It is going to be a sad day when I turn thirty. Not because my hair will start to thin, and my face cave in, but because I’ll no longer be able to enjoy under the 30’s discount for Bell Shakespeare performances.
Luckily, John Bell’s Shakespeare company is that good that I’ll be more than happy to hand over the extra dough when the time comes. Here’s why.
Yesterday my girlfriend and I went to the matineé of Much Ado About Nothing in the Drama Theatre at the Sydney Opera House. We walked past the lady selling programs and were swiftly ushered to our seats in the second row. No sooner than we were seated, than the lights went down and the play began.
Much Ado About Nothing is one of my all-time favorite stories. It’s a comedy of wit, of errors and of love and deception that follows the marriage of Italian nobles, Claudio and Hero through an elaborate series of innuendos, malapropos and gender politics.
Though the plot unfolds around Claudio and Hero, the stars are undoubtedly the couple’s antagonists, Benedick and Beatrice. The two are frequently at war with their words and have a purposefully distant relationship with each other, but an impossibly close one with the bride and groom to be.
Claudio, Hero, Benedick and Beatrice share a common enemy in Don Jon, and his (lamp) shady entourage who’s sole aim it is to wreak havoc and ruin the lives of those happier than they.
We’d had high standards as we walked into the theatre, having previously seen Bell’s rendition of the Tempest and Othello several years earlier. This is the first Bell production of Much Ado for over 10 years, and as such it was the first that we’ve had a chance to see.
We walked out during intermission, and then again at the end of the performance, with huge grins on our faces and both times feeling like the bar had once more been lifted.
Leading man, Toby Schmitz, gave an outstanding performance as Benedick. Whether he was center stage, under a pool table, falling off a stool or trying his hand at poetry, he had the audience on the edge of their seats with baited breath as they attempted to stop their sides from splitting for the entire performance.
Leading woman, Blazey Best, (as her name would suggest) gave a blazingly brilliant performance as Beatrice – A challenging character that must display the full gamut of human emotion, sometimes in a single line.
The performance was also highlighted by and updated 1950’s setting, an intimidatingly large and beautiful set, frequent singing and dancing and several brief appearances from Max Gillies as Dogberry, the watchman/ass.
Whether you’re under thirty and don’t go to the theatre much, or over thirty and go there every second Sunday, I’d highly recommend going to see Bell Shakespeare’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. It’s on until 14 May in Sydney, then starts on 19 May in Canberra and 9 June in Melbourne.