Interview: LUTG’s Much Ado About Nothing

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From Thursday to Saturday, Week 7, Lancaster University Theatre Group are performing Much Ado About Nothing at the Nuffield Theatre. SCAN was presented with the opportunity to ask director Chiara Wakely and actors James Bone (Benedick), Aurelia Gage (Beatrice) and Sofie-Rose White (Hero) about the upcoming production.

So, how have rehearsals been going so far?

AG: Really great, with the exception of a couple of mispronunciations but I think Chiara will beat that out of us in time.

SRW: Rehearsals have been so much fun and it’s so incredible to be working alongside such creative people!

JB: Really good! Obviously it’s a challenge putting together so many elements in one scene (song, dance, physical comedy) but that’s part of the fun.

CW: We have a brilliant team across both the cast and crew. It’s fantastic to see and be a part of.

I was allowed to sit in on one of your rehearsals and I simply have to ask about ‘moo offs’. This warm-up game is based on the wonderfully hilarious idea of having two actors moo at each other to see who breaks into laughter first. Whose idea was that and are you any good at playing the game yourself?

CW: I’m not quite sure who came up with it. It’s something we’ve done in rehearsals for other LUTG shows. I’m absolutely awful at it!

SRW: Oh god, I have no idea whose idea it was! I feel like it’s just a LUTG tradition.

AG: No one truly knows where the moo offs came from, much like Stonehenge. All we know is that they always have been and always will be the foundation to which LUTG is built.

JB: I’m, for want of a better phrase, shite at moo offs.

Had you read the play beforehand?

CW: Many, many times! It’s my favourite Shakespeare play, I’ve always wanted to put it on somehow.

JB: I was familiar with some of it and the majority of the speeches, but once I was cast that’s when I went through it fully.

SRW: I studied Much Ado at GCSE, but I understood no jokes and thought it wasn’t funny and pretty terrible. My mind has changed now!

AG: I’d watched the National Theatre version with David Tenant and Catherine Tate to get a better understanding of the language.

This performance is set in Italy in the fifties. How have you gone about creating the ‘look’ of the fifties through set and costume?

CW: That’s down to our fantastic stage management team. Matt, our stage manager, looked at the era and we had some discussion about what particular costumes individual characters might wear and what we would need as essential props during scenes but the result is entirely his and the brilliant assistants visions.

How have you found getting to grips with performing Shakespeare? Is performing his work daunting for you?

SRW: I’ve done Shakespeare for years through monologues, so the language never really daunted me.

JB: It’s my first time so it’s very daunting, but I think the directing team have eased everyone into it well.

AG: It was massively daunting. Having someone like Chiara unlock the language for you makes the whole process run so much smoother. I’m really grateful that I’m getting to relate and understand the role of Beatrice and also develop a new appreciation for Shakespeare’s works.

What about Shakespeare do you find translates well into the world of the fifties and what about your production still makes it relevant to modern day audiences?

AG: Making a play speak to a modern day audience is just about finding a way to perform the language, organise the staging and find costume that doesn’t create distance between you and the audience. The fifties is a really interesting period to choose because we as a generation are extremely nostalgic about it. Our grandparents lived through it, we romanticize its fashion, and at school the Second World War was at the forefront of every school curriculum.

CW: One of the things I love about Shakespeare and Much Ado About Nothing is that because it’s very much character lead, and centres upon people and relationships, it can translate to more or less any era.

JB: Shakespeare is timeless, so I think the challenge is in making sure there are no anachronisms. Once you strip away the lavish speeches you see that it’s a story with elements familiar to everyone; boy meets girl, unrequited love, a will-they won’t-they.

The relationships in this play are certainly complicated with everyone either hating each other while secretly confessing their love, or loving each other and then throwing accusations of infidelity at the altar; and all for the sake of comedy. So how have you found working with this interesting dynamic and the comical elements involved?

SRW: I personally think it’s hilarious. Shakespeare actually hated Much Ado because he wrote a play around people doing nothing, and it still entertained his audiences. The complicated relationships are there to make you laugh at how ridiculous it is.

AG: Modern interpretations have been able to find more elements of comedy in it, but throw in a different reading and you could have a real tragedy on your hands. I think the relationships are so strong because the characters aren’t really allowed to say what they think when it comes to love and sex, so naturally when it comes out it comes out big.

CW: I wouldn’t say that everything in this play is for the sake of comedy; there are some really quite heart-breaking moments, particularly in the second Act. The contrast with the comedy seems to make them all the more potent. We have a really fantastic and adept cast, they’re all brilliant comic actors but with more serious moments they can all show a sensitivity to their characters and each other which as a director is really beautiful to see.

 

Tickets are available through the Lancaster Arts website. For more information visit the LUTG Presents: Much Ado About Nothing Facebook page.