Fringe Review: Signifying Nothing

Words by Paul Maland


Signifying Nothing is a live theatre piece combining the wit and striking prose of Shakespeare's classic Macbeth with the underbelly of contemporary Australian politics.

The play is a composite of theatre, drama, live comedy, and, at some points, film and television. The performance is delivered through the use of classic, traditional Shakespearean language interjected with the crude charm and wit of every day Australian vernacular. Heaps good, so to speak.    

Mixed media is used to inject new, tangible life to the performance, through the use of pre-recorded sounds and speech, videos, and a soundtrack which, at times, walks the line between self-indulgent and effective.

The play is a genuinely unique and original take on a traditional theatre classic, and a true example, especially in the intimate surrounds of the Holden Street Theatres, in artistic vulnerability.  

Nicola Bartlett delivers stirring Shakespearean prose as if it were her everyday tongue, and only a fool would question it. Greg Fleet's performance unsuspectingly creeps up through laid-back familiarity before delivering an impacting, moving and emotive performance which easily validates the crude humour that compliments it, like much of the comedian's recent work.   

Signifying Nothing is an incredibly effective combination of genres, helping breathe new life into a classic, and bringing something to the table for different audiences through careful and considerate artistic appropriation.

You wouldn't expect to be genuinely moved by a performance in which Greg Fleet snorts supposed lines off a podium before telling his mate he can be "Minister for whatever the fuck you want, bro", but you will be. Brash bits such as a newborn child being thrown abruptly onto the theatre's floor are a quietly hilarious exclamation point adding to commentary on the predictability of Australian politics, and bookends the otherwise carefully produced and genuinely dramatic plot-lines.

The way in which the piece is produced through faux-interactive mixed-media lends itself towards seeing the potential for it to be adapted to the small or big screen in a one-off, big budget production to fully do it justice. 

Signifying Nothing is a performance which demands an audience fit for a king, and begs the question of where to next.

Signifying Nothing is showing until March 19th, tickets are available here.