No, you have not misread the location. FACTION’s new version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, takes place in the very fashionable venue, Selfridges.
The theatre is entered through a discreet entrance which can only be found by the most fanatical of shoppers, who really know their way around the department store. On arrival, the stage is atmospherically dimmed, lit only by neon lights. As we all take our seats however, it overfills with messages from the sponsors, showing they are clearly an active part of this production and as far as the products featured are concerned; they are available for purchase after the show. That’s the non-romantic part over, luckily the rest of the evening goes on smoothly, without as much in-your-face commercial intent.
Director (Mark Leipacher) has ensured a sharp-witted interpretation of the characters. The actor’s performances are generally kept minimal, paying full due to the words. Each one gets their moment of laughter and entertainment. Benedick (Daniel Boyd) is amusing, friendly and poignant. He quickly becomes Beatrice’s (Alison O’Donell) accomplice and they both dive into a romantic yet playful relationship. The other characters give a more serious tone to the performance and are just as moving, yet it is Benedick and Beatrice that stand out as favourites for the rest of the evening.
The play is accompanied by ‘digital cameos’ which broadcast from plasma screens displaying breaking news or twitter posts. There is also music and masks and dancing, a reminder that even though it’s Shakespeare, it’s 2016,it’s Selfridges and the play will be anything but conventional.
In a twist on the original screenplay, Leonata is usually played by a man, however Caroline Langrishe anchors the play with a very solid performance. Claudio (Harry Lister Smith) and Don Pedro (Jude Owusu), contrast the classical language of Shakespeare by using grimaces and gestures making the conversations extremely relatable. Each actor gives such a strong performance that the language barrier that often deters people from Shakespeare, is hardly there at all.
The actors also get chance to demonstrate their great gymnastic skills and their ability to move with ease throughout the performance. The moments when Benedick crawls along the floor and Beatrice squats while moving along the stage are hilarious. Those elements are truly dynamic and give the element of surprise, keeping the audience on their toes.
It is a strange experience to walk through the coffee and pastries in the food-court next door, but Much Ado About Nothing made for just as delicious and satisfying a time. Anyway, there is still some time for a takeaway. After all, the play ends at 9pm, leaving another hour left of convenient shopping time.
“Much Ado About Nothing”
Runs until 24 September
Find out more on the website