After several successful seasons of outdoor entertainment, Melbourne Shakespeare Company returns with their latest production, Much Ado About Nothing. Heather Bloom speaks to Director, Jennifer Sarah Dean about the enduring nature of Shakespeare’s plays and what we can expect from the MSC’s interpretation of the original romantic comedy.
Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, how is the Melbourne Shakespeare Company’s version different?
We have really embraced music within this production. Beatrice and Benedick are lead singers of two rival bands, and instead of going to war the boys are returning from tour with their 'Producer' Don Pedro. Leonato runs the best venue in town with the help of his disgruntled house band and incompetent bouncers Dogberry and Verges. The production is filled with music, slapstick and incredible design by Alia Syed (Set) and Rhiannon Irving (Costume).
MSC is know for incorporating current day music into their productions, will there be any musical numbers in Much Ado?
Plenty! My favourite is the Pitch Perfect style song battle between the boys band and the girls group and the pre-show entertainment from our girls will give the audience a good reason to arrive early. There is such a fantastic range of songs in this show from Billy Idol to Lady Gaga there is something to appeal to all tastes.
It seems Shakespeare is as popular as ever with venues like the “pop up globe” being introduced. Why do you think his works continue to engage a modern audience?
His plays are the perfect combination of excellent narrative, beautiful language and timeless themes which keep people coming back for more.
Do you have a favourite Shakespearean play?
This is a really difficult question and definitely changes depending on my mood. I really love The Comedy or Errors, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merry Wives of Windsor but at the moment it is Much About Nothing! Its difficult not to fall in love with the piece, it has a wonderful combination of comedy, romance and drama that keeps you on the edge of your seat not knowing whether to laugh or cry!
You seem to have a varied directing career, directing both the classics and new works. Is it more daunting to put on a new piece of theatre or one that is already established and well known?
Personally, I find the start of any process daunting. There is an obligation to the writer, the cast, but primarily the audience to bring a piece to life and tell the story to the best of your ability. This can seem a little overwhelming at the beginning if you are not focused with a clear vision of what you want to achieve. I love working with a variety of texts and they all have different challenges to overcome but also vast rewards and an incredible sense of achievement and pride at the end of the process.
You’re also the artistic director of the MSC, what is the best thing about working with the company?
Of all the companies I have ever worked with MSC felt most like a family. With MSC I have always felt incredibly well supported, respected and know that I am working with a group of people who really care bout the quality of the work and are passionate about what we do!
Much Ado is a classic Love/Hate relationship between Beatrice and Benedict, who do you think gets the best insults (sickest burns) Beatrice or Benedict?
You will have to judge that for yourself when you come and see the show!
Melbourne Shakespeare Company presents
Much Ado About Nothing
by William Shakespeare
Director Jennifer Sarah Dean
Venue: The Rose Garden | St Kilda Botanical Gardens VIC
Dates: 2 – 17 December 2017
Times: 2pm & 7pm Saturday & Sundays
Photo – Daniel Burke