Written by William Shakespeare, adapted by Hal Jones, directed by Madeleine Withington
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
Preview / Early Bird – $28
Concession / Groups of 5+ – $30
General Admission – $35
William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is known for its witty repartee between soon-to-be lovers Beatrice and Benedick as well as ridiculous plots of revenge and deceit. This version of Shakespeare’s classic features much the same but replaces the allusions to war with boy bands, alcohol and an extremely tongue-in-cheek 80’s theme. Aptly titled Much Ado due its shortened version edited by Hal Jones, there is indeed much ado throughout this romp that offers a tonne of laughs.
Director Madeleine Withington credits this production as “an escape from the last two years, it’s about joy, and play, and all the best things that independent theatre has to offer.” Indeed, Withington’s production is a great ball of fun and colour. From the beginning we’re offered to a saucy entrance from boy band The Lordes dressed in an assortment of suits and Aviator sunglasses which aptly meshes with the gold streamed walls and black and white squared flooring by production designer Ash Bell.
The choice to set Much Ado in the retro-styled diner/bar of the 80’s is a bit of a headscratcher and sometimes shoots itself in the foot with the original dialogue. There are times when certain choices became mismatched: the use of a blowup T-Rex suit, whilst a funny visual gag, wasn’t exactly around in the chosen time. However, Withington wastes no time in revealing that this production is extremely over-the-top and wants you to have fun with it. Withington’s direction of her cast creates for some outright hilarious scenarios and a bolstering of the dialogue, indeed making this about joy and play.
The central conflict revolves around the will-they-won’t-they relationship of Beatrice (Hal Jones) and Benedick (Steve Corner) who absolutely devour the Bard’s dialogue as they fire quips like bullets, each intending to get the upper hand over the other.
Beatrice being a non-binary character adds an interesting layer to the “If I were a man” speech, presenting a comment on the lack of power that Beatrice has in their place in the world – both for being seen as a woman and identifying as non-binary. Jones could have benefitted from the less is more approach to the high emotion scenes of their character, which didn’t have the same believability as their repartee with Benedick.
Corner’s Benedick presents as a Kenneth Branagh-esque version but with a sly Australian wit and hilarious comic timing. His ability to flip from Shakespearean monologues to off-the-cuff bouts of improvisation were a hit. The gravitas to which he lent his voice to Benedick’s duty to Beatrice when promising to duel with Claudio showed depth and range.
Among the rest of the cast were some stellar characters who added a range of colour to the piece. Idam Sondhi’s Claudio was a standout, bringing a hilarious shyness to his character and goofy lovesickness with Sarah Greenwood’s Hero. Alexander Spinks’ Don John perfectly reflected the ponytailed, gold chained disco goer and had a subtle slyness to his villainy. Lib Campbell and Jack Elliot Mitchell’s pairing as the bodyguards of the retro establishment were a crowd favourite. Other performances by Mym Kwa and Nick Barraclough resonated Withington’s desire for fun. The choice for Martin Quinn’s Boracchio’s flamboyant movement and serpent like desire for villainy was just that bit too much for the piece, simply being played for laughs rather than merit.
A slick, well-crafted and overall hilarious time at the theatre, Much Ado offers an evening of frivolity and laughs aplenty. There’s no need to be overly familiar with Shakespeare’s work to enjoy this production. The creative team’s dedication to joy is all you require.
Much Ado plays at the Flight Path Theatre until Saturday, August 13. Tickets can be booked here.
Director / Executive Producer – Madeleine Withington
Producer – Isabella Milkovitsch
Assistant Producer – Davey Seagle
Executive Producer – Hal Jones
Production Designer – Ash Bell
Assistant Designer – Jenna Bell
Lighting Designer – Jas Borsovszky
Sound Designer – Matt Christensen
Stage Manager – Natalie Baghoumian
Don John – Alexander Spinks
Beatrice – Hal Jones
Claudio – Idam Sondhi
Friar/Verges – Jack Elliot Mitchell
Dogberry – Lib Campbell
Sexton – Sarah Greenwood
Borachio – Martin Quinn
Margaret – Mym Kwa
Hero – Sarah Greenwood
Conrade – Nick Barraclough
Benedick – Steve Corner
Leonata – Suzann James
Don Pedro – Tristan Black
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