Pictured: Matthew Rhodes and Sophia Paskalidis as Claudio and Hero. Photo by Javier Sotres.
It’s hard to go wrong with Shakespeare. The story and the script is guaranteed after the test of many decades, and tickets will sell. But while it’s hard to fail, it’s even harder to nail. How can you make something from a vastly different time from ours relevant without it seeming like the same old thing over and over again?
UBC Theatre’s Much Ado About Nothing directed by Lois Anderson takes a new approach to the well loved comedy. The design of the show seems cohesive at the first glance, the different elements melding together into the overall aesthetic of the show. Upon closer inspection, one can see how it actually doesn’t make any sense, yet it works, as if the pieces from the different time periods are meant to be shown together. The set is heavily influenced by Venice and a bit of Greece, but this is more evident in the costume design (Erica Sterry). The play is set in Venice in 2018, so the actors wear modern clothing throughout the play, but the party garb has them in beautiful masks reminiscent of the Venetian ones and robes and capes with a touch of French. It did seem a little off to put the “soccer players” (the change which wasn’t too crucial in the plot, but a necessary one since there are no wars Venetians are fighting right now.) in the robes, but they changed out of their gears shortly after the scene. It was wonderful to see the revolve up and running, and the revolving set (Jacqueline Gilchrist) of the dock and the estate of Dona Leonata was beautiful and well utilized. The lighting design (Erika Champion) was also exquisite, especially for the water and for Hero’s funeral.
Replacing seven of the male characters with female actors is not only practical (this class has a higher ratio of female students) but it also gives the show matriarchal power and therefore empowerment towards women, which is always quite hard to see in theatre and Shakespeare. The actors portray these powerful matriarchs, Donna Antonia (Drew Carlson) and Donna Leonata (Tebo Nzeku) with power and pizzazz. Graydon Clark as Benedick is hilarious and he knows very well how to move his body, gliding from one position to another (literally!) The sweet Claudio played by Matthew Rhodes is heartwarming and we become more and more invested in his love story with the lovely Hero (Sophia Paskalidis).
Will Claudio and Hero be able to confirm their love for each other? Will Benedick and Beatrice get together already? Come find out at the Freddie Woods until the 24th.