What: Much (Less) Ado About Nothing
Where: Craigdarroch Castle
When: All performances 7:30 p.m. March 23 to 25, March 30 to April 1, April 6 to 8
Tickets: $35 with glass of bubbly or $28 without alcohol. Call 250-592-5323 or at the castle at 1050 Joan Cres. For more info, go to thecastle.ca
When they performed together 22 years ago in Much Ado About Nothing, Victoria actors David Radford and Christina Patterson were dating other people.
It was the first time they’d met.
Next week, they’ll reunite to perform in Much Ado again — only this time they’re a married couple.
Produced under the auspices of Radford and Patterson’s Launch Pad Theatre Company, their adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy will be staged at Craigdarroch Castle. For the 60-minute show, retitled Much (Less) Ado About Nothing, they’ll play Benedick and Beatrice — a pair who spar romantic-comedy style but secretly yearn for one another.
In 1995, Radford and Patterson were cast in an Island Repertory Company production of Much Ado About Nothing. It was a modest effort, staged in an empty store space at the Bay Centre. She played Beatrice; Radford was Prince Don Pedro.
Although romantically involved with someone else, Patterson was impressed by Radford.
“I thought there’s definitely something different about this person that made you think a little bit,” she said.
In Much Ado About Nothing, Don Pedro asks for Beatrice’s hand with the words: “Will you have me, lady?” — but she turns him down. In 2003, Radford stole from his old role when asking Patterson to marry him during a visit to the Toronto Islands.
“I got down on one knee and said: ‘Will you have me, lady?’ It’s funny how it ties up,” he said.
Launch Pad Theatre Company has staged a string of shows at Craigdarroch Castle, including Radio, Mistletoe and My Man Godfrey, Arkenham Abbey and another Shakespeare adaptation, The Charming of the Shrew.
These are pocket-sized projects. While the original is about two hours long, Much (Less) Ado About Nothing is half as long. The essence of the play is retained, says Radford. That’s partly because Shakespeare’s original scripts include repetitive plot references, possibly to remind Elizabethan audiences (who liked to chat, eat and drink during performances) what was happening in the play.
As well, he trimmed some lines that translate less well today. For instance, after hearing rumours of Hero being unfaithful, Claudio cruelly denounces his fiancée during their wedding ceremony. In the original script, Hero faints at the declaration, but in Radford’s version, the character’s unfashionable obsequiousness is toned down.
Adding to the fun is an onstage Foley artist producing live sound effects. The Edwardian-era costumes are by Martha Burd, a seamstress who creates sumptuous outfits from thrift-store cast-offs. “She’ll find a piece of material from the free bin of the Denman Island Free Store, and get another $2 thing and make a gown,” said Patterson, who says her own outfit looks like a “$900,000 dress at least.”
Much (Less) Ado About Nothing includes a 30-minute pre-show reception in the castle’s first-floor drawing room. Audiences, who are encouraged to don their “snazziest cocktail attire,” can sip sparkling wine, hob-nob with actors and enjoy music played on guitar, piano and ukulele.
Radford says the notion is to recreate an “old-fashioned parlour evening” harkening to the days when actors and musicians might be invited to entertain at a manor house.
The first time they did Much Ado About Nothing, Radford and Patterson’s characters rejected one another. This time they don’t. And Radford, for one, is happy about that.
“Here we are doing the production again and I’m the guy who gets the girl at the end,” he said.
“That’s right,” Patterson said with a smile.