Demi-Paradise's promenade production of Much Ado About Nothing
Online payment for the conference and performance can be made via the University website at:
Directed by Sue McCormick, Demi-Paradise's promenade production of Much Ado About Nothing inside Lancaster Castle gives a unique opportunity to see a professional company perform in sites whose own histories amplify the settings, tones and dramatic conflicts of the play.
The oldest castle buildings range from a 12th Century Keep and medieval dungeons, to the magnificent John O'Gaunt's C15th Century Gatehouse, built when Henry IV was on the throne but kept the title of Duke of Lancaster (perhaps as an insurance policy in case he was usurped). It is a title still held by the Queen today.
Since the seventeenth century, the Castle has been a working court; it is here that the Lancashire witches were tried 400 years ago in 1612 and where George Fox, founder of the Quakers, was cross-examined, 350 years ago in 1652. In the late eighteenth century, a new Crown Court and the Shire Hall, a fabulous ten sided room with Gothic pillars and arches, were built.
This varied architectural backdrop will provide a resonant venue for Much Ado with its flamboyant flourishes of wit and its dark potential for tragedy. The castle's staircases, galleries, concealed doorways and passages will tangibly recreate the claustrophobic world of Messina, where overhearing or 'noting' is common. The production's distinctively Victorian English setting will create the atmosphere of small-town gossip that is essential to the play and whose whispers echo from so many of the trials which took place in the Castle's history. Messina's obsessions with honour and with fashion will be played out spectacularly against the Castle's mock-gothic Hall, and in the production's 1890s design.
The high-necked, braided and buttoned military dress uniforms and the tight lacing of gowns and boots convey the tensions which underpin the 'merry war' staged in the play. Romance between the sexes continuously threatens to tip over into violence, a violence embedded in the walls of the building. The old courtroom and dungeons provide an ideal setting for the criminal Don John to plot and for Dogberry to enjoy wielding his power as Constable. Claudio's desecration of the wedding ritual will be fully realised by the staging of Act 4 Scene 1 inside the Priory Church, which is adjacent to the Castle.
Demi-Paradise Productions have perfected the art of staging site-specific theatre in Lancaster Castle over the past twelve years with a range of entertainments, contemporary drama, youth events and Shakespeare productions, including Merchant of Venice, All's Well That Ends Well, Macbeth, Richard II, Richard III, Hamlet and Macbeth. The production is all staged indoors. Because of security and fire regulations audience numbers are restricted to 60 people per night. Delegates are therefore strongly advised to book at the same time as registering for the conference.