Thursday, 6 May 2004

Much Ado About Nothing, Chambers Theatre, May 6, 2004

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare 
by Chambers Theatre 
Theatreworks, St. Kilda, 6 May to 22 May, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 6, 2004

Much Ado About Nothing is a study in confused love, mischief, wit and rumour. All the fuss is finally overcome and it ends happily for all but the villains.

Alex Pinder's production for Chambers Theatre focuses on the verbal and physical comedy some times more effectively than others.

There are two couples central to this comic romance.

Beatrice (Patti Stiles) and Benedick (Geoff Wallis) are verbal sparring partners both committed to singledom in a world obsessed withmarriage.

Stiles and Wallis revel in their battle of wit. Each exchange is a rapid thrust and parry of witty repartee.

Both play their characters with a layer of genuine warmth and truth below the veneer of acerbic banter. This allows us to believe their swift turn to love from confirmed bachelorhood.

Stiles is a playful and feisty Beatrice with a tender heart. Wallis's Benedick is a soldier, a man of principle, wit and cool dignity.

Simon Wood is a fine Don Pedro, giving him a noble authority, cheerfulness and rich, commanding voice.

The second couple, are Claudio, (Andrew Gillard) soldier and friend to Benedick, and Hero, (Bridgette Burton) sweet and shy cousin to Beatrice.

Gillard finds a balance between Claudio's tongue-tied lovelorn scenes and his reckless over-reaction to Hero's supposed infidelity.

Burton is most successful when Hero is lamenting her false accusations.

Joe Clements plays three roles, Don John he portrays delightfully as a camp melancholic villain wearing rather overstated make up.

The scenes between the enthusiastic and incompetent policeman, Dogberry and his goofy subordinates (Anthea David, Burton) are funny but could be neater.

Randall Berger is rather melodramatic as Hero's father, Leonato, and Paul Bugeja sings charmingly as Balthasar.

Shane Thompson's design is interesting but far too busy for the stage. Its multiple floral patterns distract the eye from the action.

This production has some charming performances and comical moments. Its weakness is a lack of cohesive style and some awkward staging.

There are clumsy scene changes with actors changing on stage when this convention has not been established earlier.

Much Ado makes sense of Shakespeare's dense and witty dialogue and is a diverting night in the theatre.

LOOK FOR: The rapid word play battle between Beatrice and Benedick.

By Kate Herbert

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