How do you resolve the misogyny in Much Ado About Nothing? On one hand, you have Beatrice, contemporary with her independent wit and contempt of courtship rituals; a strong, comic female character Shakespeare may have created given she has no analogue in the Bard’s sources for the play.
But then there is tragic Hero, whose marriage to Claudio is sabotaged by scheming men. She is attacked as a whore at the altar and deemed therefore unworthy of marriage. Thus, amid all the eavesdropping and masquing and comic deceit lies control of women’s bodies.
James Evans. Photo © Prudence Upton
As Bell Shakespeare takes the play to 27 venues across Australia, associate director James Evans has inverted the order of the material to critique it through a 21st-century lens. This new production plays with the gender dynamics, now opening with the dramatic wedding denouement, with critical tweaks inserted when the vows scene plays out again towards the end of the work.
“We’re messing with the ending a little bit,” Evans laughs. “I’ve slightly changed the structure because that final wedding scene is just so weird and bizarre, when Hero has to...