Tag Archives: Charlotte Vassell

Much Ado About Nothing – 4 Stars


Much Ado About Nothing

Katzpace Studio Theatre

Reviewed – 15th October 2018


“plays actively on the comic element with quick-witted interaction and lively, farcical staging”


Bursting with ideas and inspiration, Exploding Whale’s retailored model of Shakespeare’s most frequently performed comedy reveals a wealth of new talent. Hidden beneath Katzenjammers’ Bierkeller, Katzpace is an interestingly-located, if somewhat incommodious studio space and home to this vibrant young theatre company.

The modern corporate setting of this adaptation is an excellent choice as a venue for social intrigues as well as a vehicle for the shifting of traditional gender roles. In this version, Don Juan is a female executive and several minor characters have become women in the workplace. Director, Ellie Morris, creates beautifully contrasting moods while the story unfolds. As they arrive for work, each personality is immediately established and the spirited pace allows for an atmosphere of bustling office banter. However, it is never a mistake to take time over establishing complicated backstories and plots; even for those familiar with the play, the energy of the opening rushes through the initial set up as we learn the latest line-up. The first half plays actively on the comic element with quick-witted interaction and lively, farcical staging, though sometimes the quality becomes patchy and we lose the tension and conviction of the characters. In the second, the drama comes together and we experience an unusually powerful sense of tragic relief, sobering the mood for a dose of reality.

In this redesigned cast, the two central couples find a perfect blend of tone and attitude which place them in the present day. The nonchalant pretence of Talia Pick’s Beatrice complements Gregory Birks’ carefree, comic front as Benedick, breaking eventually in a touchingly affectionate scene. Ava Pickett as Hero and in particular, Julian Bailey-Jones as Claudio, grow with passion from starry-eyed young lovers, experiencing the powerful feelings of betrayal, anger and grief. Octavia Gilmore portrays a manipulating Don Juan and James Irving as Hero’s father, Leonato, asserts himself in the second half. There is an enjoyably quirky Dogberry from Charlotte Vassell, but many of the secondary roles are changed or omitted and the distinction and balance between their updated versions is not always clear.

A room below a beer cellar is certainly a change from one above a pub but it has its practical drawbacks. Visibility is sometimes obscured by a couple of pillars and made uncomfortable by the glaring, low spot lights. Technical aspects aside, Exploding Whale’s production captures the fundamental essence of these two couples, exploring the timelessness of their relationships as well as putting more women on the stage. The clever, contemporary setting and details, dynamic direction and wonderful acting make this a ‘Much Ado’ which spans our emotions and entertains at the same time.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington


Much Ado About Nothing

Katzpace Studio Theatre until 24th October


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Gaps | ★★★ | April 2018
What the… Feminist?! | ★★★★ | April 2018
Obsession | ★★★ | June 2018
Let’s Get Lost | ★★★ | July 2018
Serve Cold | ★★ | August 2018


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Review of Thark – 3 Stars



Drayton Arms

Reviewed – 15th December 2017


“Blell is an extremely talented actor and made this somewhat confusing farce, a bit more enjoyable to watch.”


Matthew Parker’s hilarious, yet bizarre production of Thark begins with a lot of promise, but it soon becomes apparent that this is not the typical fast-paced farce, that one had hoped for. Poor accents, slow action and strange characters, were just some of the things that left me feeling rather disappointed. Set in the 1920s, Sir Hector Benbow (Mathijs Swarte) secretly intends to take his new lady friend, Cherry, (Isabella Hayward) out for dinner. However, this does not go accordingly to plan as his wife, Lady Benbow, (Charlotte Vassell) arrives home early and he, along with the help of his nephew Ronald, (Robin Blell) are left cleaning up the mess that Hector so foolishly has got himself into.

Just a few minutes into the show, Mathijs Swarte’s accent was very frustrating, as he would flitter between a very southern American accent, to a posh English accent. Robin Blell was by far the star of the show, as his accent was very impressive and he delivered an incredible performance that had great energy, and great charisma. One scene which tickled me the most, was when Ronald desperately tried to get Kitty’s (Natalia Lewis) attention, in hope that she would realise that he truly loves her and not Cherry. Having already presented a bunch of flowers to her and pretended to be choking on a phone wire, Kitty still refuses to listen to Ronald. Interestingly, what made this scene so laugh out loud funny, was Blell’s hilarious one-liners and great timing. Blell is an extremely talented actor and made this somewhat confusing farce, a bit more enjoyable to watch.

Soon after this, several of the characters suddenly began to do a rather random 1920s Charleston dance. Despite the dance being actually very good, it was very confusing and didn’t help move the narrative forward. To make things even more confusing, Act Two focused on ‘Thark,’ (the family home that is thought to be haunted), but ignored almost everything that happened in Act One. This made the whole production feel a bit disjointed as it would have been nice to have seen how the relationship developed between Hector and Lady Bowmen. The trouble is, Matthew Parker’s production was engaging, but it didn’t live up to my expectations, and I often found myself questioning a lot more as opposed to laughing.

What angered me the most was the ending. It finished too soon and didn’t make sense, as there was so much more that needed to be explored. The whole point of theatre is to tell a story and most stories have a beginning, middle and an end, but perhaps the cast and crew were in a rush, as this production had a beginning, middle but no end. Thus making this piece of theatre incomplete.

Overall, Matthew Parker’s production does have the potential to be a fantastic farce, but having a confusing plot and a terrible ending, was extremely frustrating to watch.


Reviewed by Jessica Brewer

Photography by lhphotoshots 




is at the Drayton Arms Theatre until 6th January 2018



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