As director Rebecca Patterson points out in the program notes, when a company says they’re going to do Shakespeare the most common question is “where will you set it”?
With the Classic Chic Productions presentation of Much Ado About Nothing currently on stage at The Cultch, she and her all-female cast sidestep the question entirely.
Instead, centered on the idea that Much Ado About Nothing is timeless, the production uses a minimalist set and historical costuming to focus attention on the performances. The results are spectacular.
Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing begins with the dashing Prince Don Pedro returning from war to seek a moment of respite at the home of Leonato. While there, his two young companions, Claudio and Benedick, find love in the old man’s daughter and niece whose quick wits mark a good match. Many cruel tricks are then played by Don John, the brother of Don Pedro, which are ultimately discovered and forgiven as the couples wed and dance into the night.
This production is a feast of fantastic acting.
Kayla Deorksen’s Don Pedro is assured yet melancholy, with an inner life writ large upon her face when her brother Don John (Sara Vickruck) enters the scene. Vickruck remains a standout throughout the show as both the bastard brother and the oafish Dogberry. She oscillates from teenage rebellion to high energy simpleton in a deft turn that showcases immense skill.
Sereana Malani makes for a forceful Hero that belies the timidity of Shakespeare’s words and suggests there’s more than a victim in her, while Christina Wells Campbell and Corina Akeson as Beatrice and Benedick offer a more nuanced take on the classic tsundere relationship. Campbell offers realistic breaks in emotion that Akeson meets with a keenly felt gravitas.
While the performances shine in this production, they do so because of the refined technical direction of Nicole Weismiller. With only a bench on stage, the space informs context with bright lighting cues from Jillian White, and a multicultural soundtrack from CJ McGillivray that worked well in some moments but distracted in others. Sherry Randall’s costume design offered a sweet whiff of historical flair while maintaining the indeterminate setting of the production.
Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays and rather than try to do something “new” with the play, director Patterson chose to do the most rebellious thing of all: to just do it well.
The performances are top notch, the set is pared back and effective, and the direction gives space for the actors to sparkle with a full inner life.
It is simply good theatre. Go see it.
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare and adapted by Rebecca Patterson. Directed by Rebecca Patterson. Produced by Classic Chic Productions in association with The Cultch. On stage at the Cultch Historic Theatre (1895 Venables St, Vancouver) until February 16. Visit thecultch.com for tickets and information.