Katherine Wootton reviews the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new production of Much Ado About Nothing, set in modern Delhi for their World Shakespeare Festival
Much Ado About Nothing is set in Messina, Italy, according to Shakespeare. But why should Europeans get all the limelight? The RSC is currently staging the World Shakespeare Festival, with collaborations with companies from across the globe to reinterpret Shakespeare’s locations. From Cymbeline (in Japanese with English subtitles) to Julius Caesar (set in sub-Saharan Africa), the Bard’s plays are getting relocated and the universality of his plots are being foregrounded.
Katherine Wootton saw Much Ado About Nothing, which the RSC has placed in Delhi – a long way from Messina, but still a place where themes such as love, rivalry and divisions of gender are just as relevant.
Katherine writes of the play:
Much Ado is a great play to analyze for the cultural politics and anxieties surrounding sex, gender, and purity. The plot relies on fear inherent in a society that judges a woman’s worth by her chastity and a man’s by his power. The men therefore fear being cuckolded (which would show a lack of power over ‘their’ women) while the women fear being rejected (as their value is largely determined by the judgments of men). This is most clearly seen in Benedick and Beatrice’s constant witty banter, both determined not to be foolish enough to make themselves vulnerable to public censure, and defending themselves vociferously with arsenals of clever retorts.