Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by James Evans
The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre to 19 October
Reviewed by Len Power 11 October 2019
One of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ was written in 1598. It is frequently performed and deservedly so.
Focussing on two romances, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ follows two couples for whom the path to love is a bumpy one. Unsure of himself Benedick and confident and witty Beatrice need to be tricked into the realization of their love for each other, while the innocent Claudio makes an almost tragic error of judgement about his intended, the lovely and sincere Hero.
It’s startling to see how insightfully Shakespeare wrote about attitudes, beliefs and judgements concerning gender and relationships. It’s troubling to realize that, even after 400 years, we are still grappling with those same issues.
Bell Shakespeare’s modern day production works very well. Director, James Evans, has obtained excellent performances from his entire cast. With the doubling of some roles, it often seems like there’s a bigger cast than there actually are. Those actors with more than one role give them so much depth that it often takes a while to realize they are the same performer. There must have been some very quick costume changes going on backstage!
Duncan Ragg, Zindzi Okenyo
Vivienne Awosoga gave a moving performance as the wronged Hero and it was only after reading the program that I realized she also played the delightfully quirky character, Conrade. Mandy Bishop was an excellent Balthasar, singing ‘Sigh No More’ beautifully. She was also hilariously commanding as Dogberry, the constable of the Watch. Will McDonald gave a finely moving performance as the mis-judging Claudio and was delightfully street-wise as Borachio. There was also excellent doubling work by Marissa Bennett as Margaret and Verges, Danny Ball as Don Pedro and 1st Watchman, Suzanne Pereira as Antonio and Sexton and Paul Reichstein as Don John and 2nd Watchman.
Zindzi Okenyo commanded the stage in a superb performance as the confident and witty Beatrice. Duncan Ragg took a gamble that really paid off with his often high-pitched vocal delivery. His portrayal of Benedick as a confused, easily excitable young lover quickly won us over. His occasional interaction with the audience was done with excellent comic timing. David Whitney gave his role of Leonato, Hero’s father, a strength and emotion that was truly believable.
The set and costumes designed by Pip Runciman were attractive and colourful.
James Evans has produced a bright and charming show that entertained while it made important points about gender and relationships. It was a delight from start to finish.
Photos by Clare Hawley
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on the Artsound FM 92.7 ‘In the Foyer’ program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3.30pm.