Tolethorpe’s Much Ado was my best yet

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Stamford Shakespeare Company set themselves a challenge when they advertised Much Ado About Nothing as Shakespeare’s “funniest” comedy.

There’s nothing worse than going to watch a play and it not living up to expectations. But thankfully, the cast at Rutland Open Air Theatre in the grounds of Tolethorpe Hall did not disappoint me on Friday last week.

And I would even go as far as to say it’s the best play I’ve seen at Tolethorpe - and having worked at the Mercury for coming up to 10 years, I’ve seen my fair share.

But a night at Tolethorpe never disappoints, for even if the play isn’t quite up to scratch (a rarity!) or the weather has ruined a pre-planned picnic, it is always a magical experience.

Much Ado follows the story of battle-weary heroes returning after the First World War looking for love - and this season represents its sixth outing by the Company since 1973.

But this year’s version had an extra touch of magic - not least in the shape of Richard Coville playing Benedick and Amanda Plant, playing his love interest Beatrice. Not only did they have amazing comic timing, but they both involved the audience with cheeky winks and comments - making me jealous for the first time that I wasn’t sat on the front row!

A special mention must also go to Adam Cavender, who gave a confident performance as Claudio - so much so that I was surprised to see ‘debut season’ beneath his photo in the programme. And to the gardener on the night (he knows why!)

The foresight of director David Fensom (who also happens to be a lovely chap) to not only expand The Watch - but make all but one of the characters female - made the play all the more funny. Led by incompetent policewoman Dogberry, played magnificently by Angela Harris, they gave an extra dimension to this fantastic play.

Really the only time I wasn’t laughing outloud or smiling wryly, was when I managed to tear my eyes from the stage and looked around the auditorium. For a Friday night at Tolethorpe, I expected a full house and I’m truly sad to say that for such a fabulous play there was a lot of empty seats. It continues throughout August and it deserves to have a packed audience every single night. I wholeheartedly recommend you go.

Stamford Shakespeare Company is also performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hobson’s Choice this season. To book visit www.stamfordshakespeare.co.uk or call the box office on 01780 756133.

For a special offer for readers, see the advert on page 40.