Posts Tagged ‘much ado about nothing

02
May
16

Much Ado About Nothing

 

Much Ado About Nothing

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

April 23 – May 15 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Much Ado About Nothing has everything going for it. A stunning design, a stellar cast and deft direction; it’s joyous, genuinely uplifting, entertaining theatre.

Jason Klarwein’s mainstage directorial debut marks him as one of our brightest, with an aesthetic that is a breath of fresh air to Brisbane. We’ve seen the commercial appeal of his approach to reimagining the classics with QTC’s production of Dan Evans’ Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and with this take on Shakespeare we’re reminded that there are those who just get it. Klarwein is one of those, with his production demonstrating why it is we still “do” Shakespeare. Klarwein brings an unequivocally entertaining version of Much Ado to the Playhouse stage.

Thanks to Designer, Richard Roberts (Design For Living, Managing Carmen) and Lighting Designer Ben Hughes (The Seagull, Happy Days, Grounded, HOME), the company has the most beautiful Queensland setting in which to play (although, interestingly, it’s contained, rather than being allowed to fill the space). His Messina boasts no Tuscan inspired marble floored mansion or pencil pines out front, but a luxury waterfront home of pristine white, wooden shutters and billowing curtains, wide verandahs, towering palm trees and manicured lawns, and simple, stylish furnishings. We might be on Hamilton Island, overlooking Whitehaven Beach during Race Week, or relaxing in Cato’s during the days and nights of a pre-refurbished Sheraton Noosa. The place feels light and breezy, sophisticated and carefree. A full revolve, as it did for Managing Carmen, allows seamless transitions and amusing stage antics between scenes.

In this serene playground for the privileged, against the beautiful blue hues of the sea and sky (and later, gorgeous dark storm clouds), Shakespeare’s characters chat and frolic, eventually confessing their true feelings, challenging us to consider love and longing, and the value of living in the moment, making every minute count. We don’t have to work hard to work out what’s going on; the language is clear (the cuts to the text are clean) and the contemporary reading makes Shakespeare’s themes as relevant now as they were 400 years ago without labouring any of the political points. But without adding the technological advances (there’s no tinder here, nor does anyone stop to take a selfie or type a status or relationship update – IT’S COMPLICATED), I have a single moment of dissatisfaction when considering the storytelling… And it’s only because I’ve thought about it. During the show I think nothing of it, simply accepting that it’s an unplugged, technology-free weekend away. And don’t we dream of such weekends?!

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For the bantering, bickering Beatrice and Benedick, love is a battlefield. Once bitten and twice shy, the sharp-witted pair are locked in a verbal fencing match with no quarter asked and none given. Is there any way their friends can open their eyes to their true feelings for each other?

For the starry-eyed young couple Claudio and Hero, love is a many-splendoured thing – that’s if they can take their eyes off each other long enough to avoid being deceived by bitter schemer Don John.

Christen O’Leary’s energy is infectious, her bold Beatrice, on the Saturday evening after opening, achieving the perfect balance of scorn and pixie charm. Emboldened, quickened vocal work and the assured stage presence we’ve become accustomed to makes O’Leary’s performance a stand out. I know it seems strange to mention the stage presence of a seasoned performer (should it not be a given? It’s the confidence in the space that translates to something very difficult to define), however; there are others who, with much the same experience in the industry, still don’t impress upon me such a solid, grounded, glorious energy, and a genuine connection with the actors and audience. Handled beautifully, her later frustration commands our attention.

O’Leary, along with Hugh Parker and Bryan Probets, are among the favourites from QTC’s stables (or should that be staples?), and from their work in this production (let alone their individual bodies of work) it’s not hard to see why. Parker’s Benedick brings great comedy to proceedings, his “skirmish of wit” with Beatrice and his gangly physical comedy delighting the audience. As a QTC statesman, it’s appropriate to see Probets as the statesman here – a wise and reasonable, distinguished and smartly dressed Leonato. Just when we thought we were getting used to Probets-the-comical-and-character-actor, we are shown a completely different aspect to the man. I love it.

You know I love Tama Matheson, exuding natural confidence and charm here as Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon. (I can’t wait to see him again in Don Juan, in Noosa in July). By capturing the very essence of upstanding royalty (and loyalty), Matheson’s performance is a magnificent example of making a character one’s own. In this ensemble he shines, along with O’Leary and Liz Buchanan (Dogberry), who each live and breathe the language fully; their lines coming “trippingly on the tongue”. Interestingly, no vocal coach is credited, though it’s my guess Klarwein felt comfortable enough with the spoken text (and with the support of the singers in the cast and creative team) to omit this role.

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Hayden Jones (Don John) is appropriately nasty and melancholy and Mark Conaghan (Borachio), the ideal henchman. Buchanan, Megan Shorey (Verges) and Kathryn McIntyre (Margaret) handle their cleverly-revised gender blind comedy superbly, and treat us to entertaining musical interludes with original composition and vocal arrangements by Gordon Hamilton, including a rousing new version of OutKast’s Heya. But it’s the gorgeous Patrick Dwyer (a suitably slightly insecure Claudio) who sings the sweetest treat, with a moving tribute to his love in Act 2. As Hero, Ellen Bailey is the epitome of a modern Shakespearean maid, a joy to watch and a pleasure to listen to. Keep an eye on Bailey this year…

We enjoy wonderful camaraderie between the men in this production, however, this means sitting patiently through a couple of unnecessary moments of high camp in addition to the (presumably) boyish Naval affection. Irresistible perhaps, to include these guaranteed laughs. And a costume change for O’Leary would be appreciated; despite the impact of the red and all its metaphors for her, it seems unreal for her not to have at least one other outfit available. She’d wear a Camilla equally well (the recent Athena or Pirate Heart drops would certainly suit her sensibilities and the resort style setting). Perhaps Roberts’ focus remained squarely on the set rather than the costume design for this one.

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Having been perfectly cast and playfully prepared for a broad audience, QTC’s Much Ado About Nothing is set to be something that Brisbane talks about well into our state theatre company’s next season, despite this one just beginning. It’s a joy to see any of Shakespeare’s comedies handled so adeptly, with sensitivity on an emotional level, and with a strength of conviction and distinct style, which also delivers the social and political messages with aplomb.

Whether or not you know the 400-year-old work of The Bard, Klarwein’s astutely reimagined production will delight, and will definitely have you asking for more of the same. So be sure to ask.

14
Sep
15

Queensland Theatre Company’s Season 2016

 

tales of change – 10 powerful productions – the best Australian writing – top Australian talent

 

 

 

 

Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) has revealed its highly anticipated Season 2016 featuring 10 powerful productions, including the world premiere of The Wider Earth, a groundbreaking collaboration between QTC and Dead Puppet Society. From Molière and Shakespeare, to local stories from around the corner, international masterpieces and the best Australian writing, QTC is set to celebrate ambition and achievement.

 

In unveiling his final season before he departs for Sydney Festival, QTC Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said 2016 would engage and challenge on the need for bravery and moral fortitude in shifting times, providing a forum for debate, diversity and the driving of change.

 

Art is nothing if it doesn’t make you feel.

 

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Season 2016 opens in January at the Playhouse with the devilishly funny comedy that journeys into old age, Quartet. Writer Ronald Harwood takes on retirement with tenderness, grace and hope – but no self-pity – in this moving and all too truthful tale of the frustrations and fears of getting old. Andrea Moor, fresh from directing the smash hits Grounded and Venus in Fur pulls the stage strings while actors Christine Amor, Andrew McFarlane, Trevor Stuart and Kate Wilson thoroughly enjoy themselves in this bawdy romp through the golden years. The show will then go on to tour regional Queensland.

 

He saw the smoke from the nearby ridge. He knew what it meant. Someone was coming.

 

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Based on the award-winning novel by Kate Grenville, the acclaimed The Secret River, winner of six Helpmann Awards including Best Play, Best Direction and Best New Australian Work, is a powerful story of the bloody beginnings of colonial Australia, when pardoned convicts clashed with the traditional owners of the land they settled. The Sydney Theatre Company production brings together celebrated Australian director Neil Armfield and adaptor Andrew Bovell, with actors Nathaniel Dean, Trevor Jamieson, Matthew Sunderland and Ningali Lawford-Wolf to tell the deeply moving tale of two families divided by culture and land in this showstopping Queensland premiere.

 

 

Here’s an interesting read before you go Googling those Sydney reviews…and this, which I thought I’d remembered reading at the time; an excellent piece from James Waites. In this case, I recommend reading the comments as well…

 

Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps!

 

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In April, QTC presents Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Jason Klarwein, with Ellen Bailey and Tama Matheson as the young starry-eyed couple, leading an all-star cast featuring Christen O’Leary, Hugh Parker and Bryan Probets. This romantic sparring is the tale of two pairs of very different sweethearts starring some of the best acting talent in the country.

 

Love is what interests me. And love is indivisible from murder.

 

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In May, QTC leaves the Playhouse until October, making its home in the Bille Brown Studio (BBS). From award- winning Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith comes Switzerland, a stunning new two-hander starring Andrea Moor, in an effortless move from director to on-stage lead. This is a theatrical thriller with famed author Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley) centre stage, having to pen one last devastatingly brilliant book.

 

Send a trained naturalist into the field and every new discovery will reassure him of what he already thinks he knows. Send a young man who knows nothing, and there’s no telling what he might find.

 

It’s just a simple thing, but it might just explain the whole world.

 

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In July, QTC and Dead Puppet Society, in another ground-breaking collaboration, will stage the world premiere of The Wider Earth, a coming-of-age story about science and faith that recounts the tale of a younger Charles Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle.

 

The Wider Earth will be a piece of visual theatre, placing strong emphasis on the staging and use of theatrical devices to paint our own vision of Darwin’s world. That means puppets – a lot of them. More than we’ve ever made before. At the moment, our plans for the production include more than 30. From tiny beetles to southern right whales, to the iconic Galapagos turtles. We’re excited that this work will bring human performers and our trademark puppet characters together in a meaningful way that isn’t often seen in mainstream theatre,” said David Morton from Dead Puppet Society, who penned The Wider Earth and will also direct and design.

 

Our story is one of breaking down barriers. Of inclusion, not exclusion……Because what you do is more important than what you believe.

 

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St Mary’s in Exile opens at the Bille Brown Studio on August 27 and is a tale that would be beyond belief if it wasn’t true. Gripping and inspirational, the play strikes close to home, telling the story of beloved priest, Father Peter Kennedy, excommunicated from St Mary’s in South Brisbane for preaching acceptance and equality. Written by acclaimed Brisbane playwright David Burton, the show will shock and inspire, with a star-studded cast that includes Chenoa Deemal and Caroline Kennison, under director Jason Klarwein, also moving from actor to director seamlessly in Season 2016.

 

It comes from you. Islam has no monopoly on fundamentalism. It doesn’t come from a text.

 

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Novelist and screen writer Ayad Akhtar’s dynamite theatrical debut, Disgraced, comes to the Playhouse from Melbourne Theatre Company in October. The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama is a stirring tale that poses challenging questions about identity, tribalism and the fragility of friendships and will be directed by Nadia Tass, and includes the wonderful Mitchell Butel.

 

True, it is something altogether scandalous. A stranger in the house with no idea how to handle us; He arrives with no shoes, his clothes not worth a cracker. No sooner in the door, than he starts to wag his tail.

 

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Proving that centuries old tales still have the power to resonate with audiences, Tartuffe is a bawdy play about power, hypocrisy and gullibility, pillorying religious fanaticism and moral weakness. Adapted by Justin Fleming from French playwright Moliere’s sinfully brilliant 17th century comedy, it demonstrates that perhaps modern attitudes haven’t changed as much as we think. Ribald and riotously irreverent, Tartuffe is a co-production with Perth’s Black Swan Theatre Company and features stage darlings Darren Gilshenan, Hugh Parker, Rose Reilly, Steve Turner, Alison Van Reeken and Alex Williams.

 

The Territory’s like a bastard child. Everyone’s got an opinion on how it should be brought up, but no one wants to stick around long enough to do it.

 

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A little newer to Australian theatre is Bastard Territory, a confessional human drama about identity. This new Australian play from Brisbane-based writer Stephen Carleton, Bastard Territory mixes wry humour, raw insight and a killer 60s and 70s soundtrack, along with the talents of Benhur Helwend, Suellen Maunder and Peter Norton, for a powerful and affecting tale, directed by Ian Lawson.

 

When we left Russia, we didn’t look backwards. We held each other’s hands and we jumped, trusting we’d land safely.

 

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The finale for the 2016 Season is an elegant and sophisticated work. Based on fact, the epic and intimate Motherland is from Brisbane-based writer Katherine Lyall-Watson, and was recognised as a Patrick White Playwright’s Award Finalist. A tapestry of displacement and identity, it explores the casualties of love, ambition and politics.

 

 

Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said 2016 season was a collection of love letters to artists and audiences.

 

“There are shows that represent the plethora of conversations we have been having over the past four years and the wonderful rapport that we have been developing,” he said. “Theatre is a sacred place where opposing ideas are argued out to create drama, a place where audiences continue the discussion outside the theatre and where those ideas can take root in social movements. We all have examples of drama that changed our opinions, informed our positions or frustrated us. That is the joy of theatre; one of the last places where we can openly debate, be engaged and entertained.”

 

Now in its 45th year, QTC has a long history of performances that have engaged, entertained and sparked debate, and Season 2016 promises to celebrate diverse ideas.

 

The season announced today leads a full program of touring, education, children’s shows and more.