William Shakespeare’s revered tragicomedy receives a welcome St Lucia makeover in this exciting interpretation of Much Ado About Nothing.
From the opening scene, we know we are not in fair Messina but in suburban Brisbane, as we are welcomed by leading players from the University of Queensland (UQ) cricket team. In an intriguing choice, some aspects of the text are reimagined to fit the UQ context.
Director Kathryn Good’s revised production is fresh, exciting and extremely timely. She fearlessly allowed the actors to play with gender, having Benedick portrayed by the masterful Isobel Green and allowing two romantic subplots to now feature same-sex couples.
Good also chose to transform the engagement party into a “gender-bent” university party, as a result injecting this theme clearly and naturally throughout the entirety of the piece.
Set on a beautifully appropriate, almost rainbow-like set, the actors presented this play with humour, enthusiasm and class. Whilst at times it was hard to understand actors projecting into the large, 400-seat theatre sans microphones, this was only a minor setback for the production.
The sound design by Robert Hislop accompanied the play excellently, underscoring the scenes with finesse. Lighting design by Lakshmi Jayan was wonderfully executed and complimented, and informed each scene perfectly.
Whilst at times I longed for a little more action in regards to stage directions, for the most part, the dynamics were well thought out and helped to make sense of the confusing family tree attached to this Shakespearean text.
The chemistry between Green and her counterpart Rose Gamble as Beatrice was superb. Becoming invested in the love story of these two characters was a true delight.
The entire ensemble of actors was truly a sight to see. However, Thomas Cullen as Dogberry, reimagined as a UQ security guard, was the highlight of the production’s second act.
Changing the text to occur at UQ saw some surprisingly welcome changes to the otherwise considered ‘holy grail’ Shakespearean text. I believe this allowed the audience, which consisted primarily of students, to invest even further in this production.
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