THIS is a play about hot blood and high spirits.
In this Canberra Rep production the high spirits are amply provided by Jim Adamik’s gorgeous oversize Benedick, but rather than hot blood it has an aloof languor drawn from its uninspired Gatsby-era setting.
Beatrice (Lainie Hart) and Benedick (Jim Adamik) are constantly at each other’s throats trading gibes and insults, so of course their friends think they should form a love match and set about manipulating the unlucky pair into each other’s arms.
The goofy Benedick is overjoyed when deluded into thinking that Beatrice loves him, bursting into convincing childlike exultation.
Laine Hart’s Beatrice is much icier, more sardonic than merry. The script calls for her conversion to the love of Benedick, but her change of heart is too abrupt to be plausible.
This is the first production I have seen where there was a strong suggestion that Beatrice might be cynically manipulating Benedick’s ardour so he will fight a duel on her behalf.
Rather than riotous celebration, this performance has the tone of a formal garden party. Tony Turner’s Leonato often seems bored and disengaged, even at those moments when he should be in a fury of passion.
In the second act, what should be intense confrontation is reduced to petty sniping that strips the heroes of their dignity, with Ben Russell’s Don Pedro in particular coming across as unusually callow.
While this performance falls short of the best productions of “Much Ado About Nothing”, Adamik’s Benedick is not to be missed.