MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
16/02/2015 - 22/02/2015
From the group that presented Hamilton with The Comedy of Errors and Macbeth, comes an athletic, quick witted comedy.
Apocalypse Lounge presents a contemporary spin on the classic tale of the game of love. The proud Beatrice and the embittered Benedick can’t resist trading barbs in a game of one-up-man-ship. Their friends try to trick them into love but the scheme of a jealous scoundrel and the outcome of a disastrous wedding cause them to reconsider their relationship and themselves.
Where: Festival Hub
When: Mon 16, Tues 17, Wed 18 & Thurs 19 Feb 2015
When: Sun 22 Feb 2015
Tickets: Free but all and any donations gratefully accepted
Benedick: Brendan West
Beatrice: Emma Koretz
Leonato: Graeme Cairns
Claudia: Louise Blackstock
Hero: Jonathan Wilce
Petra: Alice Kimber-Bell
Joan: Hannah Grant
Borachio: Sebastian Byrne
Ursula: Bronwyn Williams
Margaret: Courteney Nielsen
Conrade: Nick Bourchier
Dogberry: Pip Smith
Verges: Andrew Lyall
Friar: Francis Danny Mills
Seacole: Tim Kapoor
Directed and Produced by Ross MacLeod
Costumes by Gina Hitchcock
Better luck next time
Review by Jan-Maree Franicevic 17th Feb 2015
My good friend Frances and I are super excited to see this show. The same company, Apocalypse Lounge, under the same director, Ross MacLeod, did a smashing job of The Comedy of Errors at last year’s HGAF so we are feeling pretty chipper as we put up our camp seats and unpack our chilly bin of home-made treats, preparing to enjoy tonight’s opening performance of this year’s Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, which is incidentally my favourite of all the Bard’s tales.
As soon as the play begins I am woeful. Has this company learned nothing from the many sound obstacles of last year? The actors fail for the majority of the first act to be heard over the sound spilling from another show, spilling from passing walkers seemingly oblivious to the events of the evening. But then so poor is the projection of this cast (but for a few) that they are being drowned out by the very light tinkling of the water feature in the nearby Turtle Lake. Not good, especially as my theatre companion is new to the story and thus at the end of Act One struggling to piece it all together.
I have to commend the work of Brendan West who plays an adequate Benedick in strong voice; thank goodness as this means we can hear him. Emma Koretz portrays a predictable Beatrice and can be made out most of the time. Graeme Cairns (Leonato) is audible and certainly delivers his lines with some confidence, more than I can say for the rest of the cast who flounder with the script. They all seem a little under rehearsed.
Director MacLeod has bravely put his twist on the tale in reversing the gender in some of the core roles but I am really unsure why, as there seems little reason for it in the production except to confuse. So Don Pedro is Petra, Don John becomes Joan, Claudio becomes Claudia and Hero is a male. I love a good twist but here it is not well thought out enough to be considered innovative or courageous.
I am also confused because MacLeod is playing the part of Petra (Don Pedro), read from a flipbook of the script of which no mention made at the start of the play. I mean, I get it, Alice Kimber-Bell (Petra) is absent, at the end of the show it is explained that he has played the part tonight and at their preview showing in Te Pahu. I can’t help wondering if she is unwell, bereaved or if mutiny has unfolded.
The smallest, wiriest member of the cast is the outstanding find of my night and the star of the show. Pip Smith plays Dogberry with peppery verve and vigor. She is jolly good fun to watch, which picks the waning crowd up and carries us over the finish line to the happy-ever-after ending Shakespeare penned. She also has a fine set of lungs on her and plays the simpleton ‘Sherriff’ sensationally well. It’s a shame that in many ways this shows up the lack in her fellow cast all the more.
I am appalled at Louise Blackstock’s portrayal of Claudia. Where is the sensitive young paramour? Where is the naïveté? To my mind one of the richest and most emotional moments of the play is found in the delicate strains of a love lost as Claudio speaks to clear his beloved Hero at her resting place. Tonight this beautiful moment is nothing short of butchered and I cannot blame the gender reversal; if anything I expected that a woman would play it even more beautifully. Sadly, no.
I hope as the season progresses the experience for the audience is heightened but I fear this production needs more than a few nights’ run. It would perhaps benefit from a few more weeks of solid rehearsal and a clearer directorial vision.
Better luck next time Apocalypse Lounge. We leave a bit low of spirits, I am sad that my dear friend and companion for the night is still to enjoy the great work that Much Ado About Nothing can be when it is done well.
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