Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Venue: Bard on the Beach
Shakespeare Festival under the Tents in Vanier Park
Reviewer: Jane Penistan
Director Michael Shamata Set design David Roberts Costume design Mara Gottler Sound design /Composer Stephen Bulat Lighting design Gerald King Stage Manager Stephen Courtney
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival opened its 15th season on June 9th, 2004 with the comedy Much Ado About Nothing. This romance confirms that,"The course of true love never did run smooth" but that, "All's well that ends well'.
The stage is set with an opulent terraced courtyard exterior with cream washed walls, decorative statuary and overhanging blossoming trees.
Michael Shamata has chosen the immediate post World War 11 period for this presentation. So, he dresses his young men as serving members of the Royal Canadian Air Force. This uniformity contrasts well with the more relaxed and multi-coloured clothes of the women and other civilians. Only in the wedding scenes do the older men appear uniformly attired in full evening dress. The opening music of popular 1940's tunes completes the time set of serving men returning home to the freedoms and pleasures peacetime life.
As Leonato, the governor of Messina, Russell Roberts is a charming host, father, and elder statesman, and always in charge of any scene in which he is involved. His urbanity is disturbed into a fine display of wrath at the accusations levelled at his daughter, but his reasonableness and authority are restored as the friar's suggestions and stratagems are promulgated This is a very fine performance.
As the sparring lovers Benedick and Beatrice, Andrew Wheeler and Kerry Sandomirsky have plenty of witty repartee . While Benedick appears to enjoy these exchanges as lighthearted teasing and fun, Beatrice seems cold and her responses lacking in pleasure, as if this bantering were serious and not a game. Consequently these verbal encounters lack the expected spontaneity and sparkle.
As Claudio, Jonathan Geenen is ill at ease as Don Pedro's protégé and Hero's suitor. Hero, Lara Gilchrist, is young and innocent, charming in her naivete, and a graceful daughter to Leonato. Gerry Mackay's Don Pedro is a commanding officer on leave, when deference to rank can be relaxed. His embarrassment at his brother's behaviour and defection could have been a little more sincere.
Don Pedro's evil minded half- brother, Don John, is played by David Mackay. While it is apparent that he is formulating some scheme, the bitterness of his feeling and his antagonism towards his brother is not evident, nor is his satisfaction in putting his plan into operation with his henchmen, Borachio (Derek Metz) and Conrade (Haig Sutherland). The fulfillment of this will embarrasses his brother, deprives Claudio of a wife, enrages Leonato, and defames Hero.
As Friar Francis, John Innes takes command of the chaos after Claudio's refusal to wed Hero. With quiet authority, he calms Leonato, comforts Hero and brings reason and resolution to the impossible situation in which the family has been placed.
Dogberry, the constable of the watch, and his associates, provide plenty of laughter in their blundering efforts to become law enforcement officers. As Dogberry, Christopher Gaze is suitably bumbling, with his friend Verges, (James Fagan Tait). George Seacoal, (Christopher Waddell) proves himself to be a force to be reckoned with, and comes into his own powerful self when the members of the watch arrest Don John's conspirators.
Michael Shamata has devised several amusing incidents to intensify the humour of Shakespeare's scenes. The deceptions of both Benedick and Beatrice are cleverly and entertainingly managed. Dogberry, with his bicycle and his instructions to the watch provoke plenty of mirth.
The music and dancing are very much in keeping with the immediate post war period. Balthasar's song, sung by Josh Epstein, is in this idiom. As in all Shakespeare's plays, contemporary music is an intrinsic part of the presentation, and here it is used to good effect.
This production is a happy and enjoyable opening to this 15th Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival.
Much Ado about Nothing runs at the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival under the Tents in Vanier Park June 3 - September 26, 2004, Tuesday - Friday at 8.00 p.m., some Saturdays at 8.30 p.m. and Sundays at 7.00 p.m. Matinees are on Saturdays at 4.00 p.m. and some Sundays at 1.00 p.m. until September 5, After September 7, evening performances will begin at 7.00 p.m. and matinees at 1.00 p.m. For more information, other productions and events, reservations and tickets call the Box Office at 604-739-0559 or visit www.bardonthebeach.org
© 2004, Jane Penistan