Shopping and Shakespeare. Selfridges department store on Oxford Street has gone all thespy and arranged their window displays to reflect scenes from some of the Bard's plays. The transformation doesn't stop there either; a room on one of the floors has been given over to theatre company Faction, who present Much Ado About Nothing alongside several other talks and performances under the title Shakespeare Refashioned. There's even a hastag: #GetTheeToASelfridges. So far, so Millenial.
Part of Faction's take on the show involves featuring a series of TV cameos from the likes of Meera Syal, Simon Callow and Rufus Hound, who pop up as Dogberry and Sexton and a messenger. It's an odd, empty conceit, which is distracting. They are perfectly good performances, and it's nice to see their faces, but why on earth have them on a screen? It's a superfluous gesture, that jars with the otherwise fairly traditional production, which doesn't reference security cameras, Twitter or newsflashes anywhere else. It feels a little like strong-arming some more ‘names' into the show.
But look past the digital extras and there's much to enjoy here. As usual with Mark Leipacher's productions, the cast and performances are key. On a traverse stage Leipacher brings out some very strong turns from Alison O'Donnell as Beatrice, and Tala Gouveia as a sexy, mischievous Margaret. Lovejoy's Caroline Langrishe is also excellent as Leonato – here Leonata. She is an upbeat and engaging appearance in the tale of the four couples and a perfect fit for giggling matriarchal matchmaker.
Leipacher's adaptation is also well edited, and although one or two of the very funny scenes are cut in favour of steaming ahead (I missed Dogberry's ‘ass' scenes in particular), the text has been craftily put together. The music, though, was a real problem for me, as a tinny, background track kept playing throughout from speakers above the audience. Whether the moment was intense or quiet, the track was there and it really needed to not be.
Still, from a halting start, the production warms and once there are fewer interruptions, this Much Ado About Nothing shines.
Much Ado About Nothing runs at Selfridges until 24 September.