Robert Menzies, one of Australia’s finest dramatic actors in IN A NUTSHELL. Pic Tony Davison

IN A NUTSHELL  is a journey through Shakespeare’s best-loved plays with the director Peter Evan as our guide. To clarify, IN A NUTSHELL is being performed by the Bell Shakespeare Company in the Neilson Nutshell theatre space at Pier 2/3 at the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct. The famous Pier is now open with numerous theatre companies and theatre spaces.

IN A NUTSHELL is the first show to be performed in the Nutshell space. It is a typical black box with seats on three sides. The walls are high enough to accommodate projections above the seats. The acoustics are not perfect but certainly acceptable. The presentation within the stark black walls and hard right angles has a dampening effect on the Shakespearean mood. IN A NUTSHELL has yet another meaning. Hamlet: ‘O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space – were it not that I have bad dreams.’

No bad dreams after seeing this show. It is entertaining and well-acted. Shakespeare scholar Peter Evans introduces the six actors and then briefly describes each segment to be performed. Occasionally some actors have scripts in hands which helps create the atmosphere of it being a workshop for the medleys. They wear their own clothes as if in a rehearsal, a lovely casual atmosphere. 

The set is nine large rectangular wooden boxes, designed by Greg Murphy Scenery, that are cleverly used to represent a stage, a bed, a grave, a place to hide and spaces to leap over from one box to another. The music and sound, designed by Max Lyandvert, is soft and tuned to what was being presented on stage – fairies dance, Macbeth weeps and Juliet swoons.  

Special mention for Toby Schmitz’s and Blazey Best’s fine acting, and full credit to Eleni Cassimatis, James Evans, Harriet Gordon-Anderson and Robert Menzies. Newcomers to the Bard and Shakespearean scholars alike will find this an engaging, informative and fun evening. 

IN A NUTSHELL is playing the Neilson Nutshell theatre space at Pier 2/3 at the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct until 7th August, 2022. Hopefully it will tour.

Review by Carol Dance


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