Saturday, 14 December 2013

Sport for Jove present Much Ado About Nothing

Beatrice and Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing. Image courtesy of Sport for Jove.

Shakespeare in the Park
Presented by Sport for Jove Theatre, The Hills Shire Council & The National Trust
Much Ado About Nothing: Directed by Adam Cook
Bella Vista Farm: Saturday, December 7, 2013

I love Shakespeare and for my money no one does it better than Sport for Jove. I first saw their company perform this time last year during the Shakespeare Festival and beheld their Twelfth Night at Bella Vista Farm (you can read the review here). This time Much Ado About Nothing was on the menu and again, it did not disappoint, with Bella Vista Farm again presenting the perfect backdrop for this comedy of errors.

So, quick plot breakdown - you've got Claudio, right hand man of Don Pedro (The Prince) who falls in love with Hero, daughter of Leonato and cousin of Beatrice. Then there is Benedick, a proud bachelor and also one of the Prince's men who has a continuing feud with Beatrice that results from jilted love. In the guise of the villain is Don John, Don Pedro's brother, who kinda hates Claudio for having his brother's favour so, along with his partners in crime Conrad and Borachio, plots to break up the impending marriage of Claudio and Hero - a marriage which Don Pedro has arranged with Leonato.

Got it so far?
Beatrice and Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing. Image courtesy of Sport for Jove.

As this is all rolling out, Don Pedro, Claudio and Leonato decide to influence Benedick and have him believe that Beatrice is in love with him so he will then realise he is in love with her. At the same time Hero and her mother Innogen play the same trickery on Beatrice. In both cases, it totally works. So, then we have Don John who pays Borachio to seduce Hero's maid Margaret but pretend it's Hero so that when Don John brings Claudio and his  brother The Prince to her chamber window they will think she is being unfaithful and shame her on the day of marriage. Of course, this all comes to pass, shame is brought on her house and in true Shakespeare fashion she fakes her own death. All the while Beatrice and Benedick confess their love for one another and she insists he avenge her cousins reputation by challenging Claudio. 

Still with me?

As it turns out, two watchmen over hear Borachio and Conrad discussing the deception and they are captured and tried. The truth comes out, Hero's name is cleared and Claudio is devastated that she's dead for no real reason. Inviting them to his home, Leonato reveals the truth - that Hero is in fact not dead - and her and Claudio finally get married. As do Benedick and Beatrice who, after a few rocky moments, realise they do really kinda dig each other and there's lots of dancing and revelry.
Much Ado About Nothing. Image courtesy of Sport for Jove.
Much Ado About Nothing. Image courtesy of Sport for Jove.

There are so many outstanding performances here that it's difficult to single any one out. Praise has to be given to Matilda Ridgway as Beatrice and Tim Walter as Benedick - they're ability to effortlessly bounce dialogue off one another is truly a joy to watch. Their fiery, witty and hilarious banter is as integral to the play as any member of the cast and and is the source of much of the comic relief. Scott Sheridan as the perpetually drunk Borachio is a lovable villain who presents perfect comic timing and witty asides and James Lugton as the verbally inept Dogberry is endearingly hapless. 

Particular highlights include Benedick hiding in the vines and under a wicker basket to overhear Claudio, Don Pedro and Leonato talk of Beatrices love for him, Beatrice sneaking through the audience to overhear her cousin and aunt talk of Benedick's love for her and the babbling Dogberry insisting on letting people know Conrad called him an ass. However, it was the incorporation of lyrics from Lionel Richie's Hello that had me crying with laughter. As Benedick attempts to write prose to Beatrice he says aloud the words to numerous Shakespeare sonnets, deeming them unworthy before he starts to say:           

I've been alone with you
Inside my mind
And in my dreams I've kissed your lips
A thousand times
I sometimes see you
Pass outside my door

It is at this moment that the maid Margaret interrupts him and he yells to her:

Is it me you're looking for?

Seamlessly slipped in, this hilarious addition demonstrates the skill of not only the actors but also the Director Adam Cook who has truly put together an outstanding adaptation of one of Shakespeare most humorous plays.


Barry FrenchFriar/ Verges
Christopher Stalley Claudio
Damien Strouthos Balthazar/ Watch
Francesca Savige Margaret
James Lugton Dogberry
John Turnbull Leonato
Julian Garner Don John
Lizzie Schebesta Conrad
Madeline Jones Hero
Matilda Ridgway Beatrice
Roberto Jago Don Pedro/ Watch
Scott Sheridan Borachio
Tim Walter Benedick
Vanessa Downing Innogen

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