Thursday 7 December 2017

Much Ado About Nothing - Theatre Review

What: Much Ado About Nothing
When: 2-17 December 2017
Where: St Kilda Botanical Gardens
Written by: William Shakespeare
Directed by: Jennifer Sarah Dean
Musical Direction by: Ben Adams
Choreography by: John Reed
Performed by: Syd Brisbane, Nicola Bowman, May Jasper, Khisraw Jones-Shukoor, Dion Kaliviotis, Lelda Kapsis, Jonathon Lawrence, Ella Lawry, Jacob Machin, Madeleine Mason, Fabio Motta, Johnathan Peck, Hunter, Perske, John Reed, Paul Robertson, Bridget Sweeney, and Annabelle Tudor.
Set by: Alia Syed
Costumes by: Rhiannon Irving
Stage Management by: Lauren Rosato

Annabelle Tudor and Lelda Kapsis - photo by Burke Photography
It has been a long time since I have seen such an energised, exciting, and engaging Shakespeare but Melbourne Shakespeare has finally brought the Bard back to life. Their production of Much Ado About Nothing, being presented at the St Kilda Botanical Gardens, is one of the best pieces of theatre I have seen in a long time.

This laugh-a-minute pantomimic romp doesn't stop from beginning to end. Luckily it is a generally young cast because they need all the energy of youth to keep up with the speed of light entrances and exits! Of course Melbourne's iconic patriarch of the stage, Syd Brisbane (Leonato), manages to keep up with nary a misstep or hiccough to interrupt his stride.

Much Ado About Nothing is a tale of disception, love, and misinformation. Benedick (Fabio Motta) and Beatrice (Annabelle Tudor) are in love but refuse to admit it to themselves and the world. There are hints of The Taming Of The Shrew in this relationship. On the other hand Claudio (Jacob Machin) and Hero (Madeleine Mason) are in love but through the stirring of rumours, call off their wedding. As with all Shakespeare's love stories, though, all's well that ends well... (pardon the pun).

Jennifer Sarah Dean (director) and Ben Adams (Musical Director) have given this energetic romp a modern edge by making Don Pedro (Khisraw Jones-Shukoor) a music producer and having the cast engage in singing battles in the tradition of hip hop battles. There is not a lot of tampering with the script to make it fit this conceipt but occasionally it does come across as slightly forced.  To be honest this is true of nearly every contemporary adaptation though, and this troupe do it way better than most.

The play is performed in the rose terraces at the St Kilda Botanical Gardens and Rhiannon Irving (Costumes) has celebrated the location with stunning impact in her magnificent costuming which made the whole event feel very English tea party, strawberries and cream. Alia Syed (Set) also shows impeccable restraint in her set decisions, and also a wonderful attention to detail with the elements present.

Dean demonstrates a brilliant understanding of comedy in this production and with such a large cast and such a full script I was really impressed with how she kept the detail in the high jinks and slap stick from beginning to end with no lulls or dips. The impulsive energy inherent in the text is embodied by everyone on stage in every moment and whilst the play has some adult themes (such as cuckolding) this is beyond child friendly - it is kidtastic!

Motta, Lelda Kapsis (Antonia), and Nicola Bowman (Margaret) steal the show a bit but only because what they are doing is so evidently embedded in their soul. This is not a slight on any of the others because this is some of the best ensemble work I have ever seen.

Adding to the humour is the great stings by John Reed (choreographer). The homage to Bob Fosse was an act of complete genius and is probably the stage moment of the year.

I can say nothing else except this is completely unmissable. You will not see a better Shakespeare production for many years to come so get on down and see it while you can. It is only on til mid December. You will find it hard to ever have more fun with a piece of theatre ever!

5 Stars

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