The Argus: fringe_2011_logo_red_thumb A simple crossing of paths set the stage for this production in the round, with the appreciative audience picnicking upon blankets while the actors and musicians strode across the grass – or, in the case of Beatrice (Samantha Bolter), crawled between the audience like a commando, stealing sips of wine, while overhearing her friends discuss her.

The peaceful setting in St Ann’s Well Gardens was open to the elements, with passers-by occasionally yelling out in response to the lines, or causing laughter by peering in bafflement over the hedge Benedick (Russell Shaw) was hiding in.

This enjoyable production brought out the wit and bawdiness in many of Shakespeare’s lines, with director Nicholas Quirke drawing strong performances from all the cast.

Special mention should go to Robert Cohen as Don John, revelling in his character’s sardonic villainy from his first disdainful handshake to his final raised eyebrow at the thought of “brave punishments”.

Although the dancing that opened the show was rather low-key, musicians Debbie Bridge and Padraig Breathnatch sang beautifully.

Despite a grey night with drizzle in the air, the combination of gentle music, Peta Taylor’s black and white 1960s Mod costumes and likeable performers created a joyfully summery Italian atmosphere.