Park performers catch the eye in this twilight Shakespeare

Our arts correspondent, BELLA BARTOCK (Miss), braved the elements for what is becoming a welcome feature of Croydon’s summers

Shakespeare in the park: is Anna Howard as Hero and the other is Sarah Block as Margaret.

Shakespeare in the park: Anna Howard, right, as Hero and Sarah Block as Margaret performing in Wandle Park last night

There’s no need to go to Regent’s Park for your open air theatre entertainment, with a top-class performance of Much Ado About Nothing by CODA, the Croydon Operatic and Dramatic Association, available till Saturday evening at the Bandstand in Wandle Park.

I have always held the view that of all Shakespeare’s comedies, this is the most aptly titled. Yet this production provides modern resonance in today’s media-driven world, where defamation potentially kills and the police are inept.

The one Hero, Anna Howard, who “died when she was slandered” is serene. Howard performed as Helena in Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Bandstand two years ago, and this performance is even more assured.

Michael Hall’s comic timing as Dogberry, the constable, matches fully the very high expectations of what seemed to be a personal fan club attending the opening night.

The confident stand out performance came from Paul Grace as Benedick. Grace possesses the audience, the stage and indeed the rest of the environs around the Bandstand, even the undergrowth and flower beds. Like others in the company, he is directed by David Sanders to make the very best of the setting in the park. The scooters are a good park reference from the very start.

Tom Skinner is an exquisitely studied “plain dealing villain” as Don John.

"Paul Grice as Benedick possesses the stage, and the audience" in this CODA performance at the Wandle Park Bandstand

Paul Grace as Benedick “possesses the stage, and indeed the audience” in this CODA performance at the Wandle Park Bandstand

Sarah Gordon says playing Beatrice is “a dream come true”, and she is a dream for the audience in her full use of the bard’s controlling words given to the character.

Lighting a performance against a summer evening’s changing background, with the onset of twilight or the possibility of rain is a challenge well met – the sound less so at times with reproduction in a park echoing or feeding back.

Talking of feeding it would be nice if the park café was promoted as part of the event – the café stayed open for the interval refreshments.

This young company offers much good prospects for the future for CODA and for Croydon.

The production is part of the Croydon Comedy Festival, a series of movies and stand-up shows which comes to an end this week. But could Croydon try to adopt a summer Shakespeare festival? Shakespeare helped a run down town like Staunton in Virginia. Maybe it could help Croydon, too? CODA has the talent.

  • Performances of Much Ado About Nothing continue in Wandle Park each evening through until Saturday, July 30, when there is also a matinee performance. Evening performances begin at 7.30pm, the matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets are £10 for adults and £8 for concessions, and may be booked by calling the CODA box office on 07858 879019, or online at


About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in Art, CODA, Theatre, Wandle Park and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Park performers catch the eye in this twilight Shakespeare

  1. Dear Bella, CODA aren’t the only Shakespearean game in town. Theatre Workshop Coulsdon performed a critically acclaimed ‘Much Ado’ last year in the grounds of the Coulsdon Manor Hotel, and have returned this year to present ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. First night was yesterday evening and further performances run from tonight to Saturday and then a further run from next Tuesday to the following Saturday. If you fancy coming and reviewing us, contact me and we’ll sort out tickets etc.

Leave a Reply