Above: Bryan Probets, Tama Mathiueson and Patrick Dwyer. Below Hugh Parker not so well hidden. Photos by Joseph Byford.
Much Ado About Nothing
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jason Klarwein
Queensland Theatre Company
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: April 23-May 16, Bookings: www.queenslandtheatre.com.au or 136 246
Not even the purists could fault this modern day version of Much Ado About Nothing. The setting maybe a luxury home among the palm, trees and the characters drink champagne and cocktails rather than mead and beer, but it was pure Shakespeare in thought, deed, and action. It was also rollicking fun and a roller-coaster of laughs and hilarious situations.
And what a cast! Brisbane’s top talent was on show and every one shone and created wonderful characters.
The 11 actors were skilled in Shakespearean verse and not a single word was missed as the actors spoke with crystal clear diction in modern speech patterns and there was not one moment when, as sometimes does happen with the Bard, I had to concentrate on the text too hard. I had a ball and loved every minute of it.
It was all there, the quick-fire battles of wits, classic and well created drama, and badly hidden people overhearing bad things about themselves. There were even song segments to brighten up the house-parties
Then there was the marvelous Malapropisms from Dogberry the Chief Constable and head of security, played with superb comic touch by Liz Buchannan. She was helped along by Verges, played in complete bewilderment by Megan Shorey complete with torches and a golf buggy. They created a comic pair that rated with with Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello (the American ones!)
It is of course a comedy and Jason Klarwein pulled out all the stops to make the funny bits hilarious with steals from modern farce like Ray Cooney and even a touch of John Rickman’s Sherriff of Nottingham, in the role of Don John the villain of the piece. He did a masterful job.
Roughly the plot tells the story of Beatrice and Benedick, a similar pair to Petruchio and Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew, always bickering and jousting with alleged hatred, and Hero and Claudio a gentle love-struck duo, who are torn asunder by the nasty little black beared Don John who frames Hero with unfaithfulness.
Slowly the machinations unfold, Hero is jilted, and, like any mystery thriller, it is up to the sleuth – Dogberry in this case – to sort out the clues and set all to rights.
It was Christen O’Leary as Beatrice and Hugh Parker as Benedick who set the tone for the show, biting, concise in their verbal sparring in the home of Leonato, yet another finely tuned role from Bryan Probets. Hero, his daughter was nicely played by Ellen Bailey.
I loved the concept of the royals Claudio, Don Pedro and Benedick being portrayed as Jack the lads, ready for fun, drink and chase a woman or two. They were so Saturday night in the Valley and yet the language did not date them one bit; it was terrific work from Patrick Dwyer and Tama Mathieson.
Hayden Jones was a nicely booable villain and Mark Conaghan was terrific as the knavish Borachio. He showed his comedy ability in the capture scene with Dogberry and Verges. He is a very, very funny man.
Rounding off the cast was Kathryn McIntyre as Borachio’s love interest. She also was one of the singers.
Anyone out there who says they don’t like Shakespeare, should see this; you will be converted.
After Party in the pink; Photos by Deanne Scott.
Left: Jason Klarwein and Liana Cantarutti; Right: Hugh Parker and Eric Scott; Below: Hayden Jones and Eric Scott and Christen O'Leary and Naomi Price.