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Shakespeare Festival offers fresh take on Much Ado About Nothing

Why a Greater Victoria director decided to stage his production of the classic play closer to the present 

This July, the 33-year-old Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival will stage the Bard of Avon’s renowned comedy Much Ado About Nothing at two Greater Victoria landmarks: the Craigdarroch Castle and the Lampson School in Esquimalt. 

Craigdarroch, built in 1890, offers an appropriate backdrop for the famous 1598 play, which itself is set in a castle. Similarly, Lampson, built in 1903, looks like a fort — fitting, as Much Ado features battles and swordplay. 

The comedy is centred around main characters Claudio and Hero, who, though in love, fain dislike for one another, while a third character sets out to soil their relationship. It is a fun three hours that forces you to question the character’s intentions. 

Most-often set in the 14th, 18th and 19th centuries, the play’s director Willis Taylor wanted to offer audiences a fresh interpretation of the classic. That’s why he decided to stage it in the 1920s, just after World War One had drawn to a close. “There was turmoil, there was poverty,” says the director Willis Taylor. “It is an exciting time to set the play.” 

Besides adding excitement, he hopes this will help audiences relate to Much Ado. Set too far in the past, viewers relate less to the characters. “When you give [characters] guns and put them in an urban environment, then I think you get more of an idea that [they] were dangerous,” says the director.  

In addition, the play relates to contemporary issues, and that is another reason why Taylor set it closer to the present. “I think one of the big messages of this play is misinformation,” he says. “The whole show is about … the idea that none of these problems that arise in the play actually exist.”  

Much Ado is also easier to understand than some of Shakespeare’s other works, which suits Taylor’s creative choice. “The interesting thing about [the play] is it’s written more in prose than it is in iambic pentameter, which is strange for Shakespeare,” he adds. “In many ways, it was meant more for a general audience; it has less poetry and more of an everyman’s language about it.” 

Treat yourself to some laughs, witty banter and romantic intrigue this summer with this fresh take on Much Ado About Nothing. The Craigdarroch performances will take place June 27 to July 6. After that, the play will run at Lampson from July 8 to 20. All performances are at 6:30 p.m. 






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