This is a fun and engaging production of Shakespeare’s matchless romantic comedy made for a delightful evening at the Old Fire Station Theatre. The Royal Air Force Theatrical Association have put heart, soul and considerable expertise into this, their 15th biennial production. The cast and crew are drawn from serving and retired members of the RAF and their families. It brought home the seriousness of their ‘day jobs’ when I learned that two members of the original company were not able to be there because they have been deployed to Afghanistan.

Though they are not ‘professionals’ in the absolute sense of the word you wouldn’t guess that from the quality of this show. The set and costumes are excellent, and their unusual layout of the OFS auditorium space is imaginative and very effective. Everyone, whether in a principal role or one of the corps, gave sharply defined, polished performances. Even if they had only one or two lines these actors made them count!

As Bea-trice and Benedick, the witty, cagey, and sexy pairing at the heart of the play, Caroline Seraille and Philip Goudal kept me laughing throughout, as did the appearances of Robert Iles as Dogberry, the hapless constable whose men thwart the evil plotter Don John (great baddie acting from Stephen Artus!). Two roles I had never really noticed much in other productions of Much Ado, Leonato and Don Pedro, were given such outstanding performances by Rob Tripp and Daryl Bennett that I looked at them in a new light.

Director Alison Kirkwood has imbued the production with a lightness and clarity that brings the text alive. This play really lends itself to visual comedy and I am happy to report there is lots of this going on. There are also some lovely musical interludes from music director Dennis Golding with some first rate a cappella singing from the cast. Everyone involved in RAFTA should be very proud of what they have achieved with this show.