Devastatingly good and effortlessly funny... and at the same time devastatingly funny and effortlessly good. Attractive, Not Model Attractive’s brand new production of Much Ado About Nothing may well provide Sydney with its most enjoyable evening of independent theatre this year. Book your tickets now and come back to this review afterwards, because by the time you finish reading this they will undoubtedly be sold out.
Over nearly five years now I have never given anything a perfect five... until now. Vibrant, energetic and engaging, this production crackles, pops and burns with the fervor of a well tended fire. And well tended it is by its debut director Madeleine Withington. Withington’s vision, execution and style is seamlessly woven with care and attention into Hal Jones’ adapted version of the Billy Shakes classic. An alcoholic, pastel, boy-band, 80’s fever dream awaits you at the Flightpath Theatre.
Of all the stars in heaven that make up this production the two brightest shining bare the weight of impeccable physical and vocal prowess, and comic timing sharper than the crack of a whip and certainly twice as fast. Hal Jones (Beatrice) and Steve Corner (Benedick). Jones whose overwhelming style and heightened sense of character ring through the theatre louder than the passing airplanes overhead. And Corner whose effortless charm, wit and energetic delivery gives his onstage presence a high powered magnetism. Like a black hole they suck in the audience by merely being visible to them and emanate a radiation which brings the age old text thunderingly to life. The slightest inflection or pause creating an irresistible tension, the audience simply belonged to them. When push came to shove and a change of pace pushed the action into more emotional territory, they did not miss a beat or the bat of an eyelid, their chemistry is simply delicious.
The rest of the cast are tight, polished and just as flawless. The cool Alexander Spinx as Don John, the buzzing Idam Sondhi as Claudio, Lib Campbell’s chaotic and dazzling Dogberry, the incandescent Sarah Greenwood as Hero, the bubbling Nick Barraclough as Conrade, Tristan Black’s warm and sympathetic Don Pedro and Suzann James’ very grounded Leonata are some of the highlights of this production.
Production design by Ash Bell absolutely hits the mark and Jas Borsovszky’s lighting design is some of the best I have seen at the Flightpath Theatre. Matt Christensen’s sound design, while smick and appropriate, was far too quiet to be effective however, especially in the opening sequence.
As can be found in Withington’s directors notes “Finally, don’t look for too much meaning here. You won’t find it. The meaning is found in shedding grief and anxiety for an evening, and I think that’s enough.” - - It is more than enough, it has been a long time since I have simply enjoyed myself when going to the theatre. It can be a powerful tool for change, it can enlighten, educate, surprise, overwhelm and rather dangerously it can be used as a mirror. But most importantly, and sometimes forgotten, it can be used to entertain, heighten and escape. In this case it was much needed.
Belvoir and Darlinghurst keep up, here comes Madeleine Withington and Much Ado!