It has been announced that Selfridges will open a fully-fledged theatre with a new production of Much Ado About Nothing presented by critically-acclaimed theatre company, The Faction. Celebrating Shakespeare400, Selfridges are joining forces with one of the most exciting young British theatre companies in the UK with a reputation for contemporary Shakespeare productions and innovative collaborations.
The reFASHIONed Theatre, complete with workshops and rare access to rehearsals, is an intimate 100-seat auditorium with a traditional box office, furniture designed royal box and seats, and bespoke rib by the masters of stage-lighting Whitelight. It’s not just any pop-up! I thought that this sounded like a fantastic idea and decided a chat with director Mark Leipacher and co-director Rachel Valentine Smith was in order!
Thank you for talking to Break A Leg, tell me all about the production and why audiences will love it.
Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s most dazzling comedies – packed full of witty banter and physical comedy that audiences will lap up. It’s also a play in which reputations are quickly built and the tiniest slither of gossip can lead to a very public shaming. It has a distinctly 21st century vibe, and we’ve taken it as a play for ‘now’ – where rumour can spread like wildfire on social media, and tabloid slander can undo anybody. So we hope that the audience recognises something of themselves, or the world around them, up on stage. Ultimately it’s a play that’s full of joy – that’s something that we’ve worked hard to release in rehearsals and something that the audience will love in performance
What was the inspiration for this unusual piece?
The inspiration was actually Shakespeare himself! The Faction were excited by the idea of celebrating #Shakespeare400 in the spirit of the bard himself by creating something in a boundary breaking, irreverent way. Being part of the Selfridges Shakespeare Refashioned campaign has been a great way to push that idea as we present this full-fledged production in a new, albeit temporary, studio space in the heart of Selfridges.
How long has the process taken to being the piece to the stage and what were the initial ideas in the creative process?
We had our first meeting back in November following which we pitched some small, some medium and some large scale ideas. Selfridges have a rich heritage of innovation and collaboration, working with some world class artists in the past. Our large scale idea was a fully-fledged theatre and programming a new Shakespeare production. Fast forward 9 months and here we are on the brink of technical rehearsals. Much Ado as a title sprung out to us because of its joyfulness, it’s a brilliant comedy that we think represents the Bard at his most mischievous and is an exciting play for anybody experiencing Shakespeare for the first time.
The other ideas included some pop-up performances that have been taking place on the shop floor over the last few weeks so we have already opened up a direct dialogue with the public and hope this has encouraged them to enjoy the Shakespeare Refashioned campaign further.
What’s your personal favourite Shakespeare play and why?
The Winter’s Tale. There are so many exciting themes to explore, and so much scope for theatrical opportunities. The splitting of time and space, the characters and it feels like Shakespeare at the height of his powers, experimenting with the verse and ideas. A play so full of imagination is a gift to a director.
Have any particular productions influenced you in the past?
The company has always been influenced by European theatre both in practice and in model. The culture of theatre going is very different in France and Germany to here at home. But the spirit of the Schaubühne, the style of the Deutsches Theater the magic of the Bouffes are all inspirational. The Globe’s Globe to Globe festival was amazing, we found the Maori Troilus and Cressida absolutely thrilling and a joy that we may not have been able to behold had it not been for the festival. Another favourite would be Deborah Warner’s Julius Caesar at the Barbican. Cheek By Jowl have also been great inspiration to us.
Finally, sell the show to me, why should everybody come along and see this?
It’s a fantastic play taking place in an unexpected location. It mixes the light and the dark – so you get comedy and tragedy in equal measure. It’s fun, fast-paced, wild and modern. These are wonderful characters of joy, warmth and intelligence and it’s a delight to spend 90 minutes in their company. You’ll want to get up on stage and join in with them. They’re mischievous and bold. Whether you’re a Bardologist or this will be your first experience of a Shakespeare play there’s genuinely something for everyone: it’s really the perfect way to mark Shakespeare400.
Break a leg, everybody and thank you for your time!