A youthful and enthusiastic Much Ado About Nothing from Exploding Whale in the Katzpace Studio Theatre in London Bridge
“Is not that strange?”
A new theatre for me is always a treat and one tucked away under a bierkeller even more so (I still don’t know how I resisted some pre-show spätzle to go with my lovely Rosarda beer…). Katzpace has been open for a year in the basement of the wittily named Katzenjammers and it even has its own theatre company in residency – Exploding Whale – who are currently mounting a revival of their 2015 production of Much Ado About Nothing.
In this quirky little 50 seater studio, a quirky little adaptation emerges, wittily directed by Mischief Theatre’s Ellie Morris. Relocated to a modern office setting, its first half is full of delightful little twists. Office politics in place of military tensions, work parties in place of masquerade balls, and the consequent tangled inter-relationships as suited to strip-lighted open plan rooms as they are to Sicilian sunshine. It’s a surprise they haven’t gone the whole hog and have war break out because someone used the microwave to reheat fish!
And as long as you don’t pull too hard at the thread of the conceit, there’s plenty to enjoy. Gregory Birks’ youthful Benedick manages an effective world-weariness of the heart that you wonder why Talia Pick’s Beatrice hasn’t locked that up already, But their antagonism has a pleasing push and pull to it, less a will-they-won’t-they as a when-the-hell-will-they. Both give cracking gulling scenes too, making a virtue out of the intimate space and inspiring a moment of genius (impromptu?) inspiration from this most quick-witted of Beatrices.
Post-interval, things become a little less clear as we move towards hurried marriages and wrenching denunciations, it’s not immediately clear how these fit into the contemporary milieu. But the joys of an abridged version mean that we don’t linger too long to ever get too perplexed. And there’s fun to be had with an excellent Oliver Clayton, his Don Pedro a jocular line manager who just wants to be one of the boys, Charlotte Vassell’s dithering Dogberry and a vivid doubling up from Lily Smith as Ursula and Conrade. Pleasingly diverting.