Much Ado About Nothing: Creation Theatre
Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Creation Theatre, South Oxford Adventure Playground, on until 19 August. Tickets from £18. Book here.
[Disclosure. I was a Creation Theatre trustee from early 2020 to early 2022. I received free tickets for the purposes of this review.]
After a significant hiatus, Creation Theatre has made a welcome return to outdoor Shakespeare with its charming production of Much Ado. Creation Theatre’s core competency is creating quirky and clever adaptations of classic texts, and this production showcases its mastery of this field. Much Ado is the first show under the auspices of new CEO Helen Eastman, and with this production, Eastman has got off to a flying start.
Herb Cuanalo as Claudio, Anna Tolputt as Benedick and Lewis Chandler as Don Pedro.
Much Ado is a crowd favourite; it’s performed often, and mostly well. For that reason, it can be hard to adapt Much Ado in a new and creative way. Creation Theatre has succeeded in crafting a funny, original and good natured 80s themed show that all ages can enjoy.
Brianna Douglas as Hero and Lewis Chandler as Don Pedro.
As always, Creation has sought out an interesting and original outdoor setting – the South Oxford Adventure Playground, which it uses to great effect. The audience reaches the venue by walking down a tiny, tree lined, magical alley. Oxford is full of these fairy-tale paths and walking down it in the fading light gave us a ‘through the looking glass’ experience before the show even started.
Emily Woodward as Beatrice and Brianna Douglas as Hero.
Director, Helen Tennison has cleverly adapted the show to minimise the darker aspects of the original text – and where some of those problematic themes are unavoidable – they’re lightened in a hilarious and unexpected way! Given what the UK has gone through in the last few years, I think this fun and escapist approach is absolutely right for Creation’s audience.
Lewis Chandler as the friar.
Anna Tolputt does an excellent job of bringing Benedick to life – with a masculine and swaggering performance. Tolputt is one of Oxford’s jewels – and Creation uses her well! Beatrice is played beautifully by Emily Woodward and there is a tense energy between Beatrice and Benedick, without which no performance of Much Ado can succeed.
Anna Tolputt as Benedick.
Creation’s Much Ado is a cheerful and jolly show; perfect to inject some light hearted fun into our slightly grey and wet summer. Take waterproofs – just in case.
Photos by Richard Budd.
If you enjoyed reading this review of Much Ado, you may enjoy reading my review of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Wakanda themed production of Much Ado, which you can find here.
You can read my review of other Creation shows here.