This year, marking Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, has been the perfect time to get into Shakespeare, or renew your undying love for the Bard, with multiple modernised and varied adaptations of his work.
No, you have not misread the location. Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing refashions itself (sorry) in one of the most fashionable venues out there. The Faction has made its home in a pop-up theatre on the lower ground of the department store and the intimate 122 seat, traverse stage makes it perfect to really get into the action
If you don’t quite know your Hermia from your Hero, this is the set up in a nutshell: Claudio (Harry Lister Smith), a soldier just home from battle, falls for Hero, (Lowri Izzard) the lovely young daughter of Leonato (Caroline Langrishe). Their pair quickly declare their love for each other and the wedding date is set. Hero’s cousin, Beatrice (Alison O’Donnell) has a sharp wit and tongue, often directed at Benedick (Daniel Boyd), who has no struggle in dishing it right back. To quote the Bard, “The course of true love never did run smooth….” and a series of tricks, misunderstandings, heartbreak and hilarity ensue.
It’s easy to engage with the actors and their characters as everything else is kept to a minimum, paying full due to the words. Each actor gives such a strong performance that the language barrier that often deters people from Shakespeare, is hardly there at all. Daniel Boyd plays Benedick in the most unique way but is perhaps the best interpretation of the character that I have ever seen. He’s bubbly, appropriately melodramatic and his light-hearted wit is a delight to watch. Similarly, Alison O’Donnell also gives the best performance of Beatrice from any version of the show I’ve seen. She’s sassy and smart but isn’t too serious.
There are a few awkward moments in the play such as the pre-recorded digital cameos from Meera Syal, Simon Callow and Rufus Hound. The pre-recorded nature means the timing doesn’t always work and it’s difficult to believe that the characters are meant to be communicating in real time. Their brief dance scene is also a bit uncomfortable to watch but since it’s only in the background, it doesn’t completely distract from the scene’s events.
Overall it’s a great adaptation of the Shakespearian rom-com and judging by their costumes, probably the most glamorous too. It’s a bizarre experience to walk through the fancy food court and around the wines and perfumes to get to the theatre but it’s a special experience too.
Much Ado About Nothing plays Selfridges, Oxford Street until 24th September 2016.
Image by Simon Annand