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Bell Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing relevant as ever

Bell Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing relevant as ever

ANYONE who questions William Shakespeare’s relevance to today need only see Bell Shakespeare’s production of Much Ado About Nothing to understand its importance now more than ever.

Among the wit, courtship and comedy, this production calls out the awful male behaviour in the play.

Gender politics is rotten in Messina and director James Evans (who directed last year’s dystopian Julius Caesar) is providing consequences.

Zindzi Okenyo.

It gives Hero (Vivienne Awosoga) a voice after her intended Claudio (Will McDonald) falsely accuses her of being unfaithful, with him slandering, scorning and dishonouring her on their wedding day.

Gender parity is found in the casting of five men and five women, with some women playing traditionally male roles.

Unfortunately this decision was diluted a little on opening night of the Perth season at Heath Ledger Theatre when Suzanne Pereira was ill and Evans stepped in to understudy her male roles, Antonio and Sexton.

Will McDonald, Duncan Ragg and Danny Ball.

Alongside this is the firecracker repartee between Beatrice (Zindzi Okenyo) and Benedick (Duncan Ragg) who are wonderful to watch as they meet their love match in quick-witted insults.

Ragg’s physical comedy skills are also a highlight while WAAPA graduate Mandy Bishop’s entrance as Dogberry in the second act confirmed her talent as a wonderful comic actress.

Marissa Bennett and Mandy Bishop.

Timing and delivery is key in a Shakespeare comedy and this is an entire cast highly proficient in getting laughs in the play written predominantly in prose.

It has been edited to a snappier two and a half hours (including interval) with come conflated characters.

Mediterranean-inspired costumes, including pinstripe and patterned suits, sit against the backdrop of a simple set design helpful for the company’s 27-venue national tour.

The pergola-inspired structure with huge wave of foliage-print curtain (providing multiple entry and exit points) is complemented by artificial plants and lawn which become key comedic props.

David Whitney, Duncan Ragg and Will McDonald.

Music and dance interludes break up Shakespeare’s prose and his Sonnet 116 sung at the end of the play is a fitting final moment to all that has unfolded.

Much Ado About Nothing is in Perth until August 10, followed by performances in Albany, Bunbury and Mandurah.

Four stars

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