Much Ado About Nothing

June 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

I have a confession to make. Knowing two people who have seen the current London production of this classic battle of wits has made this connoisseur just a little jealous. Casting David Tennant, the previous Doctor with his natural Scottish accent, alongside his Dr Who sidekick and star of her own eponymous show, Catherine Tate, in an 80s setting seems like pure theatrical genius to me here in the antipodes.
I suspect my envy led me to chose this play over two other productions on at The Arts Centre on the same evening. I should also confess my soft spot for the Bell Shakespeare company after living in the large country town that plays host to our federal parliament and realising which companies perform outside Melbourne and Sydmey on a regular basis, i.e. more than once a year.
Glad I did chose to go as I was disappointed by the turn out of the Melbourne crowd; the theatre was only about 3/4 full. That didn’t distract from the fabulous performance on display though. The sets were lavish yet simple, evocative and playful. Shakespeare’s analogy of courting love being a sporting contest was highlighted by the darts, billiards and basketball hoop on stage. Although there was no Scottish Doctor or 80s Catherine, or Kenneth Branaugh or Emma Thompson for that matter, in the cast list, the young leads did not disappoint. Blazey Best was wonderful as the initially-cantankerous Beatrice. Pocket rocket is the term that comes to mind as she insulted her way across the stage in her saucy 1940s outfits, which included a slight belt malfunction in the second act as her charater mellowed. Her laconic foil, Toby Schmitz as Benedick, initially seemed a little bit too laid back without a Shakespeare accent for a leading man. But with his Aussie accent and cheeky grin, he made the part his own, wooing the audience at the same time as winning Beatrice’s heart. The only distraction from the wonderful script, set, and acting from the entire troupe was the bright white, ugly shoes that were on the feet of a couple of the female characters.

7.30 pm, Thursday 16 June 2011, The Playhouse, The Arts Centre.

Crowd: Disappointing, only about 3/4 full.

Best on ground
3 votes – Toby Schmitz
2 votes – Blazey Best
1 vote – Max Gillies. After not saying a word in the first act, his comic genius showed through in the second with his portrayal of Dogberry.
Special mention – John Bell, for a lifetime of bringing wonderful Shakespearean productions to the Australian stage.

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