Carousel Theatre 

Much Ado about Nothing

by William Shakespeare

Dates 4 -19 August 2006 Venue Performance Works Outdoor Stage, Granville Island

Reviewer Heidi Hoff

Without a doubt, Vancouver has one of the most talented pools of actors on the Canadian theatre scene today. What’s even more exciting, are the up-and- comers, the next generation of vibrant actors biting at the heels of the veterans. One of the best places to witness what’s in store for Vancouver audiences for years to come is Carousel Theatre’s Teen Shakespeare production of Much Ado About Nothing.

The comedy is set during 1945 wartime (the play itself is not time-specific), and is a fast-moving tale of wit, love, and betrayal. The actors’ ages range from 13 to 18 years, but all seemed elevated to adult status in the portrayal of their characters and in the delivery of Shakespeare’s text, which differs greatly from today’s teen talk.

This particular production focuses on women’s new roles in society as the result of war and their newfound independence. In the opening scene, Leonata (Ama Bennington), the Governor of Messina, her sister, Nurse Francis (Chelsea Cameron), daughter, Hero (Tracy Shut) and niece, Beatrice (Cecilie Balfour) receive word that Prince Don Pedro (Eric Freilich) and his company are making their way through their town after fighting a successful battle.

Once they arrive, a saucy and overall clad Beatrice picks up where she left off with Benedick (Ian MacDonald), a young Lord of Padua, resuming a familiar and entertaining pattern of verbal jousting. Claudio (Justin Go) a young Lord of Florence, falls in love with Hero the moment he sets eyes on her. While Beatrice and Benedick’s love story starts off on shaky ground and ends well, Claudio and Hero’s follows an opposite path.

The play continues on a series of twists and turns as the cast keeps the audience entertained with unique liberties taken with the material. Particularly clever was the portrayal of officer Dogberry’s (Keegan Flick-Parker) sidekick, Verges, as a sock puppet. In real life, the actor who portrays Borachio (Adam Duff) seems too young to know the effects of alcohol but effectively pulls off a scene where it gets the best of him. Steven Ansley who doubles as Don John, Don Pedro’s illegitimate brother and as Sexton, played both roles so differently. I didn’t recognize him as Sexton at all until the scene was almost over. Fija Diepenbeck as Margaret and Amanda Testini as Ursula nicely rounded out the ensemble in their supporting roles.

The teen actors pulled off an incredible feat, going from rehearsal to performance in four short weeks. Their lines were artfully executed and they didn’t miss a beat despite the periodic distractions of bicycles and dogs passing by the foot of the outdoor stage. There’s nothing finer than to spend a summer evening watching talented young adults perform with passion with nature as a backdrop. Just remember to bring a blanket!

This is a free production so please contribute generously to the donation bins provided.

© 2006 Heidi Hoff