I should preface this review by saying I am not the biggest fan of Shakespeare, I tend to avoid it as much as I can because rarely do I enjoy it. I wouldn’t normally reveal this when doing a review about it, but I think it’s important for all the others out there that roll their eyes the moment they hear the name Shakespeare. For those who have been living under a rock, Melbourne has built a full-scale replica of Shakespeare’s theatre right beside the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. The pop-up globe is a three-storey building, complete with open roof, standing room for the ‘peasants’ and as this reviewer found out, the Shakespeare room that overlooked the stage and gave quite a unique view.
The show essentially starts well before the play begins, with Verges (Johnny Light) and Dogberry (Kieran Mortell) weaving their way in and out of the crowd and expertly clowning. As the show progresses their interludes of fun and shenanigans is an absolute delight. The entire cast played off the audience beautifully, there was an incredible amount of polish in the production but a freedom for the actors to play off the things going on around them. When it started to rain, which the sadist in me loved (don’t worry, ponchos were handed out), Beatrice (Jacque Drew) delivered her ‘I am sunburnt’ line sarcastically while looking at the sky; when Dogberry mentioned the guards, he pointed to the plane flying overhead; as well as many references to the Grand Final, being played at the same time, kept it fresh and exciting.
Throughout the show, many audience members were referred to or used, two of them had poetry recited using their names as the rhyming word, one member was used for Beatrice to hide behind, two members were used for a dance number, some were used as drinking buddies and the list went on. The audience were so inclusive in this piece, you never knew if you were going to be swept up into the story or not. Likewise, you never knew where one of the cast were going to pop out of next, there were a number of times the audience were parted so that the actor could walk through or surround a dance, Dogberry abseils down the scaffolding at one point and many other fun things going on around you.
With a cast as strong as this one, it is unusual to have a stand-out, but Semu Filipo as Benedick and George Seacole was absolutely brilliant. His comedic timing, his bouncing off the audience and his charm was first-class. The most notable thing in Filipo’s work though was his ability to play to all of the audience and his projection meant that we could hear him no matter where he was on stage and where he was directing it. Unfortunately, there were a couple in the cast that didn’t quite have the same awareness and their lines or gags were occasionally missed, however this was rare and a minor issue over the entire production. The live band added another level to the show and the dance numbers were slick, sharp and always enjoyable to watch.
Much Ado About Nothing is a fantastic show that I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying. However, there is so much more to this than a show, the cast and crew have created not just a show, but an entire experience. From the moment you walk in the gate you are immersed in a world that I certainly haven’t experienced before. If you love Shakespeare, go and see this, if you hate Shakespeare, go and see this, if you don’t like theatre, go and see this because it is something completely different and something that will stay with you for a long time after.
The Pop-Up Globe is performing Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Henry V and As You Like It until the 12th of November.