Much Ado About Something Or Other

There can be few places in London as enticing and magical as the Regent’s Park open-air theatre. On strolling through the rose gardens, past cafes and expansive lawns, it would be all too easy to miss the almost hidden entrance, camouflaged in trees and wood, that leads to the fairy tale world beyond.

The glowing outdoor bar is the first pleasing sight that hits you and leads you to the outdoor theatre beyond. Here, trees and sky form part of the stage, and birds and wildlife are a part of the drama.

There’s a particular intimacy of the audience, all gathered outside in the open air, some seated on grass verges at the stage edge, others on chairs, but almost everyone picnicing and sipping wine to relax and wind down at the end of the working day: a collective, eating, drinking and entertainment experience. I don’t think we cheated by enjoying a picnic and fizz in the park in the sunshine first.

The fairytale-like magic is heightened when the drama’s a Shakespeare play like last night’s performance of Much Ado About Nothing: it’s easy to feel transported back to the 17th century and an England reliant on nature and agriculture. This is an easy, enjoyable watch, with the summer sunset and ‘hey nonny nonny’ music adding to the relaxing atmosphere, and a great cast including Samantha Spiro as Beatrice (Coupling and Cold Feet, so boldly good, she could be mistaken for Minnie Driver’s sister in this) and Silas Carson as Don Pedro (instantly recognisable from Spooks and Hustle)

An outstanding night out 8.5/ 10

Top things to do in London, summer 2009

Having the summer off this year, I’m on a mission to tackle my list of things-I-want-to-do- but-never-find-time including plays, exhibitions and sights to visit around London.

On Thursday last week, I took my camera a walk to absorb some City architecture then visited Tracey Emin’s ‘Those Who Suffer Love’ exhibition (somehow intriguing) and the RAA’s summer exhibition (excellent – lost a few hours there).

Later on, at one of my favourite London locations, the South Bank, I saw Richard Bean’s play at the National Theatre England People Very Nice.

It’s a dark comedy about immigration in England over the centuries (told in a rapid journey through history style not dissimilar to Reduced Shakespeare Company productions. While the play raises issues of racism through its racial stereo-type characters and uses foul language to heighten the humour, the audience is ultimately left to conclude that “England people” form a truly heterogeneous society, borne of many nationalities, which continues to diversify.

Entertaining and great value (average ticket prices circa £10) 6.5 / 10