It’s a rare privilege to see great work performed with such joy but to see it in the – albeit replica – original surroundings that date back to the 16th century only adds to the delight that the audience enjoyed last night at the opening of Much Ado About Nothing. The themes of betrayal, love lost, rebirth are ones Shakespeare would refine in later works but Much Ado has such a delightful balance of villainy and the violent see-saw of love that it works as well today with a Pacific thread running through it as it did 400 years ago.
This cast squeezed every last drop of slapstick humour, physical comedy and bawdy revelry from the play while using every square inch of the Pop-up Globe from the rafters to the pit. The newly injected local threads work brilliantly as they’re woven into Shakespeare’s verse with music taking in Pacific rhythms and even a hint of hip hop beats but as always with Shakespeare, it’s always about the words. And they flow like water around the plot twists that may be very familiar to fans of the Bard.
However, as always, it’s about the delivery and in the setting of the Pop-up Globe, this cast deliver an absolute pearl of a performance. Starting with Darcy Kent and Tom Wingfield, who set the bar very high as Verges and Dogberry from the very get-go, the entire cast were awash with energy and both individually and collectively brilliant, but of course Beatrice, played by Renee Lyons and Benedick, played by Rutene Spooner are gifted the juiciest pieces of script meat and they both enjoy themselves immensely but there’s plenty to go round and Greg Johnson as Don John milks the deserved boos and hisses of the audience but, for me, Stephen Lovatt as Leonato was a revelation. He captured the grace and deference of Leonato but also the raw pain of his loss brilliantly.
Do yourself a favour and get down to the Pop-up Globe before it’s gone, this is a great theatre company in full flow and firing on all cylinders and the performance was a delicious romp from beat one to the end.
Reviewed by Mike Hales.