Sometimes boozy nights out end up with scraps going dahn on the street corner, but with Much Ado About Theatre around, you can class up your pint sinking with a bit of culture. Artistic director Becky Clayden chatted with us about how they combine beer and Shakespeare to make a rollicking good night...
What does Much Ado, er… do?
We're a touring theatre company. We go into relaxed space like pubs and beer gardens and do Shakespeare, specifically for people who think of Shakespeare is boring, and we change their minds.
What’s it like performing in non-traditional spaces?
None of the actors see the space until they perform. About an hour before we’re due to start, I’ll say "Right, you're over here, you're over there," which is certainly a challenge for me and the actors, but it keeps things fresh.
How much is the audience involved?
We tend to use the audience members as props. During Midsummer Night's Dream, an actor had to find an offering for another character, so I told him to find a menu or a pint glass. In the final show they all like to terrify me, so they went off and found a child. I was there in the audience as the director thinking, "Oh god, we're going to get sued!"
Shakespeare is generally thought of as something boring people had to study, and they hated it because they didn't understand it. Unsurprisingly, most people have only read Shakespeare and that’s not how it’s supposed to be experienced, as you miss a huge amount of comedy and double entendres. Shakespeare has been parodied a million times, but often people don't realise it's Shakespeare; like The Lion King, which is Hamlet.
What the reaction been like from audience?
Absolutely fantastic. Originally, we went into schools to help kids with their GCSEs, but during the school break last summer we thought, "Let’s go into beer gardens and have a bit of fun" and we got an insane response. We try to make it a very relaxed atmosphere; if you want to go up and grab a drink halfway through the show, do it. You're in a beer garden, enjoy yourself!
What are your future plans for Much Ado?
In September I'm moving up to Manchester to start a second branch of Much Ado, because it's been so popular and it can be done anywhere. I'm leaving somebody in charge of the Nottingham branch and there are a couple of other places I'm looking at setting up as well.
So country-wide domination soon?
Absolutely! But we’ll always have a base in the Midlands. I work with so many actors who say they’re going to go to London to be a famous actor, and I'm like, “Why?” In London you're going to be a very small fish in a very big pond. Up here, you've got loads of up-and-coming theatre like Much Ado and Nonsuch, who are desperate for decent actors. You don't need to go to London. Stay here!
Friday 3 August – The Wheatsheaf Inn, Dry Doddington
Saturday 4 August – The Nags Head
Monday 6 August – The Trent Lock
Thursday 9 August – Canalhouse
Saturday 11 August – The White Lion, Beeston
Sunday 12 August – The Orange Tree
Thursday 16 August – Farndon Boathouse, Newark
Friday 17 August – The Three Ponds, Nuthall
Saturday 18 August – The White Lion, Beeston
Sunday 19 August – The Orange Tree
Thursday 23 August – The Victoria Hotel
All performances start at 6.30pm and cost £9.21 – £11.37. Book tickets on the Much Ado website