Monday, May 16, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing

BELL SHAKESPEARE presents MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING by William Shakespeare at the Drama Theatre, in the Sydney Opera House.

A set design (Stephen Curtis) sits in the space in a dominating fashion. A giant fresco wall of romantic images of giant mythical figures, the impact luscious at first glance, but on closer study reveals signs of wasting on the edges and hasty repair and 'gutting' by a large folding door, centrally. Pieces of odd and ruined furniture spread across the room - a piano of ruined tones and wear, included. There is a sense of a time when the wealth of this family headquarters of Messina,where an army is at rest after victory in battle, is in relative decline. The costumes are clothes of a contemporary look sometime in the not to distant past.

The company of actors sweep onto the stage and a wafting whiff of windy bon homie spreads out into the audience and sweeps all of us into a rambunctious riot of verbal and physical comedy. Two and half hours later we applaud the foolery as freshly as if we were just beginning the night.

Beatrice (Blazey Best) and her pretended reluctant lover, Benedict (Toby Schmitz), take up friendly cudgels of comedic repartee, reminiscent of the screwball comedies of the Hollywood Thirties, and a steady and well prepared company of actors create a riot of figures about them to keep the evening afloat with a delightfully buoyant and fluid night with nary a false note. The loquacious and heady text is delivered by all, confidently and with gathering humour. Surprisingly, even the big dramatic moment where Beatrice demands of Benedict to "Kill Claudio" scores the biggest laugh of the night. It is this unexpected balance of comic energy which John Bell has encouraged from this company of fifteen actors that provides a terrific night in the theatre. How long is it, since I have felt so relaxed and confident? Some time, I fear.

Despite the affected Australian sounds by most of the company, and the sometimes ' twisted' and sometimes halting verse readings of the lines of the bard, Mr Schmittz is wickedly funny and when required, warm with affection. A whole man on stage.The clarity of Ms Best keeps all in proper proportion and equal in wit. True, too, is Sean O'Shea as motiveless Don John; clever and heady is Nathan Lovejoy as Borachio and Robert Alexander and Arky Michael in their duel roles of responsibility. But all are a vital team in the success of this romp of good humour.

The production sets out to entertain and nothing else especially. It is a terrifically refreshing time in the theatre. Time well spent.

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