Much Ado About Nothing

15th to 26th Feb 2006
By William Shakespeare
Directed By Derek Doddington


Following on from their outstanding 2005 production of “The Merchant of Venice”, Top Dog Theatre return to Mona Vale gardens, offering another wonderful open air Shakespearean experience.

Opening on Wednesday 15th February, Top Dog Theatre presents “Much Ado About Nothing”. Rated as one of Shakespeare’s very best comedies, “Much Ado About Nothing” promises to be a wonderfully funny and entertaining evening, fit for the whole family.

Leading an outstanding cast is Aaron Boyce (Starry Nights, Bouncers) as Benedict and Natalie Raybould (UK trained, Greek) as Beatrice. Erin Callanan (Canterbury Opera) leads the singing, accompanied by Robert Tait’s live quartet.

Shakespeare wrote this hilarious tale around 1598. Kenneth Branagh brought it to the big screen in the memorable film adaptation in 1993. Top Dog Theatre brings it to life for the community of Christchurch in 2006, as Shakespeare’s audiences would have watched, in the open air.

Director Derek Doddington has set the play back in the early 1800s. The UK born director made cuts to the script of last year’s production, making the play more accessible and easier to understand. He is keen to stress that “Much Ado About Nothing” has also been under his careful, but steady knife.

The play opens simply enough as Don Pedro, played by Ian Lester, leads his soldiers back from war. They arrive in Messina, Italy, at the mansion of Leonato, played by Brian Sullivan. With many plots about to unfold, we are quickly introduced to two of the central characters, Benedict and Beatrice. The would-be lovers spar words in a furious and amusing manner. The music plays, the dancers sing and the eyes of the young lovers, Hero and Claudio meet.

All would be well, but for the Shakespearean villain, Don John, who conspires to break up any romance which may develop.

Over and above the love duets and plotting villains, Doddington is keen to stress that “Much Ado About Nothing” is a comedy about deception. The beautiful Hero loves Claudio, and would never cheat against him. Yet the impetuous Claudio storms off when he thinks he sees Hero in the arms of another man. Meanwhile, Benedict doesn’t love Beatrice, but he does really. And Beatrice swears that she has no feelings for Benedict, until she overhears Hero tell Ursula of Benedict’s love for Beatrice. And although Don Pedro might woo Beatrice one moment, he devises a plan to marry her off to someone else the next.

A simple set design has been modelled around this concept of deception, which the designers say will push the audience and their imagination. The stage will be divided by a row of rose plants, where the audience are asked to believe that actors in one area cannot either see or hear those in the other section. This will also give the audience the feeling of watching the play in a kind of 3D effect, where they will often see who is coming on stage long before they arrive and join in the action.

There can be no better setting for this set of roses, than the beautifully manicured gardens of the Mound lawn, set amongst the striking Mona Vale estate. With plenty of parking, proper toilets, refreshments available, and Top Dog Theatre to entertain, the 2006 Summer Shakespeare Festival makes for a wonderful and memorable evening.

With a cast of top performers, and Doddington’s expertise, Top Dog Theatre will approach this play in their familiar format, promising full-on theatre. Doddington promises actors will deliver lines in an easy and natural manner. “It’s an incredibly easy story to follow”, promises the director “and will be an outstanding summer spectacle”.

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