Much Ado About Nothing

Essential Theatre. Coriole Vineyards - 29 Jan 2012

Essential Theatre’s annual outdoor Shakespeare production at Coriole in the McLaren Vale is ensconced as an annual event for me, as it is for many others.  This is the Victorian company’s 10th year touring in the grape-growing regions of South Australia, Victoria and NSW, where Dionysian and Thespian pleasures are combined under the setting sun for Epicureans like myself.  Dinner and dessert is included.

The company last year played a sensitive Romeo and Juliet to a greatly appreciative crowd.  This year there was Much Ado About Nothing.  Most of us had lost the plot and needed to review the synopsis in the five dollar program before the commencement of activities.  In one of Shakespeare’s more trivial comedies, Claudio and Hero, and Benedick and Beatrice, are meant for each other from the get go, but mischief-maker John the bastard puts the cat amongst the pigeons until things are set square again in time for a double wedding, so there was much ado about nothing.

Under the direction of Anna McCrossin-Owen, again, the production is typically fast-paced and funny.  The actors vocalised and gesticulated so effectively that my 91-year-old father-in-law, completely deaf in one ear, had no trouble following the action.  What they saved on lights, they spent on costumes, and the tennis and flapper outfits on the ladies were terrific.  The men looked formal but nondescript in military uniforms perhaps designed more for science fiction than the roaring twenties.  The text is sprinkled with ditties sometimes apropos to nothing at all but welcome as part of the festivities.  The company does not take itself or Shakespeare too seriously, and en plein air with the sun setting and people sipping and sometimes murmuring, one sensed the bawdy atmosphere of what fun the original productions might have been like.  It was expressive and fluid and relaxed, perfectly understandable, and a great pleasure to be there.

You haven’t missed out entirely as there are additional performances on the 17th and 18th of Feb at Sevenhill Cellars in the Clare.  I bid you to sip, sup and savour.

David Grybowski




Essential Theatre. Coriole Vineyards


On a balmy evening in the McLaren Vale, a sweaty but appreciative audience setup shop on a grassy amphitheatre in the grounds of Coriole Winery to enjoy the nomadic Essential Theatre's 2012 Shakespeare production. 

Treating us to Much Ado About Nothing, this is the company’s celebratory tenth year of entertaining Australia’s (and now New Zealand's) vino-sipping theatre tragics, and their ninth year at performing at the hospitable Coriole.

On reporting my experience of the Essential troupe for the third time, it feels repetitive to sing their praises but in all honesty, it's nigh impossible to fault them. They take what could be stuffy, high-society Shakespeare and show you the Master’s works as it would have been.  The actors use their open-air stage from edge to edge, often positioning themselves amongst the audience and including them in the proceedings. 

Having experienced productions of Shakespeare in London's Globe Theatre (about as authentic as one can hope for these days), the Essential troupe’s interpretation is wonderfully close and imbibes the same sense of comedy amongst the volumes of calamity and unrequited love. Considering that Shakespeare wrote his works for the unwashed masses, one imagines this is how the great man's comedies were meant to be enjoyed - up close and interactive with hilariously overdone characterisations, cheeky musical interludes, dramatic highs and tragic lows. 

Essential's productions are known for their well-placed and sympathetic modernisations, and these were particularly understated in Much Ado.  The 20s inspired costumes and few modern references could have passed you by. Their rotating cast saw lots of familiar and well-loved faces on the afternoon, with the appearances of Grant Foulkes (Claudio), Amanda Labonte (Beatrice) and Sophie Lampel (Leonata/Dogberry) always a sign of wonderful things to come. 

Of particular excellence was the partnership between Lampel and Madeleine Harding (Hero/Verges) as Dogberry and Verges, the two idiotic nightwatchmen who chance upon and capture the villainous Borachio (Tim Paige) as he returns from framing the virtuous and innocent Hero.  Lampel and Hardy play these dolts brilliantly and with perfect comedic timing, easy capturing the most laughs and applause for the night.

Yet another superb and thoroughly enjoyable performance from this wonderfully talented group – it’s fast becoming a highly anticipated annual tradition for this fan.

Nicole Russo


Other Essential Theatre Company Reviews

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{article Comedy of Errors}


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{article A Midsummer Nights Dream}


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