Shakespeare on Scotland Island

And who by fire, who by water
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial
Who in your merry merry month of May
Who by very slow decay
And who shall I say is calling?

So starts Leonard Cohen’s ravishing 1974 song Who by Fire, which will be sung as part of a new staging of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing on Scotland Island in February. “It’s like a theme of our production,” says Paul Kininmonth, who is directing his third Shakespeare Live-on-the-Island after 2020’s The Tempest and last year’s Hamlet.

Shakespeare speaks to all ages, something many would say about Cohen, the Canadian singer-songwriter who died in 2016 at the age of 82. Three more Cohen songs – In My Secret Life, A Thousand Kisses Deep and The Night Comes On – will be woven into Much Ado About Nothing, sung by Robert Hanly alongside three of Hanly’s own compositions.

Paul says his primary goal as a director is “connecting Shakespeare’s timelessness with our times”. Much Ado About Nothing, a comedy of love and misunderstanding, will prove the point that not a lot changes when it comes to human nature. “Written centuries ago, for today,” is how this production is described. It will feature 15 performers from across metropolitan Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

A scene from last year’s Hamlet. Photo by Shane O’Neill

Paul started acting more than 30 years ago, gravitating to Shakespeare as a performer, primarily with community companies. It allowed him to discover just how relevant Shakespeare is for present-day audiences. He studied Drama as part of his Arts degree at Melbourne’s Deakin University and later taught Drama as a primary school teacher. He has lived on Scotland Island for 12 years.

Paul first directed as part of his Deakin University studies, returning to it in 2017 when he staged excerpts from Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost for Sydney’s School of Practical Philosophy, a centre for spiritual, practical knowledge and inquiry.

When it comes to Much Ado about Nothing, the “two bards” fusion of Shakespeare and Cohen is “not about joining the dots academically,” says Paul. “It’s about looking for resonance between the artists. I’m looking to see parallels between Shakespeare and our lives.”

Much Ado About Nothing is performed in Catherine Park at 4pm on Saturday February 12 and 2pm on Sunday February 13. Tickets are $45 for adults and $25 students, pensioners and children aged between 11 and 17. Children aged 10 and under are admitted free. Tickets available via

By Deborah Jones
Feature Image: This year’s Much Ado About Nothing in rehearsal

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