Review: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at Shakespeare Under The Stars

Australian Shakespeare Company’s adaption of Much Ado About Nothing is playing at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria - Melbourne Gardens through to 17th March 2024

By: Mar. 04, 2024
Review: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at Shakespeare Under The Stars
Enter Your Email to Unlock This Article

Plus, get the best of BroadwayWorld delivered to your inbox, and unlimited access to our editorial content across the globe.




Existing user? Just click login.

Australian Shakespeare Company’s 90’s pop rock inspired adaption of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is back as part of this summer’s Shakespeare Under the Stars Season in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. With 2024 marking 35 years since the Australian Shakespeare Company began presenting Shakespeare Under the Stars at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, this unique theatrical experience has clearly become a beloved summer favourite for many.

Certainly, in the four years since I have been reviewing Shakespeare Under the Stars, my exposure to Australian Shakespeare Company’s open-air theatre productions of Hamlet, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, The Comedy of Errors, Romeo and Juliet, and most recently Much Ado About Nothing, has converted me to believe that seeing Shakespearean text performed outdoors really is something special. Perhaps then Australian Shakespeare Company’s biggest achievement has been its ability to attract the everyday Melburnian to come and see Shakespeare in the park.

Whether it be a couple on a first date, a group of close friends catching up, a bunch of school students studying a Shakespearean text, or even a group of mums taking their semi reluctant teenage sons to an evening of Shakespeare, I am always pleasantly surprised to see how eclectic an Australian Shakespeare Company’s audience is. As artistic director Glenn Elston OAM says about the Company’s current Much Ado About Nothing production, which Elston has also directed and adapted “Our adaption of Much Ado About Nothing is for everyone, not just Shakespearean lovers”.

Review: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at Shakespeare Under The Stars

This current adaption of Much Ado About Nothing does do wonders in helping entice the Australian public to come and watch Shakespeare. This version of Much Ado About Nothing is certainly unique. There is performers interacting with the audience before and during the show, lots of slapstick comedy, and clever planting of modern-day references into the characters’ dialogue.

Much Ado About Nothing is generally seen as a Shakespearean comedy, yet there are elements of the play that do feel more like a Shakespearean tragedy. For example, Claudio’s treatment of his ‘bride to be’, the innocent Hero, at the wedding alter, is distressing to watch. This is but one example in Much Ado About Nothing where gender inequality and 16th century misogynistic views do seem jarring in 2024. The current Australian Shakespeare Company’s adaption does try alleviating some of this discomfort by casting female actors in some of the roles of male characters, who occupy positions of power. For example, the character of Leonata.

Thankfully, Shakespeare himself also helps lighten the contextual gender inequality by writing in many amusing remarks about love, marriage, and commitment. For example, Beatrice proclaims in act one, scene one, “I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me." Another is when Benedick states in act two, scene three, “when I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married”.

What really makes you get ‘bang for your buck’ in this adaption of Much Ado About Nothing is the actors excellent delivery of Shakespearean prose. Hugh Sexton is masterful as Benedick, relishing every word of text and giving his character’s clarity of thought strong precision. Anna Burgess also shines as Beatrice, bringing passion and strength to her portrayal. Nicole Nabout is a deliciously devilish villainess as Don John and Johnny Light is compelling as Don Pedro. Natasha Herbert as Leonata and Kevin Hopkins as Antonio also excel.

Australian Shakespeare Company’s adaption of Much Ado About Nothing is playing at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria - Melbourne Gardens through to 17th March 2024.

Review: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at Shakespeare Under The Stars




Videos