‘Much Ado About Nothing’ by William Shakespeare is often referred to as one of his best comedies, but this description underestimates the brilliance of the Bell Shakespeare Company’s talents. This contemporary version is true to the script, although it does contain one or two up-to-date visual jokes.
I saw this sexist struggle in the Fairfax Theatre in Melbourne – which is theatre in the semi-in-the-round – with the audience at times less than a metre from the cast. Many of the actors lept at this opportunity to connect with the audience. One often talks about the ‘fourth wall’ but here the actors were effectively in your loungeroom as friends – often taking the mickey.
In WA the play starts a short season at the State Theatre on the 7th August and visits Albany, Bunbury and Mandurah before moving back over east.
The scene: the gardens of a wealthy businessman Leonato, a respectable nobleman who lives in the idyllic Italian town of Messina. 2019.
The set: was designed by Pip Runciman, who created a golden framework that formed a Colonial style veranda with numerous plant pots – and a lawn! Oh, the lawn!
Lighting Designer Niklas Pajanti with Composer and Sound Designer Andrée Greenwell gave a vibrant atmosphere.
Returning from battle were Claudio (Will McDonald), Benedick (Duncan Ragg), Don Pedro (Danny Ball) the Prince of Aragon who were visiting Leonato (David Whitney) the Governor of Messina. Claudio falls in love with Leonato’s only daughter, Hero (Vivienne Awosoga), while his pal Benedick swaps insults with Leonato’s quick-witted feral niece, Beatrice (Zindzi Okenyo), whilst her protective father Antonio (Suzanne Pereira) looks on.
Don Pedro agrees to help Claudio woo Hero at a masquerade ball but did not reckon on his malevolent brother Don John (Paul Reichstein) stirring up trouble, but the misunderstanding is quickly resolved, with Claudio and Hero getting engaged. With nothing to do in the week before the wedding, Don Pedro tries to trick Beatrice and Benedick into falling in love with each other.
Don John does not give up easily and with the help of Borachio (Will McDonald), plots to ruin the wedding. The local security men – ‘The Watch’ – are led by Dogberry (Mandy Bishop) and the bag lady, Verges (Marissa Bennett) try to take control.
Could marriage be doomed for everyone?
Bell Shakespeare’s Associate Director, James Evans, has given us an uproarious show with laugh-out-loud moments every minute of the script. Exceptionally funny. romance is thwarted by dastardly plots, misinformation, false accusations, broken promises, and bumbling cops.
Movement and Fight Director Nigel Poulton, with the Voice and Text Coach Jess Chambers created some wild characters, that at times played by actors who were hard to recognise.
Bell Shakespeare was developed to bring the standard heavy going plays to a level of delivery and explanation that would allow all to enjoy, without feeling that they are being patronised or spoken down to. A young teenager will understand this complex play easily thanks the warmth and fun conviviality of the cast. SHAKESPEARE AT ITS BEST. Highly recommended.