Somewhere between the luggage and cookware departments on the lower ground floor of Selfridges, sits The reFASHIONed theatre. I've seen the space as a cinema, a silence room and even a gym - but currently it plays home to The Faction production of Much Ado About Nothing. Selfridges has joined forces with the exciting young British theatre company to celebrate Shakespeare400 with this new staging of the William Shakespeare classic.
The reFASHIONed Theatre entrance has a glamorous marquee out front, leading you into the auditorium where a stage sits proudly in its center with raked seats lining either side. It's almost like walking into a mini fashion show. When the blue glow that once filled the room is extinguished, the space goes black, and the show begins.
The fashion aspect is apparent from the outset, with costumes looking as though they have been taken directly from the rails of Selfridges. The set is very simple and stylish, with characters weaving in and out of the space with a great kinetic energy. The small nature of the theatre, having only 122 seats, allows the action to take place at a very close level. Every emotion of each actor is under close scrutiny. The cast all rise to the occasion, delivering wonderfully intimate and absurd performances across the board. Star players are Daniel Boyd (Benedick) and Alison O'Donnell (Beatrice) whose characters fill the theatre and breathe life into the words of William Shakespeare. Their equally awful attempts at eavesdropping while being tricked into romance were equally hilarious and had the audience in stitches. Caroline Langrishe (Leonata) and Jude Owusu (Don Pedro) each demonstrated strong characters, commanding their scenes and showing great understanding of the text.
The direction by Mark Leipacher was very well executed and he succeeded in creating the action around the audience to make a highly engaging version of this Shakespeare classic. It was certainly a more contemporary take, with moments such as the masquerade ball showcasing the marriage of sound, light and dance in a re-imagining of the scenario. However, the use of television screens to integrate 'digital cameos' from the likes of Simon Callow and Meera Syal fell flat during the performance, jarring with the live action that was taking place.
Overall, Much Ado About Nothing is a really enjoyable night of theatre and The reFASHIONed Theatre is the perfect destination for it. The Faction theatre company and Selfridges have come together to create a production that makes the work of William Shakespeare very accessible and engaging. Elements including fashion, social media and tabloids are effectively incorporated to provide parallels to modern times. It is a wonderful way to celebrate the work of William Shakespeare and great example of British theatre.
Much Ado About Nothing runs until Saturday 24th September 2016, The reFASHIONed Theatre, Selfridges.
Photo credit: Simon Annand