With Art Deco in Napier creating so much ado recently it is quite refreshing to be offered another period costume experience for Hawke's Bay - Shakespeare in the Park.

"Not that it's the required attire," the festival's event manager, Graham Duncan, hastens to add, "but last year 70 per cent of the crowd turned up dressed in Elizabethan garb, which really surprised and delighted us."

The flags and bunting will be flying as the gates open at the Taradale venue and ticketholders start wandering in with their picnic rugs and fold-up chairs on Saturday, March 19, to experience an afternoon of merry activities culminating at 4.30pm with a performance by a local band of players of Shakespeare's romantic comedy, Much Ado About Nothing.

"It feels appropriate as 2016 is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death," Duncan said.


"There is something for everyone to enjoy with Elizabethan replica guild stalls offering food, archery, knife throwing, apple bobbing and maypole dancing.

"It's a day for the family and a delightful way to be introduced to Shakespeare."

The actors of The Drama Workshop will perform Much Ado about Nothing under the direction of Peter Cottrell, who recently returned from the Globe Theatre in London as part of the Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand Teachers Go Global programme 2015.

The play is considered to be one of Shakespeare's best comedies and combines elements of robust hilarity with more serious meditations on honour, shame and court politics. Although it is interspersed with darker concerns, it is a joyful comedy that ends happily with multiple marriages and no deaths.

The main female characters in the play are Hero and her cousin Beatrice, played by Kelie Jensen and Champa Maciel respectively; Hero is younger, quiet and demure while Beatrice is cynical, feisty and outspoken and doesn't ever want to get married.

Claudio and Benedick are the male leads, they are soldiers who have returned victorious from war and are celebrating with their superiors at the palace of Leonato, Hero's father. Benedick is witty but very full of himself, while Claudio is quiet and shy.

The story centres around the developing relationships between the two couples. "Benedick's relationship with Beatrice is like fireworks," Daniel Betty said who plays the role. "Beatrice is one of Shakespeare's strongest female roles. Benedick is pretty arrogant and incenses Beatrice with his smart comments to which Beatrice retorts with as good as she gets."

Claudio and Hero fall in love at the beginning of the play but a mischievous trick by his comrades has him doubting her and he listens to them rather than to the woman he loves. Claudio is played by Michael Rowlands who describes his character as "younger than Benedick, a bit immature and easily swayed by his and others' opinions.

Michael Rowlands has composed a song for the Shakespeare lyrics while Champa Maciel who plays Beatrice is the show's choreographer. Costumier Angela Elliott has been tasked with costuming the cast of 16 while Confetti, a trio of musicians playing woodwind and stringed instruments, accompanies the songs and dances, creating the musical ambience.

A second performance of Much Ado about Nothing will be staged on Saturday, April 2 at the Hawke's Bay Opera House Plaza at 7.30pm. This is a more intimate affair with the opportunity to buy a "masquerade table", perfect perhaps for a work do.

Shakespeare in the Park Festival:

* Includes a performance of Much Ado About Nothing by The Drama Workshop

* Saturday, March 19, Church Road Winery, Taradale

* Tickets: Park: www.eventfinda.co.nz/2016/shakespeare-in-the-park/napier or Plaza: www.eventfinda.co.nz/2016/shakespeare-at-the-plaza/hawkes-bay-gisborne