I’d been hearing about Megan Dansie for a while, so I was pleased to be able to see her splendid production of Much Ado About Nothing at Adelaide Uni during a recent visit. Talking with her pre-performance, I gained an insight into the setting of Shakespeare out of period. I’d always thought it was to satisfy the creative monsters inside directors, but she made the point – obvious, though I’d never thought about it – that it could be about budget. The trappings of Shakespeare in period cost more and for a small group like hers are out of the question. She had hers set at the end of WWII, the men in uniform, not inappropriate, given that the action takes place just after a military encounter.
I was really taken by the depth of acting, no weak points and some marvellous comic performances. It’s a fun play and easy to follow. My mother reminded me in the interval that we first saw it when I was about nine, and I’m the eldest of four. We sat in the front row of a Bell production and my parents, knowing that at some point Benedick would sit in the audience and pronounce his lines from there, made sure there was an empty seat next to my brother Bernard. Sure enough, come the moment, Benedick cast an eye around, spotted Bernard and sat next to him. My brother was completely chuffed, of course. The point is, if we could manage this at ages 5-9, you don’t really have an excuse for not delving into Shakespeare and this is as good a place to start as any.
Having just finished Contact, I note that if you want a good story about secret code, try this one about Shakespeare from the period. I hope it’s true!