Produced by: OVO and Creation Theatre.

Shakespeare, as the sun sets over not one but two beautiful venues. OVO is working in collaboration with Creation Theatre to bring you Much Ado About Nothing at The Roman Theatre Open Air Festival, St Albans and South Oxford Adventure Playground, Oxford.

We had a chat with Helen Tennison, who’s directing Much Ado About Nothing at two stunning settings this summer.

When did you first read or see Much Ado About Nothing?

I remember watching the Kenneth Branagh film version and loving how feisty, funny and vulnerable Emma Thompson was as Beatrice.

What are you most looking forward to about the co-production with OVO at The Roman Theatre and the production at South Oxford Adventure Playground?

The Roman Open Air Theatre in St Albans is a spectacular venue, it’s a setting that will bring out the beauty and lyricism that lies just beyond the immediate humour of Much Ado About Nothing.

The South Oxford Adventure Playground really is a gift of a location and offers so many opportunities to bring out the humour and fun of Much Ado.

Tell us a bit about the style of your production/what era it’s set in/what music you’re using.

Much like its witty central characters, Much Ado About Nothing is a playful, boisterous show with hidden depths. War and jealousy form the backdrop to love and romance. So, I’ve set this Much Ado in the 1980s, a time of outrageous fashion, yuppie optimism and underlying political instability. We have a fabulous cast of six actors playing Beatrice, Benedick and the other four actors play a madcap whirlwind of twelve roles between them. So expect slapstick, shoulder pads and banging 80s tracks with a sensitive soul.

Alongside some classic 80s tracks, composer Matt Eaton will be creating some 80s style synthesiser music, especially for this production. We also decided that Hero’s perfect wedding was officiated by an Elvis impersonator, Las Vegas style, so look out for some classic crooning.

What do you think audiences will love most about this production?

It’s a laugh-out-loud fun night out in a gorgeous setting with some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful language and hidden depth. The extraordinary actors are impressive in their multi-rolling and adept switches between humour and pathos. There’s some great slapstick humour, and the battle of wits between Benedick and Beatrice is a joy to behold. But beyond that, Much Ado About Nothing has a deeper edge. Life feels precarious; the play begins and ends with references to war, and all the characters struggle with the challenge of keeping up appearances. This is an aspect we can all relate to and give the play its depth. As with all Shakespeare’s plays there is an empathy for this aspect of human frailty and a call to dance while you can.

What 3 words would you use to sum up your Much Ado About Nothing?

In 5 words! Fun, funky with hidden depth.

For more information:

5 – 8 JULY 2023 AT THE ROMAN OPEN AIR THEATRE, ST ALBANS AS PART OF THE ROMAN THEATRE FESTIVAL 2023. TICKETS – Much Ado About Nothing – OVO – Theatre | Bold Imaginative Surprising