Much Ado About Not(h)ing
Alright, it’s 2020 now, Gunnar. Let’s make this news-feed actually news-worthy again. Let’s start with what we’ve missed.
In June last year, I played Benedick in a production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Not(h)ing at the Cockpit Theatre in London. During the English Renaissance, ‘noting’ (meaning rumour or overhearing) sounded very similar to ‘nothing’, used in the title of the play. It’s through noting that Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into professing their love for each other and by founding his belief on nothing, Claudio is tricked into refusing to marry Hero. This word play has inspired the unusual title for this production, Much Ado About Not(h)ing, the use of the parenthesis indicating that the ‘h’ in the word ‘nothing’ can be retained or deleted: noting or nothing.
I had a great time playing Benedick. It’s a role that allows for a lot of physical comedy and I very much enjoyed the opportunity to dive into the more choreographed and musical elements of the play as well, having sung a few solo songs and duets with Tamsin Lynes, who played Beatrice. What made this production extra special was it’s risky move to integrate an added, contemporary layer – mobile devices were an integral element of the performance. Inviting audience members to choose between viewing the performance presented by the actors onstage or the digital performance that they can access through Facebook on their mobile phones (or a little of both), thus it actively immersed the audience in the dilemma this production endeavoured to explore. It meant that pre-show and during set times on stage (and the little time I spent off-stage in between costume changes) I was interacting with the audience directly on my phone, which added a level of complexity I enjoyed taking on as a challenge. The play was received with mixed reviews, however, as was my performance (on the same first preview night, two reviewers singled out my performance both positively and negatively, which I found quite amusing) – but I’m glad I got to work with a cast and crew dedicated to taking chances on this timeless play.