Bringing the Bard to life in St Albans' Verulamium Park

PUBLISHED: 10:10 14 July 2011

Philippa Tatham as Beatrice and Trevor Murphy as Benedict

Philippa Tatham as Beatrice and Trevor Murphy as Benedict

Archant

ROOFTOP Theatre Company specialise in making Shakespeare accessible - and they have excelled with their current production of Much Ado About Nothing.

True, Much Ado is one of Shakespeare’s more 21st-Century-friendly plays with its evergreen themes of bittersweet relationships and dastardly deeds but that should not in any way detract from what Rooftop is currently doing in the open-air production in Verulamium Park, St Albans.

Directors Simon Bolton, who also takes the part of the dastardly Don John, and Paul Sayers, who doubles as Borachio, have guided a production which is energetic, captivating and above all, funny.

Every year Rooftop puts on a high-calibre Shakespeare production outside the Inn on the Park but this is undoubtedly the best yet.

To have an eye for such comic moments as a masque where the main participants wear the faces of William and Kate or to have Benedick overhearing a conversation through a child’s buggy is no small achievement on the imagination front.

To get them to work so effectively that the audience are totally drawn into the modern-dress production is nothing short of genius.

The story of the warring lovers Beatrice and Benedick is well known and in Philippa Tatham and Trevor Murphy – the man with the wildest hair in St Albans – it roars into life.

Despite Shakespeare’s arcane language, these two demonstrate that hate and love are close bedfellows just as much today as they were when the play was first performed in the late 16th Century. They are passionate performers and spark brilliantly off each other.

Gemma Barrett’s Hero is a perfect foil for Beatrice and her wedding scene where she wears a fascinator not far removed from one seen at a recent royal wedding is hilarious.

Oscar Blend, who has become a welcome addition to the St Albans drama scene, is an imposing Leonato, at his best in the scenes with Simon Nader’s Claudio and Chris Paddon’s Don Pedro.

Completing a first-rate cast are Lisa Castle as the bike-riding Margaret and Simon Boughey who takes two roles but is particularly entertaining as Dogberry the Constable.

Whether you know Much Ado well or only sketchily, Rooftop are mounting an excellent production in the park. Catch it while you can.

The play has three more performances – tonight, tomorrow and on Saturday. Tickets are £12 with concessions £10 and children under 14 £8, available from the Tourist Information Centre at the Town Hall and the venue itself. Further details can be found at www.rooftoptheatre.co.uk

MADELEINE BURTON

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