MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (Pop-Up Globe 2017)
23/02/2017 - 12/05/2017
Much Ado About Nothing
Presented by the Pop-up Globe Queen’s Company.
“I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me.”
The Pop-up Globe Queen’s Company presents Shakespeare’s hilarious comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, at Pop-up Globe Auckland.
Travelling home in the summer heat, a group of soldiers break their journey on a South Pacific Island, at a luxurious mansion inhabited by a wealthy businessman and his beautiful entourage. But while the valiant Claudio and beautiful Hero are head over heels in love, the cynical Benedick swears he’ll never be married – and particularly not to the quick-witted Beatrice. Or will he? Mayhem ensues.
With a contemporary setting, and performed by a full cast in spectacular costumes that blend the past and present, Much Ado About Nothing is an invitation to a joyful and uproarious house party, combining live music, dance and performances by a specially formed international ensemble.
The Pop-up Globe Queen’s Company are Pop-up Globe’s resident mixed company of male and female actors and live musicians, working with world experts to bring you the shock of the old: the effect of Shakespeare’s plays performed in the space for which they were written.
Pop-up Globe Theatre, The Shakespeare Gardens, Ellerslie Racecourse, 80 Ascot Avenue, Ellerslie, Auckland
Dates, times and ticket info: http://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2017/much-ado-about-nothing/auckland
Pacific-styled Much Ado a delight
Review by Paul Simei-Barton 01st Mar 2017
With Pop-up Globe firmly planted on Aotearoa’s rich soils, it is great to see a uniquely Pacific flavour infused into a sparkling production of one of Shakespeare’s finest comedies.
Much Ado About Nothing, the story of band of soldiers enjoying rest and recreation after a successful military campaign, is transposed to a Pacific Island setting where director Miriama McDowell artfully weaves elements of Polynesian music, dance and ritual into the unfolding drama. [More]
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Review by Nik Smythe 27th Feb 2017
Narrative-wise, Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s more straightforward, dare I say predictable comedies. Its enduring appeal is in the pervasive wit, exchanges of ingenious insults, along with some properly poignant and poetic turns of earnest declaration. The Nothing (pronounced ‘noting’) in the title refers to the contemporary term for gossip and/or eavesdropping, being the decisive factor of the story’s main plotlines.
Characterisation and direction are essential to realising the potential of these crafty words, to which end director Miriama McDowell and the Pop-up Globe season’s Queen’s Company are quite successful. Taking a while to warm up, by the middle of act two the audience is fully engaged, laughing heartily, participating joyfully when called upon, and cheering with elation when what everyone knew would happen happens.
As is often the modus operandi with modern Shakespeare, belief must be suspended as the world in which the action takes place is a universe unto itself. The script’s Mediterranean setting is barely, if at all, relevant to the specifics of the plot, and here it’s infused with a distinct Polynesian flavour as played out by the truly multicultural and wholly well-appointed cast.
In relatable romantic-lead position, smooth, earnest Claudio (Theo Davis) plays opposite the sincere and constant Hero (Victoria Abbot) with measured degrees of mutual lightheartedness and gravitas. Phil Grieve’s doting patriarch Leonato and Kevin Keys’ honourable prince Don Pedro also contribute moral respectability to the tale, while maintaining their senses of humour and being not at all above a sneaky prank or two, for wholly altruistic reasons of course.
Comic leads and audience favourites, the cynically jocular Benedick (Semu Filipo) and the sassily sharp-witted Beatrice (Jacque Drew) inevitably betray their vehemently denied respective feelings for each other through their hilarious, excessive mutual vitriol. Filipo and Drew fully maximise the opportunity given them to the voluminous appreciation of the crowd, blessed as they are with many of the play’s best lines.
If it were a competition, their closest rivals would be the Leonato estate’s vigilant watchmen, the camp evangelist Dogberry (Kieran Mortell) and his reedy, inelegant sidekick Verges (Johnny Light). On Dogberry’s dubious authority they interact the most directly with the delighted crowd, initially the cause of significant confusion and misunderstanding but ultimately crucial components in the saving of the day*.
Te Kohe Tuhaka cuts a quietly menacing figure of a despicable villain as resident scoundrel Don John, the bastard brother of Pedro. With assistance from co-conspirators, the weaselly swindler Borachio (Daryl Green) and his obnoxious German companion Conrade (Haakon Smestad), John maliciously subverts the fledgling romance of Claudio and Hero for reasons none too clear besides your basic jealousy and resentment – kind of Iago-lite if you will.
From the start and throughout, the audience is frequently brought into the action by direct address, asking questions, assigning various tasks and call-and-response type participation, beginning with Dogberry leading the capacity crowd in a rousing rendition of the Banana Boat Song as we convene**. This inclusive approach has the very positive effect of engendering us to care more about the ensuing events and the characters involved than we might have otherwise.
A handful of scene-setting rubber plants and wooden crates festoon the impressive main set, presumably the basis for all four works in the season with its multi-storeyed brick and wood façade with white columns and the essential protruding balcony. Costume designer Chantelle Gerrard supports the production’s cultural fusion with classical white tunics and frocks, white uniforms with black straps, machetes for the military, and the watchmen’s stubby light khaki boy-scout outfits.
The opening number performed by the whole cast beating saucepans with wooden spoons notwithstanding, musical director Paul McLaney’s live ensemble – comprising various drums, strings and horns – works on two levels, literally (one upstage on the main ground-level court area, the other inside on the upper level) and a few more stylistically and textually. Simple, folky, occasionally circus-like tunes are infused with distinctive Pasifika rhythms, with the iconic ‘Hey-nonny-nonny’ song sung and danced to a solo tenor sax by Claudio, Pedro and Benedick as a deconstructivist boy band.
Suitably integrated with the music, Megan Adams’ choreography features similarly eclectic elements of ballroom, folk, tribal and contemporary dance, delivered with infectiously energetic flair.
The overall package befits the reported practice of the historic Globe, blending diverse elements from classic and modern cultural eras, not arbitrarily as such, but in accordance with its own internal, organically devised logic. The resulting production is quite impressive and, crucially, highly entertaining.
* On opening night Verges was conspicuously absent in the second half, covered for with impressive aplomb by Mortell and company. I hope and trust whatever occurred during the interval was not too serious, albeit enough to have Light sit out the entire remaining performance and curtain call.
** I confess to being a tad irritated by the erroneous lyrics of the Belafonte classic: Mortell directs us to sing ‘Hey Mr. Tallyman, show me your banana’, whereas the actual line is ‘Hey Mr. Tallyman, tally me banana’. Because it’s the singer who has the bananas to show, for the tallyman to count. Petty and pedantic I know, but it’s the little things isn’t it.
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