Shakespeare in an hour. Sounds crazy, no? For the Edinburgh University Shakespeare Company (EUSC), however, it is a challenge which they are facing head on this Fringe with their interpretation of Much Ado About Nothing.
Set in Sicily during the 1980s, this production is set to be a beautifully aesthetic and youthful version of a play that is deeply popular amongst Shakespeare lovers. In discussion with producer Jennifer Jones, and actors Rosie Hart (Beatrice) and Jacob Baird (Benedick), we discussed the process the company used for this production.
When considering the play, Jones talked about how the 1980s, Sicilian setting was chosen as it both paid homage to the original setting of Italy, but also allowed for a more modern context where the company can explore ideas of familial conflict in Sicily, as well as the drama surrounding the Sicilian mafia. In looking at the publicity images (from Mihaela Bodlovic), the aesthetic of blue and yellow, even in Edinburgh, promises a sunny show and both Hart and Baird highlighted the fact that there is a strong focus on the heat and impact on the family home – brining a little pocket of the Mediterranean to Scotland.
Another interesting part of the production is the fact that the cast have not one director, but three. Baird discussed how this worked to the advantage of the cast with director Joe Christie being described as the overall artistic director, while Tilly Botsford and Grace Dickson followed through on the vision with every scene working within the intended idea, no matter which of the three directors was running the rehearsal. To some, the prospect of three directors may seem confusing, but to this cast it has spread the workload and allowed every rehearsal to be ‘fresh’, maintaining the energy and creativity.
During discussion about the characterisation of the iconic duo, Hart and Baird were excited to talk about how Beatrice and Benedick are not to be played as the more mature couple, but a naive and youthful couple equal to the traditional perception of Claudio and Hero. This deviation suggests that the EUSC is opening up the show to a new interpretation that will welcome in a Summer-y, Sicilian air into the Fringe with a young energy.
Shakespeare at the Fringe has never been sunnier, and the EUSC’s adaptation promises to be an energetic and youthful production.
Much Ado About Nothing
theSpace @ Niddry St – Lower Theatre (Venue 9)
Until 25 August
Image: Mihaela Bodlovic