Review of NUTS' Drunk Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing

by Divya Nandyal

Like any former theatre kid, the Bard holds a special place in my heart, particularly his emotional rollercoaster comedies, so when I heard that NUTS was staging their very own drunk rendition of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, I was eager to get my hands on tickets. I'd like to really commend Dom Young and Lily Carter on their photography and graphics, as the publicists, as well as Zoe Berg and Susie Pretty throughout the promotion of Drunk Shakespeare, because as I scrolled through their captivating Instagram posts introducing an absolutely electric cast, I could hardly wait to experience the show myself – and it was an incredible one! 

Drunk Shakespeare, as the name suggests, is a staging of a Shakespearean play wherein the cast gets slowly more and more inebriated, with a select few members taking 6 shots on stage at random points throughout each show, known only by the directors Alex Mouhtouris and Cinnamon Howearth, indicated by a little primary school-esque bell ringing, followed by Assistant Stage Manager Cathy Gilbert entering the stage and (responsibly) serving the actor their liquor of choice! Wednesday’s show saw Edward Joseph, playing the infatuated lover-boy Claudio, Jess Maree, playing feisty Margaret, Sasha Bilanovsky, playing witty Ursula, and Blitz's very own editor, Anandi Ganguly, playing wise Friar Francis making a very concerted effort to maintain their characters while drunk. 

The show jumped right into its high-energy hijinks, introducing Leonato, his gentle daughter Hero, and her polar opposite cynical cousin, Beatrice, played by Olivia Castree-Croad, instantly engaging the audience through Beatrice’s rapid-fire roasting of her eventual lover, Benedick (Arnold Walsh). I really admire all of the actors’ commitment to the bit; with Claudio’s emotions and instant love generating ‘awwws’ from the audience, Benedick’s hilarious clambering on top of tables, walking into trees, and face-planting into cakes (twice!), the sprinkles of homoeroticism, and Tom Jenkins and Jack Wormald’s unfaltering knee-high soldier’s stride, as Dogberry and Verges, even while sobbing during Hero’s (fake) funeral. My only critique is that at times, the Shakespearean lingo could have been enunciated more clearly, but surprisingly enough, the diction of the cast only improved as their sobriety receded.  

And of course, the drunk adlibs were a treat to watch! Some highlights: Claudio’s sputtering while listing off the necessary qualities in a good wife, deftly handled by Alice Thompson’s Don Pedro, “I think we’ve covered it,” the joint giggly drunkenness of Margaret and Ursula when praising Benedick, again with the skipped lines made up for by Anastasia Dougenis’ Hero, “Yep! For sure! Benedick is great!” Benedick’s quick aside in response to the Friar’s uncontrollable laughter, “Friar, I hardly know her!” and the Friar’s thematically appropriate proclamation, “Thank you, Lord!” after being fed her line from off-stage.  

As always, a show isn’t complete without the work of the crew, who make theatre the immersive experience that it is. The set, designed by Kimia Nojoumian was beautiful and was complemented by sound designer Alex Patterson, who together created seamless transitions between scenes, and costume designers Anastasia Dougenis and Jack Wormald, particularly constructed flawless personas for Beatrice, Hero, Margaret, and Ursula. It goes without saying that the directors crafted a delightful experience, staging a play so well rehearsed that even the drunkest of the drunk soldiered on.  

Much Ado About Nothing has never been a personal favourite comedy, but this production has altered that entirely – I will never be able to think of Benedick without imagining him throwing it back, or Margaret without a flask down her bra, or the eulogy scene without the impassioned ukulele apology song (Colleen who?)

Photography: Dom Young

NUTS has always put together incredible performances, but having seen the fantastic quality of Drunk Shakespeare, I cannot wait to see The Frogs, directed by Anastasia Dougenis and Zoe Berg, featuring much of Much Ado’s cast and crew! Keep an eye out for their Instagram and Facebook posts, because their track record makes certain that it’ll be an amazing time. 

Divya is a 1st year Law/Commerce student! She dances and plays netball and violin. She joined Blitz to get involved in uni life and be a part of this really cool team of people!

Blitz Editor

Anandi Ganguly

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