To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Selfridge’s has launched The refashioned Theatre, a pop-up space that will host a programme of exciting theatrical performances, including a collaboration with The Faction, one of the most exciting young British theatre companies in the UK with a reputation for contemporary Shakespeare productions and innovative collaborations. We sat down with Mark Leipacher, Artistic Director of The Faction, who talked to us about bringing his theatre company’s 21st century re-working of Shakespeare’s classic Much Ado About Nothing to the famous British department store.
LC: How does this production of Much Ado About Nothing differ from all those that have come before it?
Mark Leipacher: Well we’re treating it as a play for now, so it’s a distinctly 21st century landscape that the production’s set in. We’re 21st century theatre-makers, we’ve got a 21st century audience, so it makes sense to treat it as a 21st century play. So much of the play is about how style and reputation and social standing are important in society, and how a tiny piece of gossip can spread like wildfire and undermine that reputation. So it felt like something for a social media age.
LC: What is having the play staged in Selfridge’s going to bring to the production?
ML: Well, first of all we’re very hopeful that it brings in a new audience and that people are excited about the idea of it, perhaps people who haven’t been theatre-goers before. So that’s quite exciting. There have been a number of events for "Shakespeare400" and actually we wanted The Faction to be a part of that and to be doing something a bit mischievous, and something a bit unexpected because that felt like the right way to honour Shakespeare. In terms of the production itself, I think given that it’s a society that is very much about high style, and about social standing, about prestige, that absolutely fits with Selfridges as a location.
LC: What is particularly exciting to you about the production?
ML: The cast is really exciting. We’ve got a really exciting quality bunch of people with real theater pedigree about them. And we also have some digital cameos, so pre-recorded appearances of people that will be appearing as journalists or security guards on the CCTV, projected in the space, so those are two really exciting elements of the production.
LC: How do you think modernized versions of Shakespeare stand up against more traditional ones?
ML: I think it’s important to think of Shakespeare as having universal themes. So although this is a contemporary interpretation, it’s not been dumbed-down in any way. It’s been about treating it as if it were a piece of new writing and finding an imaginative response to the play that’s fresh. So hopefully it’s something that our audience will see a freshness and an immediacy in that perhaps they wouldn’t expect from more traditional productions. But the play itself is still absolutely the play, the same play, and I think that’s important.
LC: The Faction is all about re-working classical texts. What is your aim in doing so?
ML: The thing that attracts us to classical texts is that their themes tend to be universal. These are texts that deal with broad human themes. That’s why they’ve lasted as long as they have. And that’s also why there’s such cultural exchange in them. That’s why these plays travel the globe and they’re taken on by different cultures. It’s because there’s something in them that communicates with people on a human level. So I think that there’s a way of using classical texts to speak to the age that you’re in, in a way that deals on a fundamental human emotional level. And I think that’s what’s really exciting to us theatre makers, it’s the universality of those themes.
LC: What is one of your favourite London performance spaces?
ML: For the last few years, we've had our home at the New Diorama Theatre and that’s a fantastic space for emerging ensembles, and is absolutely a place people should check out. And the Southwark Playhouse has an amazing vibe to it too. Wilton’s Music Hall is also an amazing space that’s got a wonderful history and vibe about it, so those are the big three for [The Faction] in London in terms of the places that we’ve been that all have a special place in our hearts and should be appealing to a wide group of people.
The Faction will be performing at The refashioned Theatre from the 23rd-24th August. Book tickets online.