- Kate Herbert
- From: Herald Sun
- June 14, 2011 12:00AM
Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Much Ado About Nothing, Bell, June 14, 2011
Much Ado About Nothing, Bell Shakespeare **** 1/2
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Bell Shakespeare, Arts Centre Playhouse until June 25, 2011
JOHN Bell's production of Shakespeare's romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing is like a playful version of the Mafia family in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather.
Set in Sicily in the 1950s, young soldiers and marriageable girls sing, dance and celebrate their lives under the gaze of their elders.
The plot sizzles with passion and romance, but it has an underbelly with vendettas, a hoax and deep resentments, providing light and shade.
Bell's production is enormously entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny with a cast of versatile, comic actors who joyfully inhabit their roles.
The standout is Toby Schmitz with his fresh interpretation of Benedick as a cheeky, brazen, garrulous entertainer with a razor-sharp wit.
His comic timing and delivery are impeccable and he invests every moment with humour and compelling clarity.
Blazey Best is a potent comic and romantic foil to Benedick, playing Beatrice as a bold, sassy, party-girl with a whiplash tongue.
Much Ado is a war of words between Benedick and Beatrice who expertly dodge love and marriage by crossing verbal swords and disguising their blazing, mutual attraction with mocking disdain.
Sean OShea is wickedly funny as the louche, swaggering, cynical villain, Don John, with his Mafioso looks.
Max Gillies is suitably dim-witted and jovial as Dogberry the confused policeman.
Tony Llewellyn-Jones is a benevolent patriarch as Leonato, Matthew Walker is an elegant Don Pedro, Sean Hawkins plays the ardent, callow Claudio and Alexandra Fisher is the coy, girlish Hero.
The vivacious performances are elevated by a soaring, 16th century fresco (Stephen Curtis), evocative live music (Alan John) and spirited songs.
There is never a dull moment in this buoyant and energetic, Shakespearean rom-com.
STAR RATING: **** 1/2