The charming and rustic St. Paul’s church is at the very heart of Covent Garden. Designed in 1631 and completed in 1633, it truly is a piece of history, and is known as “the actors’ church” for good reason.
It is a beautiful representation of Stuart architecture and a marvellous setting for Shakespeare.
The production shifts between 4 different scene locations – three outside in the courtyard, and the wedding finale in the church itself. The audience follow the cast through the production, as soldiers come and go on bicycles.
Jennifer Clement’s various roles (Don John, Margaret, Abbess, Messenger) are all excellent. She gives powerful and effective performances in all of her roles, from her enigmatic and sullen representation of Don John, to her spectacular voice while singing as Margaret. Each line, particularly while Don John, is delivered as though no other words could possibly be uttered. She and Emma McDonald (Hero, Dogberry) are the driving force behind the production and the redemption of the first half of the play.
Graeme Dalling’s Lilliputian Claudio is lacklustre at best. At worst, his visage on stage is: an icy kiss of death; a black hole of talent; a terrifying glance into another dimension that has never known talent, charisma or literature. His accent is baffling and inconsistent – attempting to analyse what region he was trying to achieve nearly drove me to insanity.
Darrel Bailey’s Don Pedro is charming and natural. Anne-Marie Piazza’s Beatrice is somewhat inconsistent, but excellent at times. Her voice and musical talents are remarkable, however. Nick Howard-Brown (Benedick, Borachio) was initially uncertain and hammy, butonce warmed up, shone. His hunchbacked Borachio was thoroughly enjoyable to watch and his Scottish accent impeccable. Denis Delahunt brings a wealth of experience and talent, acting as a grounding force in his main role as Leonato.
The set design is beautiful, with organic wooden constructs conveying a blissful feeling of an idyllic pastoral setting. A minor qualm is the somewhat optimistic and quintessentially British approach to bad weather, which is to say, assuming that it will be clement, despite colossal evidence to the contrary.
Overall, the play is well-performed, but the gulf between ability levels in some of the cast members is somewhat jarring and discordant -but if you can look past that, I would definitely recommend it.
Reviewer: Joshua McLoughlin
Running until 22 July at St Pauls Church, Covent Garden followed by Treasure Island from 27 July
Director: Amy Draper