‘Much Ado about Nothing’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by August 14, 2016

‘Much Ado about Nothing’ is one of Shakespeare’s most lustful and infectious comedies. First performed in 1598, it is now being presented by the ARENAarts Group’s ‘Shakespeare Theatre Company’.

This light-hearted, two and a half hours, Shakespearean play can be seen at The Latvian Centre (LC Theatre) 60 Cleaver Terrace, Belmont each Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 8.00, until Saturday 20th August. There are matinées on Sunday 7th and 14th at 2.00 pm.

 

The play’s presentation is ‘in the round’, with seating on 3 sides and the stage – used minimally – on the fourth side. There is token scenery and the props negligible (Michael Falconer), but on the few occasions that they are used, they are most effective. Callum and Janet Vinsen provided the swords and shackles.

The excellent costumes are managed by Anne-Marie Piccoli, aided by Katy Piccoli and Hannah Evelyn.

The sound and lighting were designed and operated by Simon James.

 

      The Governess of Messina, Leonata (Julie Holmsure), is a caring woman who lives with her sweet young daughter, Hero (Hannah Evelyn), her elderly head-wagging brother, Antonio and her niece, Beatrice (Joanne Lamont) who has been brought up as Hero’s sister.

      We join the household as Leonata’s friends are returning from war. A war between the Prince of Aragon, Don Pedro (David Cotgreave) and his illegitimate half-brother, the morose, vicious and evil Don John (Paul Davey). Also returning is the admired, young nobleman, Count Claudio (Andrew Sutherland), and his intelligent, but droll friend from Padua, Benedick (Michael Lamont).

       To attract each other’s loving attention, the reluctant lovers, Benedick and Beatrice hurl abuse at each other in fun. Meanwhile, Claudio has fallen rapidly in love with Hero and wishes to marry her as soon as possible. Being jealous, Don John arranges for his drunken companion, Borachio (Brendan Ellis) to make love to Hero’s flirty maid, Margaret (Hayley White), at Hero’s bedroom window before telling Don Pedro and Claudio it is Hero, and they should go and see what is happening.

       Claudio is horrified and broken hearted, at Hero’s infidelity and that she is a mere wanton harlot. On the day of the wedding Claudio demeans Hero, and their wedding is called off by Friar Francis (Ellis R. Kinnear). Wise Benedick suspects that there has been some trickery, and this is confirmed by the watchwoman (Jeremy Smith) who has overheard Borachio bragging about his involvement.

       The constable of the Watch, Dogberry (Tara Hoban) and Headborough – the commander – Verges (Mark Falconer), arrest Borachio and Conrad, and take them before the Sexton (Charlotte Weber).

       Is it too late to save the love affair? Is Hero really dead?

 

Director, Jo Lamont has been acting for about twenty years. Initially with the Endeavour Theatre, then the WA Youth Theatre Company and lately with the Graduate Dramatic Society. Now she and her husband Michael are involved extensively with ARENAarts.

With a top notch piece of directing, Joanne has taken us right back to Shakespeare’s time and the Globe Theatre. Once again it is ‘in the round’ and with few props, but cleverly she has honed in on the most important part of the plays in those days – communication.

This fabulous cast were not only word perfect, but they obviously, thoroughly understood every word. Gone was the arrogant posing delivery that is too often seen in contemporary productions, and back was the rapport with the audience. Any ‘thoughts’ or soliloquys were almost discussed with the audience in a search for their approval. No swaggering and strutting, just everyday body language that we all understand.

How often have we returned from a Shakespearean production and had to double check a line, or even worse, try and confirm the storyline? Here, everyone knew their character’s strengths and foibles, so gave us a 150-minutes of fun and satisfaction without the common tedium.

There were a few songs in the style of 16th century madrigals and even a cheerful dance at the curtain call.

All of the leads were exceptional, but a special mention of Julie Holmsure and Andrew Sutherland who were magnificent. Congrats to Jo and Michael Lamont who have obviously worked so hard.

It is a long time since I felt so in tune with a Shakespearean play. Clever and skilful work.