Photos – Rob Maccoll
Much Ado About Nothing is easily one of Shakespeare's most successful works, with a theme ever relevant it remains one of his more hilarious, whimsical and witty comedies. We have been afforded the opportunity to see another timeless play adapted to suit a new wave of theatre as the Queensland Theatre Company have teamed up with funky composer Gordon Hamilton to bring us a contemporary version of this classic with a cocktail sipping 'rom-com' twist.
With a stunning contemporary set design the stage is set up like a tropical penthouse with furniture and set all done in crisp white giving an immediate feel of sophistication. Based on two sets- 'inside' and 'outside', the stage had the perfect mix of beauty; effective use of space and much to the crowd's surprise had the ability to spin 360 degrees – switching seamlessly between the two. Lighting and sound created realistic images of the moon and sounds of thunder; lightning and fireworks that had the crowd jump with surprise and search around for sight to make legitimacy of sound. The total black-out of the stage except for a single cigarette, smoked by the villain Don John (Hayden Jones) created that all too important sense of villainy. Credit must be given to designers Richard Roberts and Ben Hughes for creating such a chic atmosphere and really driving home that a set does not need to be overly technical to be spectacular.
The cast were second to none, and immediately you could feel their sense of excitement on stage, and I must give special note of the absolute commitment each played to their part.
The 'party' scene was a perfect display of this with each background character dancing and directing themselves in all manner of party, whilst the sequinned 'maids' sang the popular new classic “Hey Ya”.
Gordon Hamilton has done a wonderful job orchestrating deep, funky sounds that slipped and weaved through shocks of thunder, storms and such as the stage spins for scene changes and made sexy and sensual song choices (I've Put A Spell On You) to show the lusty tension between the characters.
I couldn't help but be amused by the unmistakable twang of the Australian accent throughout the play, and although our accent would surely make a mockery of Shakespeare's words, in many ways the cast used it to their strengths and made it all the more perfect for this comedy. Dogberry (played by Liz Buchanan) was hilarious and believable, coming across with a certain and celebrated 'little Aussie battlahhh' nature. If Shakespeare ever had a role for the 'tuck-shop lady', Dogberry would have nailed that too.
Due credit should surely go to Hugh Parker, who encapsulated the role of Benedick so well even I was smitten with him by the end. His comical and witty banter with Beatrice (Christen O'Leary) was fast and furious, and they made a perfect pair. The camaraderie of cast was captured well between Claudio (Patrick Dwyer) and Don Pedro (Tama Matheson), also in villains Don John (Hayden Jones) and Borachio (Mark Conaghan). The thick-as-thieves pairing of Verges (Megan Shorey) and Dogberry (Liz Buchanan) had everyone giggling as they 'rolled' in their golf cart or interrogated suspects as security guards.
More to the show of commitment of the cast the tragedy scenes were just as captivating. The wedding scene, where the lovely maiden Hero (Ellen Bailey) was wrongfully slandered brought great tension, the contempt from her father Leonato (Bryan Probets) chilling and the rage of Beatrice for the slander of her cousin Hero was moving, showing her struggle for justice in a world that favours the man – “...that I were a man I'd eat his heart in the market place!” Hairs were definitely standing up, as chilling accusations and loss throughout the scenes makes the heartbreak in the characters feel all too real.
A real feast for the soul, Shakespeare never disappoints and his message stays ever clear throughout the ages. Life is full of laughter, heartbreak, love and betrayal and Queensland Theatre Company's production of Much Ado About Nothing spares none of this. Whether you're a maiden, a villain or something in between, you are bound to enjoy yourself.
Queensland Theatre Company presents
Much Ado About Nothing
by William Shakespeare
Director Jason Klarwein
Venue: Playhouse, QPAC
Dates: 28 April – 15 May 2016
Bookings: queenslandtheatre.com.au | 136 246