2007-08: Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing is one of the best loved ‘comedies’ of the classic repertoire. Teeming with glamorous young things, hilarious clowns and serious men of state, Red Shift’s absorbing ensemble production also emphasises the real meat of the text with its threatening atmosphere of humiliation, revenge and the startling brutality that lives behind the smiling mask of Shakespeare’s Sicily.

Italy is divided into warring factions, brother against brother. We join the characters at the end of a brief but bloody conflict that has left a palpable atmosphere of suspicion and latent violence hanging in the air. Stalked by danger, two loving relationships splutter into life – one mature, cynical and guarded, the other youthful and impetuous – the courses of which are perverted and brought to the brink of disaster by the machinations of two ruthless, manipulative brothers.

Red Shift stayed faithful to Shakespeare’s craftsmanship while reinterpreting characters, scenes and passages of dialogue in an unfamiliar way that rendered an old friend into a driving contemporary narrative. The result was an evening of inventive and challenging theatre, unexpected shocks and laughter, respect for the text and outrageous liberties in equal measure.

Running at just 90 mins, this was both an entertainment and a thought-provoking re-imagining; a highly theatrical ensemble entertainment with intellectual weight. Nominally set in the excoriating moral vacuum of Yugoslavia in 1991, this production quickly earned the same respect and acclaim that previously met Red Shift’s ‘without witches’ Macbeth, which toured the world winning awards, and a First Quarto Hamlet based on what academics call the ‘bastard’ text, that was a huge success and played in over 50 theatres.

Also produced with students of E15 Acting School 2019