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To begin with Much Adoe about Shakespeare is not the original title; it derives from Shakespeare’s original text Much Ado about Nothing. The purpose of this production (and the reason for the change in name) is the creation of a play that is accessible and introduces Shakespeare to younger audiences.  As a result, the play needs to be bright, fun and accessible; both visually, and through the language employed. This requires significant focus on the creation of set, costumes and scripting in order to be understood by a wider audience.

Scripting was the most important aspect of this process, as the choices made here significantly impact all other elements of the production. Besides the editing of the text down to about sixty minutes, important conversations between Shakespeare’s original characters focus on a verbal battle of the sexes, which is not as appropriate for younger audiences. As a result, the characters were changed into birds. This provides detailed movement for the actors to achieve, and a dilution of the ‘man/women’ language of the original text. This also creates a great platform for designing costumes too.

Costumes for birds required many feathers, but also a need to design a contrast of birds. With the personalities of Shakespeare’s characters taken into account, a diversity of birds were chosen to highlight character traits, personalities and the character’s narrative function. Kinder and naive characters are dressed as pigeons or pelicans connoting the white and pure elements of their personalities, while magpies were chosen to communicate their deceitful and untrustworthy characteristics. In fact, the distinguishing aspects of these colours are also reflected in the set design.

The set, demonstrated clearly on the floor, is divided between dark and light. This division provides an important narrative point to the play, as characters standing on the dark side are invariably deceptive and cruel. To allow the story’s completion, redemption of characters must occur, and this is represented by their ‘stepping over’ to the brighter side; thus cleansing their misdeeds. In fact the most significant set piece is the tree that divides these two elements.

The central tree is vital to this production, as it represents a number of different characters and provides an extra stage for the actors to perform on. The ‘branch’ allows characters to eavesdrop on conversations about them, and hide from others. Significantly, it brings characters together from both sides (the naive and deceitful sides) and allows them to view the ‘big picture’. The tree was designed to have an actor inside of main trunk, someone would could communicate with everyone around them, as well as provide additional humour by reacting to conversations that occur in front of him.

Constructing all elements of Much Adoe about Shakespeare required a focus on the visual aspect of storytelling. While the language is a most prominent way of communication, the visual aspects of costume, set and characterisation provide many visual cues to allow an audience to understand Shakespeare’s work. Language is not the only means to ‘talk’, as more fun visual aspects of a production can communicate just as quickly and effectively to audiences of all ages.