Warning: gory/disturbing stuff beneath the cut (my first attempt at using one on WordPress, hope it works!)

A couple of days ago, I signed up for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. For the uninitiated, this is a worldwide online project where participants each write a novel – 50,000 words – in the 30 days of November. Since signups, I’ve been fretting about the possibilities of libel, slander and nobody speaking to me ever again. I hope this is merely a clever displacement activity to avoid the most likely reason for failure – simply not producing those 50,000 words.

The prospect of winning NaNo (trans: successfully meeting the word limit) fills me with huge relief: in 30 days, it’d be done. I’d have written a novel, and – no matter how bad, boggy and unpublishable – I would know it could be done. And then I could do it again, rather better – it’d never be so difficult again, not until the tricky third-novel-slump where I have to go and stay in a friends’ house in the Fens and drink tea and stare out and possibly have a passionate/doomed love affair with the man who brings the post/dark-eyed waif from the village. And then produce something a bit Woolf and a bit Dylan Thomas.

God, can you imagine how that child would have looked.

I am also, my brothers, joining A Book Club. I have never been sure about Book Clubs. They always screamed Richard & Judy and those 3 for 2 stickers (no that’s not just snobbery, those stickers induce HORRIBLE ANXIETY, I can NEVER find 3 books I want on the table and then the girl asks and god), also the prospect of sitting round discussing Clarissa Dalloway’s Motivation does tend to make you scream when it’s what you do for – well, not a living. For the three years that push you dramatically into debt, teach you to eat plovers’ eggs and are so golden-and-aquatint that the rest of the world seems cold and dark, woe, woe, et cetera. But Simon is in lots, so they must be okay, and now Book Clubs appeal to me in the same way as NaNoWriMo. I am jobless. I am dolescum. I finally have the time.

Plus, my sole close schoolfriend currently in Really Gainful Employment (Recruitment Consultant, hoyes) hates it so much he suggested a Book Club in his first recorded moment of speech without irony. Sincerity, from him, indicates a man on the edge of a quarter-life crisis/a Birmingham-based Columbine, so we’re all going to sit in a pub and mock our own literary endeavours, before choosing books to read for next time.

Of the two readers whose tastes I know well, I predict – respectively – Nabakov and Orwell as opening gambits. I’m veering towards Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood (haven’t read it yet – any thoughts?) for several reasons: 1) love my boys though I do, I’d be surprised if they chose many women writers – they’re Salinger & Orwell kind of guys, and 2) the fact it’s dystopian means they might actually like it. I’m not a big reader of dystopia, but I adored Oryx & Crake. Here’s another reason I’m nervous of the Book Club – when I talk about books outside an academic context, I sound sort of stupid. I don’t know whether to play nice and seem witless, or leap into a tutorial-style discussion and attempt to shed their hearts’ blood.

In terms of what I’m actually reading, I’m on a massive P. D. James kick, and waiting (probably forever) for Gary Taylor’s Inventing Shakespeare to arrive from Amazon. I heard P. D. James preach in chapel once, but until now Dalgliesh has been a big omission from my personal detective-canon. Having read Cover Her Face, Shroud For A Nightingale, The Black Tower, A Mind to Murder and now Death of an Expert Witness, I watched an ITV3 profile of her earlier in the week. Gyles Brandreth being an amiable idiot, Ruth Rendell being surprisingly closed-lipped on a woman she obviously loves, Mark Lawson being an unforgivable cretin (apparently Dorothy L Sayers “was all right on character but couldn’t really write a sentence”, berk berk “>berk berk) and Val McDermid rather ostentatiously calling her “Phyllis” (I wanted to link directly to McDermid’s website, but the typewriter sound effects are too annoying).

Several of PD James’s novels owe a positive debt to Dorothy L. Sayers. Shroud for a Nightingale has the same closed female community, sexual spectres and last-minute-assault-on-the-sleuth as Gaudy Night and, not coincidentally, is my favourite thus far. Set in a nurses’ training school in the 1970s, its opening pages contain one of the most horrific murders in detective fiction, the death of Nurse Pearce in the nurses’ demonstration room.

Talking of horrific murders, it cannot be every family that stores an almost-forgotten cache of crime scene photos in the same blanket box as old letters and birth certificates. I guess I’m just lucky. Our blanket box is a last-chance saloon for paperwork, never opened except  for those mysterious periods in my childhood when my father would get out 400 pieces of paper and  balance our finances (or at least acquaint himself with the imbalance).

Beneath the layers of respectable bills and invoices lies stuff from a film my dad worked on in 1990,about an unsolved murder in 1930s Liverpool. Do you remember the Prudential insurance ads? The Man From The Pru was the story of William Herbert Wallace, whose wife Julia was bludgeoned to death on the hearth in their shabby, cramped front room. Wallace claimed he’d been out at the time of the murder, searching for a non-existent in a street that was never built. The client was R. M. Qualtrough and the street was Menlove Gardens East, and I am enough of a terrifying crime nerd that I’m telling you all this from memory.  Wallace was tried, convicted and then sensationally acquitted. He didn’t hang, but died a broken man. The film starred Jonathan Pryce, Anna Massey and it dates horribly and as a child I was strictly, strictly forbidden to read the contents of the THE MAN FROM THE PRU file that was exacavated during my father’s financial archaeological digs.

My parents rarely censored what I read. Occasionally my mother has guilt that I got hold of trashfests like Yes, Mama (illegitimate orphan cruelly treated father disinherits mother senile child abuse prostitution suicide marries one-armed Boer veteran) and A Lady in Berkshire (“Kitty Winters could never have been called handsome but at that moment she looked almost beautiful” — trufax, and I found that at primary school) at nine, but since I also read all her Shakespeare, Dickens, Blyton, Christie & EJ Howard, it didn’t hurt. I think censoring children’s reading is pointless and stultifying, unless your precious lamb is somehow veering towards Firearms Monthly and Mein Kampf. I was only ever banned from The Jewels of Tessa Kent, which I read surreptitiously and guiltily in five-minute intervals (at thirteen, two years after Emily Organ passed round the sex bits in The Horse Whisperer to an awestruck Form 7X), The Betsy (mother decides Harold Robbins automobile expose will destroy child’s innocence) and, unforgettably, The Contents Of This Folder. My father said sternly that it was Not Very Nice (I must have been about five or six the last time the folder was unearthed in pursuit of papers – not long after the film was made, in fact), but otherwise I think he’d forgotten the thing existed.

I must have been a compliant kid. I didn’t read the folder until yesterday. And yes – apart from the respectable and fascinating original newspapers, it was horrible, horrible stuff… Continue reading

REVIEW: Julius Caesar, dir. Lucy Bailey, RSC Courtyard Theatre

Greg Hicks as Julius Caesar I’ve published my first piece on the Alligator! It’s a review of the RSC’s new production of Julius Caesar, featuring local actors Sam Troughton and Hannah Young, as well as Greg Hicks (left) in the title role. You can read my review here.

In other & exciting news, my friend Elizabeth (who writes Oxford, Abridged) just told me that we’ll be graduating on the same day – her from her M.St, me from my BA. So I’m really pleased about that.

REVIEW: AS YOU LIKE IT, COURTYARD THEATRE, RSC

Katie Stephens (Rosalind) and Jonjo O'Neill (Orlando). (c) Ellie Kurtz

Katie Stephens (Rosalind) and Jonjo O'Neill (Orlando). (c) Ellie Kurtz

In Michael Boyd’s new production of As You Like It, the action moves from the frozen monochrome of a court in crisis to a forest less welcoming than a Siberian tundra. The comedy of Rosalind following her father into exile in the Forest of Arden is often portrayed as a play of riotous thigh slapping and lurid green sets, with plenty of opportunity for flowers, straw, and a strutting “Ganymede” (Rosalind’s male alter-ego; this being Shakespeare, she exchanges her skirt for trousers for much of the play). Instead, the latest Royal Shakespeare Company production finds both savagery and beauty in this beloved Shakespeare play. The result is a compelling exploration of the comedy’s dark heart.

Returning from the Histories season, Boyd and designer Tom Piper create a new aesthetic for the new RSC ensemble. From the blue-ochre blaze of the Histories sets, Piper has moved to a starker, colder look.  Initially, the stage is spare, the back of the courtyard dominated by a gleaming silver-white structure of square panels. Its metallic sheen provides a static backdrop to the glittering, inhospitable court that Duke Ferdinand, Orlando and Adam, Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone successively flee.

But then Boyd and Piper unleash destruction on the set: the wrestling bout between Orlando and Charles smears the panels with blood; an enormous ball of straw bursts through double doors—quite literally the forest of Arden. Inside is Richard Katz’s Touchstone, a man with the frizzy grey hair of a clown, with his legs strait-jacketed together. The square panels are opened, battered, or removed altogether, revealing a casual abattoir (a deer hangs from a meathook, coat glistening), dead branches, or a dusty, yellow light. Instead of elegant poems on parchment, Orlando’s sonnets are big black letters on scrappy placards, enormous cardboard panels suspended from the flies or pinned to the pillars and set. In this production, the concepts As You Like It usually conveys with charm—clown, forest, poetry—are pushed to their limits, creating visual shocks that alternately amuse and surprise.

At the end of the interval, Geoffrey Freshwater as Corin guts and skins a real dead rabbit onstage. Detractors may find it too gory, but even the decapitation (a flash of the cleaver while the audience braces itself) is remarkable more for its efficiency than for its horror. The moment is an effective metaphor for a production fighting audience assumptions about this cosy comedy. Boyd’s As You Like It refuses the notion that a big-budget staging has to look safe or beautiful.

Where other productions gloss the play’s darkness to foreground the comedy, Boyd and his cast address the psychological impact of the characters’ experiences. Katy Stephens’s Rosalind is, above all, a woman who has just lost her father, and her performance has the sharpness of raw grief. Rosalind’s love for Orlando is as painful as it is instantaneous, and in the intimacy of the courtyard, it’s a shock to see her stand on the stage with tears in her eyes after the first wooing scene. Rather than looking the part of a wriggling schoolboy, when Stephens cross-dresses to become Ganymede, she turns into a dashing young man. She is the only Rosalind I’ve seen who convinces in the fainting scene, when Rosalind has to endure news of her beloved Orlando’s tussle with a lion, herself dressed as the male Ganymede (a slightly spivvy aesthete in Barbour and moustache). Usually, Rosalind keels over at the briefest flash of Orlando’s blood-stained handkerchief; here, she is forced to stand with the gory white scarf around her neck until the proximity of the blood becomes excruciating. Both of them are fighters, the extent of the blood indicating just how much Orlando had to bear.

Mariah Gale’s Celia is Rosalind’s junior, a princess full of an enthusiasm that renders her vulnerable. Celia is a problematic role: she tends to disappear into the trees as the Rosalind-Orlando relationship takes over. Her own last-minute love plot with Oliver is conveyed in a couple of sentences. Nevertheless, Boyd fleshes out the role with a bizarre, but enjoyable, dream sequence and a well-cast Oliver. As Oliver, Charles Aitken, a veteran of physical theatre companies such as Headlong and Frantic Assembly, echoes Stephens’s Rosalind by rooting his performance in trauma, which stems from a father’s death.

The most memorable performance comes from Forbes Masson as Jacques, the melancholic courtier who masterminds the utopian project of Duke Ferdinand’s exile. Masson plays a gin-soaked Goth with sneering blacked eyes and a purple velvet blazer, faintly ridiculous with his Cuban heels and ginger hair ruffled to the ends. Masson sings with intensity. His tenor is disarmingly icy, like Rufus Wainwright turned malevolent choirboy. There’s a hint of the jilted lover in his sneering, bitter relationship with Clarence Smith’s Duke Ferdinand, the exile who sets out to find “sermons in stones, books in the running brooks”. Ferdinand raises Jacques’s hopes of a utopia in Arden, but by the end of the play, those hopes are dashed. When Duke Ferdinand’s crown is miraculously restored, the company drops to their knees, while Jacques stays standing. His sense of contempt as Ferdinand takes the crown—the lure of power is just too strong for the exiled duke—is palpable; their sylvan dream is shattered. Jacques skulks offstage alone, leaving the festivities he can no longer enjoy.

The members of Boyd’s new ensemble have, in As You Like It, created an almost flawless conception of a fiercely flawed world. This company will perform together until 2011, opening the New Royal Shakespeare Theatre currently being built. Traditionally, acting contracts are much shorter, forcing actors into hothouse collaborations lasting only for the few weeks of rehearsal. The Long Ensemble, together since January, has time to develop intense relationships with one another and with the roles they will reprise in future seasons. The visceral emotion and fierce intelligence of this production suggests that summers in Stratford will be hot for years to come.

As You Like It | dir. Michael Boyd | The Royal Shakespeare Company | The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

This review originally appeared in the Oxonian Review. To subscribe to the Review, click here.

REVIEW: Much Ado About Nothing, RABID PRODUCTIONS, O’REILLY THEATRE, 12-16 May 2009

(c) Adrian Krajewski

(c) Adrian Krajewski

[review originally published here]
Inspired by avant-garde group The Factory, the ‘rules’ of the Bright-Dukes-Maltby Much Ado are myriad, and their theatrical game enjoyable. There’s promenade, props supplied by the audience, and ‘tasks’ imposed by a bowler-hatted Sam Bright. Conceived and led by Lindsay Dukes as Beatrice, the O’Reilly’s latest experiment deserves much praise.

The cast is strong. The comedians particularly shine, with Joe Eyre’s Borachio, John-Mark Philo’s Dogberry, and Joe McAloon’s Verges thriving on the chaos throughout. I found myself laughing aloud: a rare treat at press previews. Of the lovers, Dukes’s Beatrice has great energy and comic skill; unfortunately, she rather gallops through Beatrice’s psychology. Both the revelation of her reciprocated love for Benedick and her rage against Claudio are taken much too fast. We must remember that speed isn’t passion. However, the originality and talent of Dukes’s performance emerge whenever she slows down.

Conversely, James Corrigan’s Benedick begins weakly but improves; their love scene is the play’s subtlest, mature and melancholic. Isabel Drury is the production’s greatest surprise, creating in Hero an honesty and emotional intensity that indicate Drury’s right to larger and more rewarding roles.

The company could benefit from a firmer hand with the storytelling. Enraptured by the creative process, there are moments when the verse is garbled, the play’s essence reduced to a convenient coathanger for the antics of an improv troupe. Intensive vocal work would help, as would lighter shoes so that one actor’s lines aren’t drowned by the feet of fourteen others.

This ambitious production marries ideas from the best in professional theatre practice with the freshness and idealism on which student theatre thrives. Liberated from the commercial demands of professional theatre, we students can afford experimentation even in a recession. Above all, our theatre allows us to create spaces in which to do what students do best: imagine, endeavour, and learn.

The highlights of my Much Ado were Dukes’s hiding in a hatstand, Philo’s singing from a shopping trolley, and the incredible acrobatics of Eyre. Yours will be different. With all its variations, this Much Ado will be a first rate show, every night of the week.

Four Stars.

This review (minus hyperlinks) appeared in the Stage section of the Cherwell newspaper on 5 May 2009. Read it on the Cherwell website here.