When Megan Dansie directs Shakespeare something special happens. It has to do with her expert casting, her interpretation of the play and the vision she has which always seems to further illuminate the text. The setting of this piece at the end of WWII gives it depth and a darker side than it previously seemed to show.
Adam Tuominen is the perfect Benedick, full of pride and honour and equipped with a mighty wit. Bronwyn Palmer as Beatrice is every inch his match. The two match intellects and carry us along with the ride; where one says black the other will swear it is white. There is good chemistry between these lead players and it is enhanced by the work of Alex Antoniou and Gary George as Claudio and Don Pedro and the beautiful Olivia Lilburn as the defamed Hero. Antoniou and Lilburn make a lovely couple and Antoniou is so innocently taken in, you almost forget he is abandoning his love so simply.
As Leonato, Tony Busch commands the stage, Hero’s father is a central figure and Busch has the presence to be commanding and emotional at the same time. As Antonio, Leonato’s brother and Beatrice’s father, Steve Marvanek provides good support. Brad Martin is in his element playing Don John the bastard brother of Leonato and the villain of the piece. Martin seems to be enjoying himself way too much. Joshua Coldwell, as Boraccio and Matt Houston as Conrade, are Don John’s henchmen. Coldwell, in particular, puts a nice veneer of veracity on his performance.
The show is almost stolen by the Watch and the loquacious Dogberry who pushes overacting to the extreme but never too far. Lindsay Dunn is superb in this, ably aided and abetted by Rose Harvey and Madison Kirby as the Watch, Angela Short, as Verges and Anthony Vawser as Sexton. Many of the minor parts are well cast and none stand out as a bad fit. Beatrice Blackwell (Margaret), Miriam Keane (Balthasar), Jack Robins (Friar Francis) and Georgia Stockham (Ursula) are all memorable in their own way.
Costume design by B F Henry Edwards is very in era and shows obvious work from the perfectly creased trousers of the uniforms to the post war fashion of the ladies; likewise, the Hair and Makeup by Renee Brice. I was impressed by the smooth scene changes: stage manager Hugh Hunkin uses the cast as crew and runs a tight ship. Finally, the clever dance at the end, choreographed by Lauren Scarfe and written by Phil Short and Jamie Hornsby was a great note to end on.
There were minor niggles, but amongst such positivity they pale to nothing – the Guild has another hit on its hands!
Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Venue: Little Theatre, University of Adelaide
Season: 2 May – 16 May
Duration: 2hr 40mins including interval
Tickets: Adult $28, Conc. $23, Groups of 10+ (in one transaction) $23