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Review: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at Shoreside Theatre

The 25th Summer 2021 Shakespeare in the Park  (MUCH ADO and HAMLET)  runs January 23 – February 20.

Review: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at Shoreside Theatre

Opening night of the second play of the Shoreside's 25th Summer Shakespeare in the Park - and it's a comedy through and through. The newly converted audience - who have come to realise just how much fun and intelligible Shakespeare can be - will not be disappointed in this interpretation. The opening scenes establish THREE things quickly: this will be a comedy about love as balladeer Balthazar (Megan Hail) sweetly serenades us with "I will love her til I die." This will be funny as the unexpected comedy begins - in the entrances "left, right" "present arms" "look mean" of the returning soldiers. Shakespeare's "Much Ado about Nothing" is filled with a plethora of laughter layers- intellectual banter, repartee, gags, asides, dramatic irony, clowning, deliberate entrapments, and winks that support sexual innuendo. Thirdly, quite simply, we know this is going to be FUN.

Even if you have seen this play many times (as this reviewer has), there is much to surprise and delight you in the imaginative, original and integrated direction conceived by the director, Jason Moffatt. He uses the outdoor multi-levelled, setting/stage design (James Bell, Aria Harrison-Sparke, Jason Moffatt) to its full potential. This is well-positioned, quickly paced, with varied use of spaces, honed, faithful delivery of Shakespearian text, emotionally driven action. Entrances and exits are strong, and clever, and the audience is often included as part of the action. Shakespeare meant his audiences to be addressed directly and to feel as if the thoughts being spoken, are being spoken to us.

This is a talented and cohesive cast who all contribute to the play's impact. They are entirely immersed in their roles, credible, comic, entirely focused and sometimes endearing. Line delivery is fresh and spontaneous, with a spirited clarity. Shakespearian stalwart, Trevor Sharp is totally believable as Leonato, the respected, well-to-do, elderly noble at whose home the play is set. His lines such as "how good it is to weep at joy than joy at weeping", "if they were married but a week, they'd talk themselves mad" were always well-delivered so that the audience could follow the intent. Trickster Don Pedro (Ryan Douglas) "we are the love gods" owns the stage when he is on it and often maintains the high-spirited vitality of this production.

Likewise, the intelligence, wit, and interplay of fiercely independent and beautiful Beatrice (Erin Meek) and confirmed bachelor Benedick (Jono Capel-Baker) is well-captured and thoroughly energised. Handsome Claudio (William Clark) brings more humour and trickster to this role than expected, and wronged Hero (Sophia Malecaut-Watts) is realistic in her range of emotions: sweet daughter, playful friend, wounded bride. We feel her pain when the villains use the wedding as a chance to get revenge.

Ah - the villains. You can't judge by appearances, warns Shakespeare. Beware of the tricksters.. Indeed, this play is full of tricksters - virtually every character having a turn at creating havoc well-intentionally or unintentionally, or with malicious intent, for another. The masked ball, the traps set for Beatrice and Benedick, the deliberate scheme to ruin Hero amongst the tricks. Jealous, scheming and bad-tempered Don John, (Cameron Brown ) seizes the opportunity to create mischief: "If I can cross him in anyway, I bless myself in every way". Never mind that it's Hero and Claudio who will become his victims.

This trickery builds on Shakespeare's timeless truth that not everything you see is what it seems to be! We need to be aware of "information" we might learn from deliberate eavesdroppings, mistaken conclusions, assumptions and misreporting. Never is this more so easily seen than in the shared schemes of Conrade (Jono Gilbert) and skilfully enacted by Borachio (Ben Lamb). True touches of comic genius are seen in the rest of the troupe: Kim Kindley (as Antonio and Hugh Oatcake), Georgina Townley (Margaret), Jennifer Whisken (Ursula), Sapphire Glynn (as Molly Poursmore and Boy), Mat Dawidowski (as Friar Francis, Sexton and Messenger), Lachlan Forlong (alt. Borachio), Monique Rabie ( in the well-executed demanding role of Dogberry) and Jessica Keesing-Styles (Verges).

Take lively, superbly directed, focused and energised actors totally immersed in their roles. Add effective lighting (Jonathan McDonald), spectacular and colourful costuming design (Lyn Carlisle), proficient choreography (Erin Meek and Jennifer Whisken) and original music (Megan Hails) - and the result is - Shakespeare presented with original twists, depth, comic flair, emotional connection and audience interaction. Don't miss it!

The 25th Summer 2021 Shakespeare in the Park (MUCH ADO and HAMLET) runs January 23 - February 20. Tickets on or (09) 489 8360. Children under 15 FREE.

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