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Manawatū Summer Shakespeare Presents Much Ado About Nothing

Against all odds, Manawatū Summer Shakespeare returns for 2024 and is turning 21! This year’s Summer Shakespeare production is a celebration of wāhine toa; with a female-led production and directorial team. To celebrate the milestone birthday, artistic directors Rhian Firmin (Te Ati Haunui-a-Pāpārangi) and Rachel Lenart (both professional theatre makers and both single mums) have chosen to deliver the party filled romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing, running 22nd of Feb- 2nd March for Koha entry in the Victoria Esplanade Rose Gardens.

Despite a shock funding withdrawal announcement in 2023 by primary funders Massey University, the show will go on. Led by Firmin and Lenart in partnership with independent theatre company Simple Truth Theatre. Celebrating love in all its forms, from the young to the mature, the naive to the stubborn, the lusty, the sensible, the honour driven and the love found in friendship and loyalty; featuring plots, counter plots and of course, the ‘confusion’ of the masked ball and the accompanying break out dance routine! (with tino rawe choreography by nationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer Ihaia Kunaiti). The cast have been furthering their understanding of Te Ao Māori values and tikanga through learning from celebrated Māori Performing Arts graduate, Reremoana Hokianga (Ngāti Pahauwera, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāi Tahu).

The play stars fiercely independent Beatrice, one of the Bard’s wittiest heroines. Her peaceful, single (BY CHOICE) life in idyllic Messina is turned upside down by the arrival of a troop of soldiers, including the one she loves to hate - brooding Benedick. This caustic, chaotic and charismatic comedy promises much hilarity and many sharp one liners. Currently enjoying a contemporary resurgence with the new release of the film Anyone but You based on the play, Manawatū Summer Shakespeare show that once again they are hitting the zeitgeist and promise a sharp, colourful and thoroughly contemporary production. It’s set to be a vibrant, post-punk paradise - drawing inspiration from Barbie, Mad Max and preppy pool party aesthetics, with absurdist set pieces by award winning designer Luke Anderson.

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Cupid is no longer the Archer; His glory shall be ours, for we are the only love-gods.

Hayley D’Ath, well-known as the presenter of Manawatū Days with Hayley on the The Hits, brings sass and vibrance to the character of Beatrice. Sparks fly with her love interest, Benedick, played by Matt Kilsby-Halliday, who brings gravitas and warmth to the role. Kilsby-Halliday is a familiar face in the Manawatū and Horowhenua theatre community. Both are award winning theatre makers and the accolades continue across the creative team with award winning designers, performers and producers. Director Rhian Firmin returns to lead the party after her record breaking season of Romeo and Juliet in 2023, which is currently up for 8 Regional theatre awards across performance, design and direction. With a community cast of 24 actors, featuring local favourites and newcomers to the team ranging in ages 20-76, of all genders.

This production is queer and family friendly and set to be a delightful romp in the Rose Gardens. The stage placement in the Victoria Esplanade Rose Gardens itself allows for easy wheelchair or pram access for audience members as well as plenty of shade for those balmy Palmy raumati evenings. The team are committed to accessibility and encourage audience members to contact them if there is anything creating a barrier to attendance and are invested in supporting audience needs. Koha entry allows the audience to pay what they can, if they can.

The future of Manawatū Summer Shakespeare may be uncertain but one thing is clear, the 2024 season of Much Ado About Nothing is set to be unmissable!

Much Ado About Nothing will run:

22 Feb- 2 March

Victoria Esplanade Rose Gardens

No show Mon/ Tues

All 7pm excepting

Matinee performance Sunday 25 Feb 3pm

*Weather permitting*

© Scoop Media

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