The war from which Don Pedro, Benedick, et al arrive at Messina from was not the only battle with the text we had to tackle during our rehearsal process of Much Ado About Nothing. In this blog I will discuss two of the challenges we faced, one brought on by the original script and one brought on by our own creative decisions.
Tackling the Language
Approaching one of Shakespeare’s plays always brings a multitude of worries for those involved in the production, none more so than the tackling of the language. Tackling the syntax used by the Bard in his plays requires an abounding determination from the actors and directors to ensure that the meaning of the language chosen is greatly understood and then conveyed in performance.
As Director, my approach to readying myself for each rehearsal of a new scene was to familiarize myself with any words spoken by the characters which are either not used today or refer to people/events/places popular in Elizabethan culture. This would then allow me to feedback to the actors this information before and during the exploration of the scene. This minor assistance would then allow our actors to put their energy into bringing the text to life, something which they demonstrated excellent aptitude in being able to do so – a very pleasing and proud process to witness as Youth Theatre Director.
There were times in the rehearsal room where our cast would find themselves at a point where there was uncertainty about how they should be approaching the scene. To assist with these moments I took the advice from the director Louis Fantasia in his wonderful book Instant Shakespeare where he outlines his application of the Shakespeare Paradigm in the rehearsal room. Fantasia states that the Shakespeare Paradigm is, “why does this particular character say these particular words, in this particular order, at this particular moment?” By bringing the exploration with our actors back to this in the trickier moments meant that they could then reconsider the role of their character in this scene and their delivery of the dialogue. A standout moment for me in our rehearsals of Much Ado where this was applied is the opening conversation between Leonato and Antonio., whom are later joined by Don Pedro and Claudio, in A5S1. This scene was one of the far more difficult scenes encountered during the process, requiring our actors to constantly be asking themselves the questions of the Shakespeare Paradigm.
Liv and I decided early on to change the gender of Don Pedro, Friar Francis (known as Sister Francis in our production), Balthasar and Sexton. Reassigning the genders of a number of the main characters threw up a number of challenges for our actors to overcome in the rehearsal room, challenges which those playing the aforementioned characters felt the most – although the whole cast were now faced with having to remember to alter the personal pronouns used when now referring to female characters whom were written as male in the original!
Anya Rose, playing the role of Don Pedro, arguably had the greatest challenge of them all in that her character was now having to wrestle with her commitment to either her status, her men or her gender. By throwing in this third challenge to Don Pedro we had to greatly reconsider and weigh-up exactly what Don Pedro stood for and how the events she found herself in would impact upon her actions. As you will see, in our production Don Pedro continues to commit herself to her status and men before her gender. It was during the rehearsal of Act 5 that the decision to reverse the gender of Don Pedro really paid off. Through her performance Anya was showcasing her meticulous consideration of how the revelation of Don John’s hand in the damnation of Hero damages Don Pedro. For me, this is heartbreakingly conveyed to the audience during A5S3 where the most tender of gestures reveals the deeply held remorse Don Pedro carries with her from now on.
Youth Theatre Director
Thursday 19th - Saturday 21st July at NST City