By Ansharah Shakil, November 28 2022—
From the University of Calgary’s very own Reeve Theatre arises a new adaptation of the timeless Shakespearean tale of romance, comedy, and clever wordplay.
The production of Much Ado About Nothing will run from November 25 to December 3, with a livestream show on Nov. 26. U of C students can use Claim Your Seat for free admission, and tickets are available online.
Originally set in medieval Italy, the adaptations of the play have been set through countless different time periods and settings over the decades — U of C’s production transports it to Alberta in the 1970s, including authentic costumes for the time period and disco music.
“A big question I asked myself is why Shakespeare, why now? How many times has this play been done, probably a million times? And why do we keep doing it? Why is it still accessible to a modern audience?” asked director Cali Sproule.
By setting the play in the 70s, Sproule sought to find a window in time between the Elizabethean era and the now. The play straddles the line between ancient past and the present. Sproule described her decision to set the play in the 70s because they were a time of such great upheaval, of change for the queer community and women’s rights.
The play’s setting explores how relevant Shakespeare has been across time, and grants it pertinence to the primary audience in Calgary by setting it in a mountain cabin in Messina, Alberta.
“It’s close to home and brings it home to the people,” Sproule explained.
Another way the play is establishing relevance to its audience is through the actors’ body languages. Sproule expresses a love for Shakespearean language and the comedic value of Much Ado About Nothing. As one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies, the original play has a highly humorous plotline, but Sproule admitted there are difficulties to having jokes written four centuries ago bleed through to allow a contemporary audience to laugh and find them funny. The performers, however, are able to bring that humour to life through their body language and staging to translate it for a modern audience.
“Theatre is so much about bodies in space, and relationality,” Sproule said on how integral the actors’ performance is to expressing understanding of humour.
The U of C adaptation not only seeks to connect Shakespeare to modern audiences, it also adds a new element of youth to the play. In most professional productions, Sprouse noted that the character of Beatrice was usually played by an older woman and portrayed as a bitter spinster, and wanted to reject the idea that singleness must be a state of bitterness. In the U of C adaptation, the primary cast is mainly composed of 20-year-olds.
“I tried to breathe a lot of youth into [the play], and life,” Sproule said.
The emotions of youth always seem heightened, carefree and exciting. This adaptation will explore a halcyon state of mind which still stays true to the original play in the language and purpose, and which seeks to form a connection between modern audiences and Much Ado About Nothing — and a recognition of the present in the past.
“I want people to go and see and recognise themselves, remember that overall feeling of falling in love or question why a woman being publicly shamed is recognisable and still relevant,” Sproule said.
U of C’s production of Much Ado About Nothing is sure to strike a chord with audiences this holiday season. With its fresh and entertaining time period, its close-to-home setting and its focus on a youthful, lively, and bright atmosphere, this production is a unique take on a still relevant concept, and a must-see before the end of fall semester.