With Pop-up Globe firmly planted on Aotearoa's rich soils, it is great to see a uniquely Pacific flavour infused into a sparkling production of one of Shakespeare's finest comedies.
Much Ado About Nothing, the story of band of soldiers enjoying rest and recreation after a successful military campaign, is transposed to a Pacific Island setting where director Miriama McDowell artfully weaves elements of Polynesian music, dance and ritual into the unfolding drama.
The value of this kind of cross-cultural interaction is brilliantly demonstrated in the way Pacific Island humour resonates with Shakespeare's elaborate comic constructions that often involve acute sensitivity to matters of honour and shame.
A superb performance by Semu Filipo as Benedick wins enormous audience support as his amiable disposition becomes a springboard for marvellously expressive gestures, deeply ironic vocal inflections and explosive outburst of outrage and joy.
His transformation from aloof self-sufficiency to head-over-heels in love is neatly matched by American actor Jacque Drew's stroppy and combative portrayal of the fiercely cynical Beatrice.
A very different kind of comedy comes from Kieran Mortell who builds an intimate bond with audience and works himself into a manic Faulty Towers style frenzy as commander of the ever-vigilant border security force.
There is some highly inventive staging that makes effective use of the multi-level balconies rising above the stage and the entire cast brings clear diction and engaging energy to their performances.
Te Kohe Tuhaka earns vaudeville style hisses as the villainous Don John while Theo David and Victoria Abbott make a delightfully sweet romantic couple.
If there is any doubt about the relevance of Shakespeare, the play delivers a timely message about manipulative use of false rumours. It concludes with a joyous affirmation that the spell cast by fake news can only last so long before the truth will come out.
What: Much Ado About Nothing
Where: Pop-up Globe, Ellerslie Racecourse to May 12
Reviewer: Paul Simei-Barton