MUCH ADOE ABOUT NOTHING
TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland
26/01/2016 - 30/01/2016
Pop-Up Globe, Bard's Yard, 38 Greys Avenue, CBD, Auckland
21/02/2016 - 21/02/2016
YOUNG ACTORS TO PERFORM ORIGINAL PRACTICES SHAKESPEARE WITH A MODERN TWIST
AUCKLAND, NZ – The Young Auckland Shakespeare Company (YASC) is pleased to announce that their fourth annual summer youth production, Much adoe about Nothing, will be performed at The Auckland Performing Arts Centre (TAPAC) and the Pop-Up Globe in early 2016 using design and process inspired by original Elizabethan practices.
Traditionally, males played all the roles in Shakespeare’s plays. In 2016, YASC honours Shakespeare’s original intention, with males playing the female roles, but in a modern twist will redress the gender balance by casting females to play all the male roles.
Featuring a cast of 22 young actors aged 14-21, Much Adoe About Nothing will be directed by YASC founder and Artistic Director, Rita Stone. The play will come to glorious Elizabethan life in the re-imagined Jacobean Indoor Playhouse at TAPAC for five nights before transferring to the outdoor Pop-Up Globe in Auckland’s CBD for two performances only.
All the actors wear bespoke authentic Elizabethan costumes, constructed especially for this production by costume designer Chantelle Gerrard. Chantelle brings a wealth of experience in historical costume making and design, including a recent stint in the UK working on Game of Thrones as a costume maker. Chantelle says, “I have always loved historical costume, it has always captured my imagination – especially this time period. The opportunity to design and create the costumes for this production is both a pleasure and a challenge and I am looking forward to it.”
The actors will work with cue scripts during rehearsals. This is a key element of the Original Practices concept; each actor is provided with only his or her lines and up to three words of the cue line just before each of theirs – as the actors would have done in Shakespeare’s companies. “Although this was common practice for the Elizabethan actor, this is a really unique way of working for the modern actor,” says director Rita Stone, “it means you have to be so incredibly present, listening for your cue, which could come at any time. You don’t have a copy of the whole script, and by being so present, so aware, you begin to tune in to the character and staging intentions that you could otherwise miss.” YASC is working from the First Folio edition in order to explore and discover clues to the text from the first published source of the play.
One of the most exciting things about this production is that the cast, crew and audiences can experience an Original Practices Shakespeare play in a Jacobean indoor playhouse first, and then follow it to the outdoor playhouse setting of the Pop-Up Globe. “Research tells us that Shakespeare and his contemporaries commonly produced their plays both privately at indoor venues such as the Blackfriars and then publicly in outdoor playhouses such as the Globe,” Stone explains, “Actors had to be versatile in performing in both spaces, and companies frequently had to tour between the two.” One such company that regularly played at the Jacobean indoor playhouse was the Children of Blackfriars – a company of young boy players – a further echo to this production of modern young actors. “I’m excited by the challenges that lie ahead in adapting this performance from indoor to outdoor as they would have done.”
“We are absolutely thrilled to be part of the Pop-Up Globe phenomenon in Auckland next year and to be producing an original practices show to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death,” says Producer Mary Rinaldi. “This opportunity may never come along again for many of these young actors.”
Much Adoe About Nothing
at TAPAC, The Auckland Performing Arts Centre, 100 Motions Road, Western Springs
26-30 January 2016
at 7pm, with 2pm matinees on 27 and 30 January
at Pop-Up Globe, Bard’s Yard, 38 Greys Avenue, Auckland CBD
21 February 2016, 1pm and 7pm
Tickets available from www.tapac.org.nz and www.popupglobe.co.nz
Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Rita Stone
Assistant Director: Caleb Wells
Costume Designer: Chantelle Gerrard
Musical Director: Cherie Moore
Choreographer: Tatiana Hotere
Set artist/painter: Carol Kodama
Videography: Harriett Maire/Lucie Everett-Brown
Photography: Lucie Everett-Brown
Benedick: Courtney Bassett
Beatrice: Murdoch Keane
Claudio: Crystelle L’Amie
Hero: Kierron Diaz-Campbell
Don Pedro: Ariane Lenihan
Don John: Kelly Harris
Leonato: Irene Corbett
Antonio: Louise Piggin
Margaret: Sam Meyerhoff
Ursula: Sora Lee
Borachio: Maisie Lewis
Conrad: Monica Reid
Balthasar: Shaman Theron
Friar Francis: Grace Hood-Edwards
Sexton: Lucia Hocking-Whitehead
Messenger: Alessandra Tusa
Boy: Alexandra Schofield
Dogberry: Harriett Maire
Verges: Savannah Walker
First Watchman: Anuja Mitra
George Secole: Lily Wright
Hugh Otecake: Imogen Bunting
Violin: Irene Corbett
Viola: Lucia Hocking-Whitehead
Guitar/ Ukelele: Alessandra Tusa
Flute/ Recorder: Lily Wright
Percussion: Imogen Bunting
For the matinee show on Saturday 30 January, the following understudies will play the following roles:
Alexandra Schofield – Claudio
Lucia Hocking-Whitehead – Leonato
Anuja Mitra – Dogberry
Producer: Mary Rinaldi
Stage Manager (Rehearsals): Morag Carter
Deputy Stage Manager: Jordan Keyzer
Deputy Stage Manager: Lucie Everett-Brown
Assistant Stage Manager: Sean Mitchell
Assistant Stage Manager: Raven Faifua-Young
Technical Manager: Ruby Reihana-Wilson
Youth , Theatre ,
Admirable maturity in excellent young assemblage
Review by Lexie Matheson 28th Jan 2016
William Shakespeare died 400 years ago at the age of fifty two. In what was a relatively short life he produced, alone and in collaboration, thirty eight plays, one hundred and fifty four sonnets, two long poetic works and he may, or may not, have penned a few other bits and bobs. Considering the impact he has made on the world we know very little about him apart from the clues he leaves in his works.
Auckland is celebrating the year of his demise early, and impressively, with the construction of a facsimile of the second Globe Theatre – the Pop Up Globe – currently being constructed in Bard’s Yard better known as the Auckland City Council Car Park out front of the Basement Theatre. It’s an impressive structure and will house seven productions of The Bard of Avon’s plays during its brief appearance in our city.*
Rita Stone’s excellent Young Auckland Shakespeare Company production of Much Adoe About Nothing is one of them and I’m mighty happy about that because – currently at TAPAC – it is very, very good indeed.
The idea that, all around the country, actors are discovering and rediscovering Shakespeare’s sublime texts is somehow deeply affirming and if the rest of the productions match Rita Stone’s Much Adoe we’ll all be in for a theatrical treat unmatched in our theatre history because she and her young charges have set the bar incredibly high.
Much Adoe About Nothing is a comedy with some profoundly serious bits and is thought to have been written around 1599, so it’s in the same stable as Henry IV: Parts I and II, Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Certainly the wit and bawdiness of the comedy seems to spill over into all four plays. It’s also resonant of the probable sources of the play: tales of deceived lovers that were commonplace in Northern Italy during the 16th century.
As is often the case with The Bard, the title of the play has its own degree of wit, with ‘nothing’ – which sounded in Elizabethan-speak like ‘noting’ meaning ‘rumour, gossip and eavesdropping – being also contemporary urban slang for vagina. Thus clever Mr Shakespeare manages, through the use of a single word, to suggest his play is of slight substance, is anchored by gossip and rumour and with an overarching emphasis on the power of his character’s ladyparts. Clever Ms Stone, by cross-gendering her cast, certainly gives us plenty of both!
Academics suggest Much Adoe is about morality, honour and dishonour, and the politics of the court but it seems, on viewing this production, that’s there’s possibly much more to it than that.
The action takes place in Messina, temporary home of Don Pedro, an Italian prince, who has been away at the wars with Claudio, his current favourite chum. Benedick has also been a player in his army.
He’s staying with Leonato, uncle of Beatrice, and she engages immediately in slagging Benedick off to anyone who will listen. We discover that a verbal contretemps has been ongoing for almost ever between the two. We also meet Don John, Pedro’s nasty brother, who makes it easy for us by coming clean immediately about his being evil.
Claudio announces his love for Hero and a masquerade ball is planned to celebrate the end of the fighting. Just to be clear, that’s the military fighting and not the diverting squabbles between B and B. While Claudio makes it plain that he can’t wait to hit the sheets with his new bride, Benedick declares that he will never marry. Pedro challenges this declaration – and it’s ‘game on!’
John puts some foul chicanery in place to disrupt the nuptials of Hero and Claudio with claims of infidelity, is successful beyond his wildest dreams, is finally caught out, and wisely scarpers. It’s all an ugly mess and, to protect Hero, Pedro’s people pretend that she is dead.
Benedick masks himself at the ball and dances with Beatrice who unwittingly describes Benedick as ‘a very dull fool’ and Benedick is far from pleased. Pedro, the equal of his brother in goodness, puts a tricky plan in place designed to have B & B face up to the fact that they are actually profoundly in love with each other and this works out too.
Beatrice, protecting Hero’s honour, demands that Benedick kill Claudio and makes their fledgling love affair the sacrifice if he says no. Terrified of losing the love he has only just admitted to, Benedick agrees.
Enter ‘The Watch’ who overhears the planned villainy and, with the exception of Don John, they arrest the perpetrators of all the apparent misdemeanours.
Claudio’s punishment is to marry a young woman who is ‘almost a copy’ of Hero and this he agrees to do. She is of course the resurrected Hero (resonances of Hermione in The Winter’s Tale), the marriage takes place and all the sub-plot characters live happily ever after. Benedick and Beatrice declare their eternal love for each other and, almost as a concluding gift, a messenger brings news that Don John has been captured.
It’s classic Shakespearean comedy and as such, when as well conceived, designed and acted as this production is, the whole is wildly funny and deeply satisfying.
Rita Stone’s programme notes refer to her desire and intention to replicate as authentically as possible the process used to create work of this type in Shakespeare’s time. This is perhaps first, and most obviously, apparent in her decision to use the original spelling of ‘adoe’ in the title, as it is found in the First Folio printing of 1623. Her actors were provided with the text in cue script form and, wherever possible, costumes, music and the limited technologies that were available to Shakespeare and his contemporaries early in the 17th century were used.
However this fascinating mix came together the outcome has been remarkably successful.
Entering the space we are met with a raised Jacobean performance platform with audience on three sides and the simplest of settings. Placed strategically on the platform are two simple wooden forms while, as a backdrop, there are two hanging drapes attractively decorated in each case with a single, painted tree. The whole is illuminated by six chandeliers which remain lit throughout providing excellent lighting for the continuous and uninterrupted action.
The production opens with a single actor standing on a balcony overlooking the stage, alerting us to the imminent beginning by beating gently but insistently on a bodhrán drum.
Almost the entire cast then flood onto the stage and perform a rousing version of the traditional Irish ballad ‘Here’s a health to the company’ and we are immediately thrust into both the narrative and into Shakespeare’s quasi-imaginary world.
Shakespeare, in his best plays, never eases us into his plot but hits the ground running and Much Adoe is no exception. In moments we are clobbered by Beatrice’s cutting wit and already know enough of the context to begin to untangle the web as we proceed. The pace seldom falters during the two hours journey on the stage despite the unavoidable humidity in the theatre – there’s a heatwave in Auckland at the moment – and this tale of gender combat and confusion unravels brilliantly.
As already noted, Stone has chosen – it turns out wisely – to cross-gender her characters with young men playing the women’s roles and young women playing the men. There is a gentle irony and humour in this decision as, in Shakespeare’s time, boys would have played the women’s roles because women were not permitted on the stage at all. The most oft-heard criticism of modern Shakespeare production is the lack of in-depth roles for women and, happily, this production turns that criticism on its head.
Every character is fully rounded and made real by this splendid ensemble with perhaps the most impressive component being the articulate and intelligent unscrambling of the text. In Hamlet Shakespeare advises his players to “suit the word to the action, the action to the word” and I have seldom seen a better example of this advice being put into practice than in this production. Each member of the ensemble plays the actions embedded in Shakespeare’s stunning text expertly and unambiguously – except when they don’t, and when they choose not to, the actors make it abundantly clear where, when, and mostly why, they have chosen to play against the text. It’s a level of performance maturity that is admirable beyond words.
Yes, this is an all singing, all dancing, all acting show and the unity that results from the marriage of these three performance facets is quite remarkable. Add excellent choreography (Tatiana Hotere), fantastic costumes (designer Chantelle Gerrard and her team) and great music (Cherie Moore) and this work is so very, very complete.
Beatrice (Murdoch Keane) and Benedict (Courtney Bassett) are beautifully matched. They make the text zing and the brilliant verbal engagement between the two ensures that we fully believe these two young people are desperately in love despite the vocal fireworks to the contrary.
Claudio (Crystelle A’mie) and Hero (Kierron Diaz-Campbell) are equally well-matched and the love they clearly have for each other is so well established that when Don John’s vulgar trickery ruptures the pair at the instant of wedlock the outcome is quite simply horrible. Each of these characters is fully evolved and all are unswervingly on top of the text.
Older characters are often the downfall of younger actors but not so in this case with Leonato (Irene Corbett), Don Pedro (Ariane Lenihan) and the vile Don John (Kelly Harris) all splendidly realised.
The status of these courtly characters is offset marvellously by the men of The Watch. Dogberry the Constable is a dream of a role and Harriet Maire has made it absolutely her own. She plays the rough comedy with an ease that both convinces us and sets in concrete the class difference between the court and everyone else. Although Mrs Malaprop had yet to give her name to this form of linguistic mumbo-jumbling – ‘malapropisms’ weren’t invented for a further two hundred years – Maire has mastered the art of delivering what has since become known as ‘The Dogberryism’ well in advance of her time. She is splendidly supported by Verges (Savannah Grace Walker), Tom Trout (Anuja Mitra), George Seacole (Lily Wright) and Hugh Otecake (Imogen Bunting).
In many ways it seems a shame to single out any one performer or creative from this excellent assemblage as each and every one of them contributes to a most satisfying whole but if I were to do so (and I clearly am) it would have to be director Rita Stone. The Young Auckland Shakespeare Company has been her baby since Day One and we’ve loved seeing it evolve to what it clearly is today. I don’t often say this but I simply can’t wait to see what this talented, capable, and dedicated bunch do next. No pressure, Rita, but we’re waiting! We’re waiting!
If you happen to be popping up to Auckland or popping down to the Pop Up Globe I have no hesitation in recommending you see Much Adoe About Nothing but I’d get in quick. My understanding from earlier today (28 January, 2016) is that seating for the first of their two shows at the Pop Up Globe is already booked out. My family loved it, I adored it and the audience left asking for more, much, much more.
*The others include The Pop Up Globe Theatre Company’s two contributions Romeo and Juliet (dir Ben Naylor) and Twelfth Night (dir Miles Gregory), the Auckland University annual summer Shakespeare The Tempest (dir Benjamin Henson), Byrnes Productions Ltd’s Anthony and Cleopatra (dir Vanessa Byrnes), the first known professional production of Henry V in Auckland’s history (dir Grae Burton), The Lord Lackbeards bring their Hamlet up from Wellington and the season ends with Fractious Tash’s revisiting of their 2015 success Titus. There will be guided tours, schools performances, seminars and workshops. It’s all incredibly exciting and the buzz around Auckland, and even beyond, is wonderful.
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[There’s a double meaning in that!]
Review by James Wenley 28th Jan 2016
More Shakespearean productions should do what the team behind Much Adoe do. To wit: the female roles are cast with male actors, the male roles are cast with female actors. We have the experience of watching the men take on Beatrice and Hero, roles written not for women, but for the ‘boy actors’ of the early modern stage. Beatrice’s “O that I were a man!” speech piles on the ironies and resonates differently when played by a man. Beatrice is a prized role and once again, irony of ironies, the dude get the best part in the play!
On the other hand, the second-female lead, Hero, is notoriously underwritten, a blank, and the other ‘female’ roles little more than bit parts. The casting means that there are a wide range of challenging parts for the female actors, such as the cocky Benedick, love-sick Claudio, scheming Don John and the diligent Dogberry, that they would not conventionally get considered for. Director Rita Stone’s casting strategy means we get the best of both worlds. [More]
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