Much Ado About Nothing
17/08/2023 - 19/08/2023
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare.
Director - Derek Doddington
Top Dog Theatre
After fabulous reviews in 2021 and 2022, Top Dog Theatre returns to the magnificent Isaac Theatre Royal for another Shakespearean adventure!
Last year’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream stunned massive audiences with its positively dreamy set, including aerialists and much hilarity. Top Dog Theatre director, Derek Doddington MNZM, is looking forward to delighting audiences again in 2023 – “Frisbees, ice cream and sunshine – Shakespeare on the beach, what more could you want?”
Much Ado About Nothing is another of Shakespeare’s brilliant, fast-paced romantic comedies, brimming with interwoven plots of romance and intrigue, dances and deception, love and loathing, music and a masked ball, plus practical jokes galore to inspire and entertain the audience!
Please join us in the magnificent Isaac Theatre Royal to see one of the world’s most famous plays, and some of Shakespeare’s most famous charismatic characters like Benedick and Beatrice, who exclaim they hate each other, when the opposite is true!
Isaac Theatre Royal. – 2 hours 15 minutes with 15 minute Interval
17th August 7:30pm
18th August 7:30pm
19th August 2pm & 7:30pm
Price range $21 – $42
Leonata - Anna Willows
Messenger - Hanna Harvey
Beatrice - Hester Ullyart
Hero - Palenque Doddington
Don Pedro - Aaron Boyce
Benedick - Will Alexander
Don John - Nick Bisa
Claudio - Mike Wood
Conrade - Josiah Morgan
Borachio - Khalil Qualls
Antonio - Giles Wood
Balthasar - Heather McFarlane
Margaret - Sarah Clare Judd
Ursula - Grace Opie
Dogberry - Nikki Bleyendaal
Verges - Dan Crossen
Lifeguard 1 - Hanna Harvey
Lifeguard 2 - Jonty Coulson
Lifeguard 3 - Will Sudell
Friar Francis - Matt Lang
Barista - Tim Guy
The Stripper - Matt Lang
Family Father - Tim Guy
Family Mother - Louisa Clarkson
Family Daughter - Sonya Li-McHenry
Wedding Crew - William Wallace
Wedding Crew - Kristen Truman
On-stage musician - Criss Grueber
Lighting Designer - Grant Robertson (The Light Site)
Lighting Operator - Darren McKane
Sound provider - BounceNZ
Sound Operator - Derek Doddington
Costume - Caitlin Maclennan
Props - Georgia Smith
2 hours 15 minutes with 15 minute Interval
A vibrant Shakespearean romp, made modern and accessible
Review by Julie McCloy 18th Aug 2023
In Top Dog Theatre’s third production of Shakespeare to take the Issac Theatre Royal stage, Much Ado About Nothing, director Derek Doddington has dusted off the Bard and repackaged him for a wider, modern audience. There is a lot happening here – sometimes a little too much – but if the reactions of my fellow theatre goers is any indication, it is a success.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Much Ado is a comedy and love story, with some rather dark moments thrown in. We begin as prince Don Pedro (Aaron Boyce) and his soldiers – including Benedick (Will Alexander) and Claudio (Mike Wood) – return home. These last two are the male halves of two possible couples (with Beatrice and Hero, respectively), and each holds wildly differing views of love, women and the merits of both.
Whilst Benedick and his sparring partner Beatrice (Hester Ullyart) are both decidedly avowed against love forever, Claudio and Hero (Palenque Doddington) are ring shopping almost from the moment their eyes meet. But it wouldn’t be a Shakespearean comedy if there weren’t villains, tears and some raucous belly laughs on the way.
Our setting is largely a private beach, roughly present day, where we encounter the ‘frisbees, ice cream and sunshine’ the Top Dog blurb promises – as well as not one but two quad bikes. I’m sure I’m not the only one who experiences some anxiety as they execute a tight turn getting off stage! Subtle use of lighting transforms the set into several indoor spaces and timeframes, and the costuming ranges from the simple and modern to period fabulousness for the masquerade.
Standout is the wonderful Alexander, creating a recognisably Shakespearian Benedick who is still modern, relatable and hilarious. Great diction, comedic timing and the right amount of bravado makes his Benedick one you root for.
As the object to his scorn/love, Ullyart’s Beatrice is a savvy east-ender (I think!) with a ‘do I look bovvered?’ attitude. She creates a Beatrice that many will warm to – a woman not willing to believe the hype regarding anyone or thing, especially men, although I would have loved to hear a ‘yes’ occasionally rather than a ‘yeah’; maybe my old-school Shakespeare sensibilities are just too hard to shake off.
Anna Willows’ Leonata – a character originally written by Shakespeare as a man – is convincing as both a fussing mother, eager to dispose of her daughter in marriage, and a grieving one, enraged at her child’s ultimate disposal. A wonderful performance both of comedy and, even more so, grief, in which Willows fills the stage with her rage.
Boyce’s Don Pedro is the seeming voice of calm and reason, an engaging portrayal that hits the mark perfectly. As lovers Hero and Claudio, Doddington and Wood create a pair of lovers whose giddiness is all that Shakespeare could have asked for.
They are supported by a very able ensemble who throw themselves (quite literally at times) into this physical and fast-moving interpretation. Shoutouts to Nikki Bleyendaal, whose US-inspired Chief Lifeguard Dogberry is a crowd favourite; Kahlil Qualls’ gleefully wicked Borachio; and Jonty Coulson as Lifeguard 2 for his enthusiastic pre-show and half-time crowd engagement. I had not expected to be taking part in a “I say ‘hey’, you say ‘nonny nonny’” back and forth, but here we are!
Heather McFarlane’s clear, beautiful voice and Chris Grueber’s musical versatility on keyboards (onstage during the whole performance) provide the musical magic of the show – kudos to both of them.
Doddington’s interpretation promises to bring Much Ado into the modern world. The somewhat casual delivery of lines, ad libbing and impromptu aside jokes, help achieve that. There are moments the show borders on slapstick and could have benefit from a few less distracting gimmicks, but overall this is a vibrant Shakespearean romp, made modern and accessible.
You may walk away slightly bewildered at everything that has just happened on stage, but you will certainly be entertained.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer