Much Ado About Nothing
Globe Theatre, 104 London St, Dunedin
23/02/2017 - 04/03/2017
After a failed espionage attempt within the media empire of Messina, Don Pedro and company take some respite in a little family run newspaper office on the fringe of his empire. Upon their arrival Claudio falls for the fair Hero and nuptials are planned. Jane, Don Pedro’s bastard sister still licking her wounds from her failed coup is hell bent on causing as much havoc as possible, with no regard for the end result, even if the end result is death.
Laced with elements of mistaken identity, misdirection, and robust humour, Much Ado about Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s best comedies. The more the characters try to dig themselves out of their respective holes the larger those holes get. Put the more serious themes of honour, shame, and the effects of gossip into the mix and we have a play that has endured through the ages.
By the end you will be left thinking would any of this have happened if they had just talked to each other.
Don Pedro: Jerome Rouse
Lady Jane: Sofie Welvaert
Claudio: Ashley Stewart
Beatrice: Laura Wells
Benedick: Thomas Makinson
Hero: Bonnie Stewart
Leonato: Helen Fearnley
Antonio: Campbell Thomson
Balthazar: Oscar Macdonald
Borachio: Cain Sleep
Conrade: Anna Dawes
Messenger: Callum Davies
Friar Francis: Nick Brook
Dogberry: Emmett Hardie
Verges: Oscar Macdonald
1st Watchman: Sam Ogden
2nd Watchman: Andrew Brinsley-Pirie
A Boy: Jamie Byas
Margaret: Gabrielle Golding
Ursula: Kay Masters
Dale Neill - Director
Keith Scott - Publicity
Brian Byas - Lighting and Tech
Paul Ellicott - Stage Manager
Jamie Byas- Assistant Stage Manager
Leanne Byas - Front of House Manager
Ray Fleury - Set design and construction
Strong leads in press office version
Review by Kimberley Buchan 24th Feb 2017
Much Ado About Nothing is one of the great Shakespearean comedies. The fiery exchanges between Beatrice and Benedick lead the audience to suspect that they may have ended up together naturally even if they hadn’t been the victims of their conniving family and friends’ manoeuvring to set them up. The delightfully manufactured overheard conversations create genuinely hilarious reactions.
If it weren’t for the evil John the Bastard (in this version, Jane) Much Ado About Nothing would be a charming summertime romp. Alas, it is not to be. Underneath the good natured plotting of Leonato and his kin is the much darker malicious plotting of Don Jane. The plot does come perilously close to becoming tragedy but this just serves to give the play more depth.
The most wonderful thing about this play are the fantastic characters. Beatrice and Benedick are so sparky and vivacious with their witty repartee. The relationship between them is a rare healthy relationship in classic theatre, where there is deep respect for the other character, no matter what they say to each other in their face to face banter.
Jane the Bastard is a deliciously bad force of chaos. And of course, the zany character of Dogberry is a universal favourite, immortalised by Michael Keaton in Kenneth Branagh’s film version of Much Ado About Nothing.
So we are set up for a great evening at the theatre; interesting characters, solid plot, good Shakespeare.
The Globe Theatre’s 2017 offering of Much Ado About Nothing is set in a vaguely journalistic office. This adds interesting elements of the complexities of workplace relationships and ambitions to the already intricate interconnections between the characters. Some of the cast are able to meld Shakespearean language and this modern setting so that it becomes natural, rather than something artificially grafted on.
The cast, many of whom are fresh from a V Day production of A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer mere days ago, in which all proceeds went to Rape Crisis Dunedin and 1 Billion Rising, are impressively sprightly.
Director Dale Neill, who should be applauded for being a major sponsor of the V Day production, has a philosophy of giving brand new actors the opportunity to work in major productions. This is a fitting philosophy for a theatre with such strong community ties as the Globe, but does result in an uneven level of performance from the cast. Those with the clearest diction should be celebrated the most, as this is utterly essential in Shakespeare.
Laura Wells is wonderful as Beatrice. She plays a jaded woman who blooms with colour as she lets love into her heart. Her facial expressions are on point, especially when overhearing conversations. Thomas Makinson has the energy required for Benedick at his jesting best. He is most comfortable when he is clowning and playing up the script for laughs. A dash more gravitas would allow him to be more of Beatrice’ equal and react to “Kill Claudio” as a soldier would.
Jerome Rouse has nice subtle touches as the kindly and misled Don Pedro. He plays this role with ease. Sofie Welvaert slinks across the stage in a stunning array of sleek costumes and gorgeous shoes; she is snakelike, vicious and utterly fabulous as Jane the Bastard.
Ashley Stewart gives a strong performance as the a little too easily manipulated Claudio. He portrays him as the kind of nice young man whose easy going manners are only a thin veneer over vast jealousy and rage. Hero is the sweetly innocent Bonnie Stewart. Gabby Golding, as Margaret, is one of the few actors who relishes the innuendo of the script. It is great to see such enjoyment of the language, as many of the cast have chosen to play a very chaste interpretation of Shakespeare.
And finally, the bumbling fools who accidentally save the day: Dogberry and his men. Emmett Hardie is a wannabe militiaman version of Dogberry and is truly “too cunning to be understood”. Vincent Batt is adorable as one of the security guards – his pride in being given the responsibility of holding the torch is gorgeous. Oscar Macdonald and Sam Ogden bring great comic timing to their scenes.
This is a massive cast who should be commended for their ability to pull off this great play.
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