Shakespearean gossip queens

By Joanna Farley

Ahh, Shakespeare. Love, romance, humour and characters who never get tongue-tied. Ever wished that could be your life? Maybe you need lessons from Benedick and Beatrice. As characters in William Shakespeare’s last comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, they’re sworn enemies, without a single civil word between them.

Theatre Junction’s version of Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Nikki Lundmark, stays remarkably close to the Bard’s original script. In the play, the beautiful and young Hero is about to marry an officer named Claudio. However, Claudio’s friend, Don Pedro, engineers a scheme to keep him busy. Along with Hero, her maids and her father, they convince their fellow officer and confirmed bachelor to fall in love with Beatrice, Hero’s sharp-tongued cousin. Meanwhile, Don John, Don Pedro’s brother and former favourite, devises a plan to destroy Claudio’s happiness by convincing him Hero isn’t the innocent girl she seems. What then follows is a lot of anguished misunderstanding, brilliant wordplay and hilarity.

Theatre Junction brings the play to life brilliantly, with Dennis Fitzgerald and Shawna Burnett escalating the conflict between their strong-willed and outrageously verbal Benedick and Beatrice to amazing heights. The chemistry between the cast is extremely strong and allows the performance to achieve a high level of excellence and believability. Each actor is terrific, but it is Fitzgerald that shines above and beyond. In the role of Benedick, he is perfect in pitch and words, with excellent control over his voice and motions. His comic timing as the witty Benedick is excellent, and he does a sensational job as both an arrogant cynic and the bewildered man experiencing the first pangs of love.

If there was a weak link throughout this play, it was the unrealistic stage fighting. Also lacking was David Trimble’s personification of the Friar. Although excellent in his other role as the greasy Borachio, Trimble uses a weak and spineless voice that grates on your nerves to voice the Friar, who should have been strong and compassionate.

Overall though, the play was excellent. The chemistry between the characters allows you to forget that you were watching a play, and not your friends’ crazy love lives. It also reminds you that Shakespeare was always written to be watched, not read, as it is easy to understand the meaning of all the lines, even in their Elizabethan English.

So, if you don’t think you’ve had enough yet of other people’s lives, laugh at someone else’s romantic problems for awhile instead of nodding your head compassionately.

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