One of the marvels of Shakespeare is its capacity to be constantly reinvented for audiences.
There's even been a sci-fi Macbeth.
Now you can add a Much Ado About Nothing set in the jazzy 1920s.
This reinvention by director Cate Clelland for Canberra Repertory Society is a deliberate clash between the old and the new and lends itself well to the turbulent and revolutionary 1920s.
Benedick and Beatrice, two of the play's central characters, are also arguably the most modern in their verbal jousting and relatively equal status, straddling the 400-year gap between the play's publication and the 1920s setting with remarkable ease.
Lainie Hart, who plays Beatrice, said there were a lot of similarities between Renaissance England, when the play was written, and the 1920s: "playfulness and experimentation and increasing freedoms".
"Beatrice is unparented and unmarried and educated and free to come into being and [Beatrice and Benedick] are a great match in terms of their intellect and their passion," she said.
"They're confirmed bachelors but ultimately they get together."
Jim Adamik, who plays Benedick, said although some of the characters were very much products of the time the play was written, others were more relatable for a modern audience.
"Beatrice and Benedick are modern; they sit comfortably with what we sort of expect," Adamik said.
"I think Shakespeare works best when an audience can connect with the setting and it works least [well] for us when you have people dressed in doublet and hose and there's a big barrier between you and the audience."
Hart said part of what made the play work was the dichotomy between the two central couples - the constantly bickering Beatrice and Benedick, and the love-sick Claudio and Hero.
"Beatrice and Benedick duel and use their words and their intellect… Hero and Claudio say relatively less," Hart said.
"The articulation of the characters is used as a weapon…How eloquent and lyrical they are is a deliberate choice."
This contrast between the traditional and the modern was echoed in the striking difference between the classic Shakespearean verses and the more contemporary setting, though Adamik said conveying the meaning of the verses was easy.
"It's so well written and it's so full of life, fun, anger and sadness [that] it's easy to make it clear for an audience," he said.
Hart added that "the humanity" of the themes and characters was what made the play so relatable.
"One of the things I really love about this play is it's a comedy and it's delightful and all ends well, but there's also these dark elements in there where the worst of human nature, or what humans wrestle with [comes through].
"So it's kind of showing what humans do badly as well as what we do well. It's so universal, that's what's so delicious about Shakespeare, that we're still playing it now."
Much Ado About Nothing will be on at Theatre 3, 3 Repertory Lane, Acton from September 17 to October 3.
Tickets $42 full, $36 concession. Bookings: canberrarep.org.au.
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