‘ShakesBeer presents Much Ado About Nothing’ was developed from a drunken idea by two Aussies, James Haxby and Chris Huntly-Turner, both of whom were Classical Acting graduates at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Chris worked extensively in the UK with the Fledgling Theatre Company in London, helping youths who had lost their way. James toured and acted 200 shows with the Pop-Up Globe company, although at present he is touring with ‘Puffs’ (presented very recently in Perth).
As James and Chris staggered home one night, they realised that Shakespearean acting troupes would perform up to a dozen show each night, moving from pub to pub before passing the hat around. As the original producer, British lass Natalie Lines said ‘Shakespeare is not for hushed playhouses, velvet seats and yawning arts patrons. Shakespeare is alive. It is bawdy. It is messy. It is energetic. It is entertainment. Shakespeare has his roots in pubs’. And so, Bar’d Work was born with months of sell-out shows on the East coast – until Covid!
In the West along came PhD student Andrew Kocsis who worked independently but unknowingly in parallel with the east. Andrew has edited Shakespeare’s work cramming it with fun and then ‘volunteered’ half a dozen of Murdoch University’s Acting School’s finest students of the last 10 years for his troupe. He now presents this very funny, punchy production. Never before have so many theatre PhDs taken part in a Shakespearean production (in Melville).
This fast paced, hilarious and irreverent condensed version (90 minutes) of Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is being presented at Kadidjiny Park Hall (opposite 69 Kitchener Road), Melville. This spacious hall allows comfortably for the cabaret seating and a clear view of the action. The actors occasionally mingle amongst the audience, giving full involvement without any dreaded audience participation. The seating is comfortable and the tables have smart tablecloths, hand sanitiser and decoration.
The Scene: Messina
The Set: Minimal. A couple of black side flats with a rear black drape.
The stage management and highly efficient wardrobe mistress was Tiffany Banner.
A short synopsis for the uninitiated:-
Count Claudio, part of Duke Don Pedro’s army, falls in love with Hero the daughter of his host, Leonato.
Hero’s cousin, Lady Beatrice (a confirmed spinster) and Benedick (an eternal bachelor) are each duped into believing the other is in love with them. Claudio is deceived by Borachio. That night, Hero’s maid Margaret talks with Borachio from Hero’s bedroom window. Claudio and the Duke watch secretly from a distance and think that the girl at the window is Hero. A malicious plot develops that denounces Hero as unchaste before they marry.
Claudio denounces her, leaving her seemingly dead from shock. With the help of the priest, Leonato, Beatrice, and Benedick decide to pretend that Hero is actually dead until her name can be cleared.
The watchmen – managed by the bumbling village constable Dogberry – overhear Borachio and Conrad bragging about the trick they have just played on Claudio and Don Pedro. The pair are arrested. Benedick wins Beatrice’s love defending her cousin’s honour and to his surprise, Claudio is reunited with Hero, whom he believed dead.
The five actors play sixteen parts and with hatstands sometimes playing key characters. This show literally rocks with the occasional pop classic. Andrew Kocsis has always been a fine actor but this piece shows his immense and diverse talents, from serious parts such as Friar Francis to the amusing ‘cool dude’, Dogberry. Melissa Merchant was magnificent as the aging Leonato.
Sarah Courtis, Grace Edwards and Philip Hutton covered a multitude of characters with aplomb. This is a very well-rehearsed play with the cast working the audience perfectly whilst still being loyal to Shakespeare’s work. Great fun by a talented troupe.