Third Shakespearean comedy for Port Elizabeth

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Bob Eveleigh writes: Linda-Louise Swain is staging Much Ado About Nothing for the PE Shakespearean Festival at Mannville from March 1-11.
Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing

The PE Shakespearean Festival took Clover Showtime Show of the Year Awards in January 2016 and 2017 in Port Elizabeth with Twelfth Night and The Tempest, directed by award-winning Lesley Barnard and Helen Flax respectively.

Much Ado About Nothing will run at Mannville, the open-air theatre in St George’s Park at 7.30pm each evening from March 1 to 11, excluding Sunday, March 5. The Festival’s traditional Patrons Night is on Tuesday, February 28

Swain is setting her production in 1920’s colonial Kenya, where, after one of many skirmishes, Governor Leonato receives Don Pedro and his ex-British army fellows and immediately plans a true Happy Valley set-style party, Charleston and pink gins included.

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And there begins the Much Ado about Nothing fun, sparked by the constant verbal sparring between the highly-spirited and free-thinking flapper, Beatrice, and the sworn bachelor, Benedick.

Add some loathsome and cunning plans of betrayal by the baddies and Hero being “exposed” and left at the altar, this romp through the tale of love lost and regained in an era of wanton abandon will leave audiences with the realization that the Bard truly wrote for all times.

This tongue-in-cheek production includes the renegade ex-British South African Policeman – Dogberry – who went AWOL from colonial Rhodesia, skipped a few borders with the German East African invasion and, while based in Tanganyika, decided to skip yet another border, for colonial Kenya.

This role is portrayed in classic “safari-suit” style by Leslie Speyers, moving easily from his double Clover Showtime 2017 Award-winning Best Comedy Actor and Best Actor in a Musical 2016 Pantomime Dame in Puss in Boots role into safari jacket and shorts, complete with comb-in-the-sock idiosyncrasy.

The delightful roles of Benedick and Beatrice are played by Jacques Batista and Bernadine Gardiner – both last seen together in the 2000 production of Hamlet in the Fort in PE where they played brother and sister, Laertes and Ophelia.

Also returning to the Shakespearean stage after his successful portrayal of Richard III several years ago, is journalist Brett Adkins, in the role of gentleman baddie, Borachio, a man with a penchant for stiff drinks and loose women.

With choreography by Jerry Fortuin, other key role-players are Jonathan Minnie as Leonato, Jamie-Lee Reynolds as his daughter, Hero, Timothy Collier as Claudio, Arthur Daniels, fresh from his Showtime revue success last month in A Grand Night for Singing, as Don Pedro, with Karel Swanepoel and Matthew Nel alternating the role of Don John.

Bookings and block bookings should be made with Helen Wilkins on 041 5811738 and tickets may also be purchased from 6.45pm at the theatre on the evening of your choice. Audience members are invited to bring their blankets and picnic baskets to enjoy the balmy pre-show open-air theatre ambience at Mannville.

The entrance is opposite St George’s Hospital in Park Drive and a coffee shop will be open for interval snacks – and don’t forget the mosquito repellant.

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