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Much Ado About Nothing Colloquium Report

Ben Haworth received a BSA bursary to attend the  Much Ado About Nothing Colloquium at the Rose Theatre in Kingston upon Thames on 21 April 2018. He offers below a short report on the event.


This brief yet superbly compact colloquium allowed both academic and public circles to interact, debate, and consider both the text and performance of Much Ado. The advantages of combining the release of Arden’s Critical Approaches to the play with a contemporary performance opened the way for a nuanced and multifaceted critical methodology. The innovative and inclusive structure, a more organic and open format than similarly staged events, saw three panels of academics openly discussing and engaging with each other as well as the audience on the topics of sex and gender, family and intergenerational tensions, and comedy and the watch. An additional panel, where the director and cast members from the concurrent production at the Rose Theatre were engaged by the audience, led to discussions around some textually insightful and politically relevant features of the play in performance.

My own research on liminality and subversion in early modern drama has increasingly been shaped by such conferences and performances, as actors living with the texts and inside of their roles often become aware of nuances that may be hinted at but are never explicit. Some of the dichotomies that emerged from discussions, on both academic and performer panels, were of light versus dark, ritual versus play, and authority and courtly vision versus human fallibility, choice and ambiguity. The on-going relevance of such conferences lies in their ability to bring together the very latest in textual, theoretical, and performance analyses to demonstrate how Renaissance playwrights negotiated these often-controversial themes in the space of the stage.

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