REVIEW | Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing

Summer Nights Come Alive with Australian Shakespeare Company

Reviewed by Brendan Daynes

In the lush surroundings of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, under the summer sky, the Australian Shakespeare Company presents their latest production: a captivating rendition of the Shakespearean classic, Much Ado About Nothing. Here, amidst greenery evocative of Messina, Italy’s sunlit streets, audiences are transported into a tale where love flourishes as richly as the olive trees. Far from a conventional theatrical production, this adaptation infuses the stage with musical energy, transforming the play into a dynamic spectacle that captivates both the eyes and ears of its audience.

Under the visionary direction of Glenn Elston OAM, this adaptation dares to reimagine the beloved characters of Benedick, Beatrice, Claudio, and Hero as members of rival bands, infusing the setting with the rhythm and energy of a musical world.In this adaptation the audience is transported into a realm where Shakespeare’s timeless words seamlessly intertwine with original melodies, courtesy of the ingenious musical direction by Paul Norton.

As the story unfolds, the audience is immersed in a tale of intrigue and passion, woven with a series of romantic twists and turns. Claudio’s heartfelt admiration for Hero, the daughter of Leonato, ignites a whirlwind romance, while the witty banter between Benedick and Beatrice, sparked with undeniable chemistry, provides delightful entertainment and insight into their complex relationship.

What sets this production apart is its seamless integration of music into the fabric of the narrative. From ballads that tug at the heartstrings to energetic anthems that set toes tapping, the musical numbers elevate the storytelling and feel as though they were written in by Shakespeare himself. Norton’s masterful musical direction serves as a bridge between the 16th century and the present day, infusing Shakespeare’s verses with a contemporary flair that resonates with modern audiences.

The entire cast impresses, each member bringing depth and authenticity to their respective roles. Hugh Sexton’s Benedick is a charismatic force of nature, his comedic timing impeccable as he navigates the tumultuous waters of love and self-discovery. Opposite him, Anna Burgess commands the stage as Beatrice, her sharp wit matched only by her vulnerability, creating a character both fierce and endearing. Alex Cooper infuses Claudio with youthful passion, his transition from infatuation to regret serving as a poignant exploration of love’s vulnerability. Larissa Teale’s portrayal of Hero exudes innocence and elegance, her unwavering resilience amidst challenge speaking volumes about the strength of her character. Additionally, Johnny Light as Don Pedro, Nicole Nabout as Don John, Elizabeth Brennan as Borachio, Heath Ivey-Law as Conrade, Natasha Herbert as Leonata, Kevin Hopkins as Antonio, Meg McKibbin as Margaret, Madeleine Somers as Dogberry, Tony Rive as Verges, Olivia McLeod as Ursula, and Tony Harvey as the Musician each contribute their talents with finesse, enriching the production with their remarkable performances.

The production’s visual elements are equally captivating, with Karla Erenbots’ costumes evoking the elegance and opulence of Renaissance Italy while remaining true to the spirit of the characters. Set against the backdrop of an outdoor park, the set and lighting design create an enchanting atmosphere, transporting the audience to a world where magic and music intertwine. Sue-Ellen Shook’s choreography, meanwhile, complements the characters’ movements, integrating dance sequences and playful gestures to add depth and dimension to the storytelling.

This musical rendition of Much Ado About Nothing is an unforgettable celebration of love, laughter, and the enduring resilience of the human spirit. Breathing new life into Shakespeare’s timeless tale, it invites both seasoned theatregoers and newcomers to embark on a journey of discovery and delight. With its captivating performances and vibrant energy, this production promises an evening of entertainment and enlightenment for all.

Much Ado About Nothing is playing at the Southern Cross Lawn at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne until 17th March. For more information or to purchase tickets please visit

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