MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
UBC Theatre and Film, Frederic Wood Theatre, 8th - 24th November
My Two Pence
My Two Cents
By Irving Bolton
Shakespeare is a challenging playwright to perform successfully. Mastery of the prose, understanding the nuanced humour and decoding for a modern audience requires great forethought. UBC's production of Much Ado About Nothing achieves this impressive feat under the guiding hand of Director Lois Anderson.
The modernisation of the setting to present-day Italy provided many amusing twists on the original, our foot soldier duo now footballers, and the glamorous Don/Prince siblings sporting slick Gucci suits and loafers. Ultimately the story and script remained consistent, with seven gender-swapped roles to match the female strong cast creating a refreshing experience against a typically male-centric play (excluding Beatrice's prominence). Immersion was clearly the goal for the creative team: a striking Venetian villa and distinctly stylish apparel changes bring life into the story.
Performances from the acting troupe were overall successful, with clear effort spent on understanding the text to provide smooth delivery in each scene. Particular standouts were the bantering couple of Beatrice (Daelyn Lester-Serafini) and Benedick (Gray Clark) whose commitment to Shakespeare's wit and turbulent expression of pride and passion strongly shone.
Some members of the cast struggled to clearly hold to their acting foundations whilst grappling with the poetry, missing their projection and comedy through recitation alone. The exception to this in the company was Tomás Balli, whose devilish swagger of Borachio and transformation into the pious Friar Francis demonstrated an excellent range, particularly delighting the audience with the dynamic timing of "Know you any, Claudio?".
Much Ado About Nothing explores aspects of betrayal, love and pride through one of the more believable comedic Shakespearian misunderstandings. This was a charming performance and the company showed great dedication to the craft.
By Ash Tisdale
Let me just begin by stating that Shakespeare is complex. The language itself is difficult to understand let alone to make comprehensible to others. The fact that these students are attempting “Much Ado About Nothing” already speaks in their favour, one of the greatest things an actor can do is to take on something that challenges them. For the most part they do very well and should feel proud of trying to conquer the mountainous challenge of a Shakespearean play.
Director, Lois Anderson, does an excellent job of bringing new life to a classic play. Set in modern-day Venice, Anderson incorporates Italian phrases and music into the show with great effect. Though certain aspects are a bit more Jersey Shore-esque than really Italian, the effect is charming and unique.
Like most classic plays, the characters are mostly men. Anderson made the progressive choice of swapping several male characters for female ones. The result is a female-driven cast which gives the play a more feminist feel without actually having to change much of the script. This is such an easy thing to do with many plays and yet isn’t done enough. Anderson’s decision gives a refreshing opportunity for female actors to take on more challenging roles.
Consisting primarily of a multilevel set piece on a rotating stage, the scenic design by Jacqueline Gilchrist is ingenious. It is particularly impressive as two actors, Matthew Rhodes (Claudio) and Rafael Ruiz (Don Pedro) mount the stairs on one side of the set piece. As they climb, the set rotates and they descend another flight of stairs on the other side with the audience able to see them throughout the process.
The production is full of little scenes like this that show real potential. One such scene is when Benedick (Gray Clark) hides behind a statue to overhear a contrived conversation about Beatrice (Daelyn Lester-Serafini) being madly in love with him. The other characters are intent on Benedick hearing their conversation and the ridiculous staging and acting of the scene had the audience in stitches.
Many of the actors are successful at bringing their characters to life, particularly Clark and Lester-Serafini in their leading roles. They seem to have a very deep understanding of their characters and the text, bringing humour and meaning to a modern audience. Elizabeth Young, who plays Dogberry as well as one of the maids, also stands out as she effortlessly engages the audience and brings tears of mirth to their eyes. Unfortunately, several of the other actors fail to grasp either character or text and seem to, on several occasions, miss the mark. At times background sounds drown out dialogue, as actors seem to lack the confidence to project their lines, often mumbling and running words together.
This production has many great moments and I’ve definitely seen professional shows that I’ve enjoyed less. I’m happy to say that all in all I was pleasantly surprised.