MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.Marissa Bennett, Vivienne Awosoga, David Whitney and Suzanne Pereira.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.Marissa Bennett, Vivienne Awosoga, David Whitney and Suzanne Pereira. Clare Hawley

Shakespeare brings Whitney back to the future

AS A schoolboy in the 1970s, David Whitney was in the audience to see the Nimrod performance of Much Ado About Nothing starring John Bell and Anna Volska as Benedick and Beatrice.

It was a moment that obviously not only stayed with him but also had quite an effect on the would-be actor.

Fast forward 40 years and David is not only seeing a new generation of Beatrice and Benedick (played by Zindzi Okenyo and Duncan Ragg) but he's in the Bell Shakespeare Production playing Leonarto - Beatrice's uncle and Hero's father.

"Seeing the Nimrod version wasn't the main reason I became an actor but it was fairly crucial at the time, I'd been in a few plays at school," David said.

Bitten by the bug, he applied for NIDA a couple of times before becoming part of the graduating class of 1982 and while he's done other theatre and musical theatre (My Fair Lady for Opera Australia) and television (A Place to Call Home) he admits to having a particular love for the bard.

And he's no stranger to Bell Shakespeare, completing his first show for them 20 years ago - he's done 10 since then, including Hamlet, Henry IV, As You Like It, The Tempest and his very first production - Romeo and Juliet.

He admits he loves the language.

And he loves to see a new generation working on the plays, particularly the moment they "get it".

It's also five months' work and a good solid three months on the road - starting in Orange a few weeks ago before heading to Melbourne for a two-week season then heading north to play everywhere from Darwin down to the Gold Coast's HOTA (September 4-5), Lismore Town Hall (September 24-25) and the Glasshouse at Port Macquarie (September 30-October 1).

"We have five to six weeks in Sydney at the end but we are on the road for three and a half months," he said.

"But it's not all travelling, we have time to get back home and there are chances for family to visit.

"My wife is coming to Port Macquarie and to the Gold Coast."

And it's a chance for David to revisit a play he obviously enjoys.

He's already played villain Don John - a role he admits is a favourite.

This time around though, he's the old man of the cast, Leonarto.

And while David remembers John Bell's Benedick fondly, for most of us our first foray into the story of Claudio and Hero, Beatrice and Benedick came from the Kenneth Branagh 1993 film.

It's this film that David believes gave audiences a familiarity and fondness for the play.


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