Much Ado About Nothing

Rose Gardens, Victoria Esplanade, Palmerston North

09/03/2012 - 17/03/2012

Production Details

Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, and its setting, a Sicilian country estate, is one that adapts particularly well to outside performance.

Director Amanda McRaven and her team will create this setting in amongst the roses in the Victoria Esplanade, Palmerston North, as she tells this tale of romance, sexual tension, deceit and trickery.

This production marks the tenth anniversary of Summer Shakespeare which has become an eagerly awaited institution in the city and a vital part of Palmerston North’s cultural calendar. With some of Shakespeare’s wittiest dialogue, enhanced and supported by dance choreographed by Liz Kirkman, and music by Hannah Rohe, this year’s Summer Shakespeare promises to be an experience not to be missed.

Rose Gardens, Victoria Esplanade, Palmerston North.
If the weather is wet, we will use the auditorium in the Old Main Building at Massey University’s Turitea Campus. Entry is by koha (gold coin donation).

Friday 9th – Saturday 10th March, 7:00pm
Sunday 11th March, 2:00pm
Thursday – Friday 16th March, 7:00pm
Saturday 17th March, 2:00pm & 7:00pm  

Leonato’s Household
Leonato — Bruce Sinclair
Hero — Rosie Anderson
Beatrice — Maree Gibson
Ursula — Kelly Harris
Margaret — Lana Sklenars
Sister Francis — Ashleigh Hook

The Arragon Contingent 
Don Pedro — Kieren Kleinschmidt
Claudio of Florence — Matt Waldin
Benedick of Padua — David “Div” Collins
Don John — Phil White
Borracio — Brendan Barriball
Conrade — Rhian Firmin
Balthasar/Sexton — Hannah Rohe

Good Folk of Messina 
Dogberry — Hannah Pratt
Verges — Mark Kilsby
Watchman — Trent Pedley
Musician/Watchman — Natalie Peart

Crew and Production Team
Assistant Director ‒ Kelly Harris
Producer ‒ Joy Green
Stage Manager ‒ Thérèse Mcrea
Assistant Stage Manager ‒ Sasha Lipinsky
Musical Director – Hannah Rohe
Choreographer – Liz Kirkman
Sound ‒ Nick Skarrot
Set Design, Props and Construction — Nic Green
Costume Design ‒ Sarah Carswell
Front of House Coordinator — Megan Green
Photographer — Anu Shae
Webmaster – Tom Ryder
Lighting — Jesse Watts
Lighting Design ‒ Laurie Deans
Publicity Design – Kereama Beale
Executive Producer — Dr. Angie Farrow

Wonderfully fluent 'Ado' makes a real splash

Review by Richard Mays 10th Mar 2012

It’s not every Summer Shakespeare that can boast flying its director in direct from LA. Indeed, it’s not just any Shakespeare that has a performer delivering lines while swimming – not even in the movies…

Palmerston North’s Victoria Esplanade Rose Gardens fishpond doesn’t just provide a pretty setting for this 10th anniversary production of the current Summer Shakespeare cycle, it’s an intrinsic part of the action. It’s swum in, waded across, bathed in, floated upon and very nearly pissed in, while ‘wet hugs’ from fully clothed dowsed characters add to the comedy.  

When Don John, bastard brother of the Prince of Arragon, played by Phil White, takes a full length dive into the pond early in the piece, there is an audible gasp from an audience who don’t really believe what they’ve seen, or heard. The play’s Machiavellian villain is unveiling plans to embarrass Claudio, his brother’s best friend and comrade in arms, to a poolside confederate while doing freestyle.

This kind of applied imagination, coupled with unflinching bravery and commitment from the large cast of performers in the face of less than summery temperatures, typifies Amanda McRaven’s production.

From Virginia, but now living in LA, McRaven is the summer artist in residence at MasseyUniversity, ‘noting’ (also a Shakespearean pun on ‘nothing’ that means eavesdropping or overhearing – the device which drives the play) in the programme that Much Ado is one of her favourite Shakespeare plays. It shows.

Assembling an accomplished cast, she has dispersed them artfully around the whole flag-stoned parameter of the pool, making brilliant use of the extensive space.

The ensemble style production is enhanced throughout by licks from Hannah Rohe’s small roving ukulele based band, and as it darkens, beautifully lit by Laurie Deans. Fluttering pennants and floating candle rafts add richness to the effect, while during the performance, cast members in their styled not-any-particular-period costumes busy themselves with a variety of low-key incidental tasks like tai chi, a spot of gardening or pool cleaning.

The production kicks off with one heck of an alcohol-fuelled masquerade party when Don Pedro, played with youthful aplomb by Kieren Kleinschmidt, leads his troops home from the wars to theMessinaestate of Leonato. Bruce Sinclair gives this ‘greybeard’ role its necessary gravitas but can also turn on merriment and mischief when occasion calls.

Among the returning soldiers is the philosophic Benedick, a confirmed bachelor. To this nimble-tongued role, Div Collins applies an impressive range of vocal, physical and character skills, whether he’s sparring with Maree Gibson’s Beatrice or listening in on his pranking mates from the ripples of the pond.

Gibson plays the quick-witted Beatrice in a slightly world-weary fashion; and though she invests the part with plenty of presence, misses something of the smiling spark expected from a woman ‘born in a merry hour’.

While the landed gentry and nobility are the focus of Shakespeare’s two entwined love stories, it is the common ‘good folk ofMessina’ whose dedication to night-watch duties ensures the play’s happy ending.

This eavesdropping under-plot centres on the bumbling and malapropism-spouting Constable Dogberry, played by a strutting Hannah Pratt. Resplendent in calve-length boots, long socks, eye-wateringly short pants, tight white blouse and police hat, she presents a delightfully verbose ‘dumb-blonde’ Dogberry that’s quite unlike anything experienced before.

While Summer Shakespeare has been a feature at Massey since the 1960s, in 2003 it was moved off campus and into the Victoria Esplanade where it has enjoyed a variety of settings and is able to attract larger audiences. That 2003 production, The Tempest, was staged over the fishpond, so it was appropriate for McRaven to return the 10th anniversary production to its ‘font’.

In those ten years, the performance has grown from being something of a novelty to a major community theatre event; 2011’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream winning the year’s best overall production and best director at the annual regional Globe Theatre Awards.

The standard of this wonderfully fluent performance with its attention to creating an other-worldly quality, serious character detail, and choreographed slapstick – all in a terrific setting – is right up there with it. 


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