Theatre review: Surprisingly straight all-female Much Ado still a treat

Much Ado About Nothing

When: To Feb. 16

Where: The Cultch Historic Theatre

Tickets and info: From $24, at thecultch.com

Writers and directors have been playing with gender in Shakespeare’s work for some time. Witness Ann-Marie MacDonald’s 1988 comedy Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), currently at Jericho Arts Centre. But the pace of change has definitely accelerated.

Christina Wells Campbell and Sereana Malani in Much Ado About Nothing, playing until Feb. 16 at The Cultch Historic Theatre. For 0209 theatre review much ado [PNG Merlin Archive]

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Christina Wells Campbell and Sereana Malani in Much Ado About Nothing.

In Ravi Jain’s Prince Hamlet, lately at the PuSh Festival, actresses played all the men except Claudius, with a male actor as Ophelia. Recent productions of Much Ado About Nothing at University of B.C. and Bard on the Beach have given some male roles to women: Don Pedro’s villainous brother Don John, for example, was transformed to Dona Johnna, his wicked sister.

One reason for this trend is practical: Hamlet has only two female characters, Much Ado only four. Actresses need a chance to play the juiciest parts, and predominantly female audiences want themselves reflected on the stage.

Gender-reverse casting lets us see familiar characters in new ways, and can make transparent a play’s problematic sexual politics. In the #MeToo era this is as important an element of woke theatre as racial diversity.

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Vancouver’s Classic Chic Productions advertises itself as “Chicks bringing class to the classics.” Following their all-female Winter’s Tale, Glengarry Glen Ross and Corleone: A Shakespearean Godfather, the company has tackled Much Ado About Nothing with 11 actresses playing all the roles.

Substantial pleasures are to be had in director Rebecca Patterson’s adaptation, but not many surprises.

Patterson has trimmed the script but otherwise left the characters and situations unchanged. Women play the male roles in men’s clothes, the female roles in dresses. (But why some characters are in bare feet and others in boots is a mystery).

As the play’s witty, reluctant lovers Beatrice and Benedick, who mock love and each other until they inevitably melt, well-matched Christine Wells Campbell and Corina Akeson are quick, charming and funny, though without much romantic chemistry.

Kayla Deorksen, Barbara Pollard, and Adele Noronha in Much

Source:: Vancouver Sun – Entertainment

      

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