My last piece of Shakespeare for the 2018 Fringe, and I ended on a pretty damn good’n. This was a wonderful rendering of one of Shakespeare’s funniest works and one that maintained all the awkward charm that play is meant to have.
One of the things I always look out for with Shakespeare at the Fringe is how well they’ve edited the material down to fit their time slot. EUSC, in my view, did a great job on that front. I think they maintained most of the essential scenes and lines to still capture the essence of Much Ado within the space of an hour, as well as adjusting the odd line or two to fit the slight extra dimension the gender changes created. I absolutely love it when companies gender swap Shakespeare, and I love it even more when they make it gay(er) by doing so. We all know full well it’s exactly what the Bard himself would have wanted.
Much of the success is down to incredible cast the show was able to boast. Rosie Hart and Jacob Baird were simply perfect casting as quarrelling lovers, Beatrice and Benedict, their chemistry was exactly on point for these classic characters and they proved just as captivating in their individual scenes, Hart especially. Clearly these are two actors who truly love Shakespeare and know how to do Shakespeare. Additionally, Lizzie Lewis’s gender-flipped Don Jane was every bit as sumptuously villainous as a Shakespeare antagonist should be, with Francesca Sellors being just as memorable as her womanising accomplice, Conrade.
Productions such as this, where the genders of certain characters are changed, is something I never tire of seeing. Shakespeare as it was written may already have wonderful roles for women, but casting choices like this expand the roles available to women, allowing them (and sometimes men too as these swaps can go the other way) to do things in Shakespeare’s works that they otherwise would never get to. It can add extra edges and dimensions of meaning to proceedings, and EUSC’s Much Ado was a solid example of why this can be such an effective choice.
EUSC did a fantastic job with this version of Much Ado About Nothing. I always love seeing Shakespeare at the Fringe and love it all the more when productions get creative and original with their interpretation while still nailing the quintessential essence of the play. EUSC did a beautiful job in that regard and, given their mission-statement as a company, I hope to be able to see more Shakespeare by them in the future.