The StaG production of Much Ado about Nothing transports the witty world of Courtly Love to a present day setting, in which every character is a thief. In an ingenious casting move (and a good way to counter the ye olde ‘not enough boys’ problem), brothers Don Pedro and Don Juan (the baddie of the piece) become no-nonsense crime boss Donna Pedro, and vulnerable bad girl, Josephine Pedro. The production was funny, alive and boasted a very good cast, however it was at times disjointed and unclear in terms of narrative.
The production opens with stylised, darkly humorous thieving montages which mirror the deceitful and selfish aspects of socialising. Whilst they certainly packed a punch, I felt that they restricted the cast and lost the clever verbal wit of the text. These silent scenes, whilst pacy and exciting, at times created something of a division in the production. The thieving motif portrayed so well in them was almost forgotten throughout the rest of the performance- if these two aspects had been better integrated, it would have made for a more rounded production. For example, these two aspects later mash together beautifully in a playful scene in which Benedick muses on his ideal wife whilst casually pick pocketing passers by; here, in a scene rooted in the text, deceit was portrayed in a way that I found far more startling and innovative.
One aspect the cast excelled in was giving the characters a recognisable modern identity; although, at times, this was in spite of the original text. The scene in which Claudio confesses his love to Benedick is peppered with lines such as ‘I hate you so much right now’- not one of the Bard’s best known quotes. Whilst purists may grumble, I actually enjoyed these little asides-I must confess to having similar post-cheesy conversations with my flatmates! It was in these engaging, organic portrayals of the characters as present day ipod-owners and awkward-turtlers that the cast truly found their feet and accessed the truth of the play.