Much Ado About Nothing Australian Tour
Claudio and Hero are deeply in love.
Beatrice and Benedick would rather swap sassy insults than sweet nothings.
Much Ado About Nothing is a saucy and razor-sharp battle of wits between the bickering Beatrice and Benedick who wield words as weapons, their banter betraying their love for each other.
Rosie spoke with renowned Australian comedian, Mandy Bishop, about embarking on a 27-venue national tour with Bell Shakespeare, and how Shakespeare has stood the test of time. Read the full interview below:
You’re a renowned Australian comedian who is known for your multiple appearances in Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf Revue, and your hilarious impersonation of Julia Gillard in At Home with Julia. What drew you to Much Ado About Nothing and how do you think your experience with comedy will help you in this role?
I have enormous love and respect for James Evans, the play’s Director, it was a glorious gift to be asked to play a Shakespearean male role. As for the comedic aspect of our work in the play, we can’t wait to perform it with an audience. Without giving too much away, the play’s comic notes are peppered throughout and everyone is giving an incredibly detailed, modern, funny, intellectual, devastating and hearty performance. Personally, I’m doing my best to keep up with the Bard. I’ll be trying everything I’ve got, and if I run out of resources, I’ll invent some... I’m not alone, my character could be called a ‘prevaricator’…
Much Ado About Nothing will be touring Australia at an impressive 27 venues! Why do you think this is a story that the whole of Australia should see?
First of all, it’s LIVE THEATRE. Get amongst it. Also, Much Ado About Nothing is one of those Shakespearean plays we THINK we know, but upon study, find it quite a lot more complicated than his other comedies. Its complexity means it’s essentially a Dramedy, only, written in 1598/99. And to understand how we could tell this story now – has taken many serious conversations. The gender politics are very dangerous, in that; walking this play’s fine line amidst our current landscape (with the wonderful growing awareness of male and female communication), is very exciting. But it does not come with a small amount of responsibility. Everyone says their productions are tackling the issues of the day. (I guess that’s why theatre is so wonderful, the successful scripts have stood the test of time for a reason.) However, I do have to mention, we’ve had to have MAJOR discussions about this one - we’re hoping we’re mirroring AND helping to progress the language around gender equality.
This huge tour will take you up until the end of the year, which is a massive undertaking. How do you prepare to take a show on the road for such a long time, and what do you think will be the most challenging part of it?
The most challenging part will be missing loved ones. The most fun part will be being away from them…NO, I’m joking. Our loved ones will visit us on the road and we get to come home too. I personally love an Australian tour, I’m quite homesick at the moment for our lovely land, since spending some of my time in New York. But most importantly, Bell Shakespeare tours beautifully: they have invested in all the latest well-being research and resources, we are incredibly well supported artistically and we have excellent accommodation. We have a great crew travelling with us too, whom will be working incredibly long hours in each venue, so we’ll also be looking out for their happiness and wellness.
Bell Shakespeare is known for their creative modern interpretations of Shakespeare scripts. What about this production of Much Ado About Nothing has been changed for a 2019 audience? How do you think a modern audience will resonate with this classic work?
I’m not sure that anything has been changed as such, the play has been slightly shortened to a good length for a live comedy, given school nights and mid-week work for our audiences etc. But all characters are represented, some of us represent more than one character due to travelling such a big cast around the country. And Bell does a great job of stretching and probing WITHIN the text, to make it SOUND like it was written yesterday. I’m incredibly excited by the modern ‘bodies’, characters, attitudes, movement, humour and drama you’ll get to see. I’m not sure I’ve seen anything so ‘supple’ and ‘street’, all at the same time. Do you know what I mean? Good, cos I don’t….but I think I’m saying modern audiences will see themselves, not Shakespearean people. The illusion being, we’re all the same…still, after all this time.
Why do you think Shakespeare has stood the test of time and continues to have an important place in the theatre world? What messages can we take away from Much Ado About Nothing?
Apart from the above? Let’s face it, the writing is BEAUTIFUL. IN EVERY WAY – from syllabic detail to comedy and drama and SONG, through balanced addressing of main plots, sub-plots and sub-sub-plots within a single play. Exploration through debates of the heart, mind and soul. Poetry. Vitality. Mortality and general mind-expanding ROCK AND ROLL LANGUAGE!!!! We would like you to take away whatever messages you wish. And I can guarantee, there’ll be lots to talk about in the car/bus/train/shoes, on the way home. Happy discussions to you all, with our love. To quote my superhero Don Pedro: “If we can do this, Cupid is no longer an archer; his glory shall be ours, for we are the only love-gods.”
….I mean? Exhibit A.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Favourite production you have ever seen?
The very first one, where players travelled to bush primary schools like ours, and hid behind cardboard flats and curtains in our playground and pulled out songs, heroes, villains and sock puppets. (there may also have been lollies involved…)
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
Dream show to perform in?
Always the one I’m doing at the time.
Plays or musicals?
A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
What’s next for you after this show?
New York pilot season
Much Ado About Nothing starts its tour in Orange on July 13, touring the country before finishing at the Sydney Opera House on November 24. You can get your tickets here.