Amy Draper joins Iris Theatre to direct Much Ado About Nothing after a successful run of Macbeth at Southwark Playhouse and a season of assistant directing at the RSC.
What will be the central themes in your production of Much Ado About Nothing?
What attracts me to the play is how deftly it combines high comedy – verbal and physical – and tragedy. Its exploration of a patriarchal society appeals to me and so one theme will undoubtedly be expectations of women, and how these are adhered to or confounded by different characters. And, of course, love in its many forms. Love is probably the central theme for me as it drives all of the central characters in various ways. It is universally understood, and is ultimately what allows the play to be a comedy and end in a hopeful way.
What do you think is at the heart of the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick?
The million-dollar question! I have lots of ideas, but I feel like this is something I can’t answer fully until it becomes a shared task in rehearsals with the actors playing those characters. I never go into rehearsals with thoughts too fully formed. Instead I come with questions, suggestions and provocations for the company and together we discover our version of things. For now, I’ll just say that it is probably a relationship driven by mutual respect. That they see each other as equals, even within the restrictions of their society, is what makes their relationship so enduring and why it most likely appeals to a modern audience. Watch this space!
Is there one moment or scene in particular that really makes you laugh?
I love the series of scenes where the “deceptions” take place – where Benedick and Beatrice both eavesdrop on conversations elaborating why the other is in love with them. There is plenty of scope for fun reactions and the comedy also comes from the audience being one glorious step ahead of the characters.
Are any particular moments in the play that confound an audience expectations of this ‘light comedy’?
Many I would say! One that obviously springs to mind is when Hero is wrongly accused of infidelity at the altar. The play takes a rapid turn for the tragic when most of the men leave her for dead and her father says she would be better off dead than unchaste. It pulls the rug from under the audience’s feet because suddenly, just below the veneer of lightness and laughter, something much uglier is revealed. For me it is actually the moment when this play is elevated to something really fascinating and profound, and this is only possible because of the comedy that proceeds it. The contrast brings out the best in both forms.
What do you hope people will take away from your production of Much Ado About Nothing?
It is said that comedy is tragedy averted, and so the ending needs to feel positive and upbeat. It is important that the audience leave with a sense of real hope for the characters’ futures together. If there is a residual sense of unease with the Hero/Claudio marriage, I’d also be fine with that… but mainly I’d love everyone to have had an entertaining and memorable theatrical experience in a beautiful venue. And that they’ve laughed a lot!