The Faction is a theatre group keen to disturb our preconceived ideas about Shakespeare and with its inventive and broadly inclusive approach, this ensemble are set to give our classics texts a contemporary review in order to draw in and excite the spectators. This was largely achieved at the Shakespeare Refashioned event in Selfridges.
Selfridges have run a series of events, talks and performances in their newly designed lower ground performance space. The Faction and Selfridges seem perfect bedfellows with their drive for style, creativity and originality. Directed by Mark Leipacher, this production, with its traverse presentation swiftly drew the Selfridges spectators in, capable of moving and entertaining us in equal measures. This catwalk space, with a basic bench at one end and palladium style pillars at the other, was used to great effect with this physically committed troupe of actors.
A refashioned Much Ado perhaps, but vitally with no loss of heart. Deftly edited with some scenes speedily brought to us digitally in TV newsroom style along with a creative use of the traverse space allowed for a lively and brisk presentation. It’s Selfridges, so you can expect costumes to have flair, interesting tailoring and be designer-made, with a slight nod to the military (though those shoes had never seen mud or dust let alone action!). The mannequin look of these young soldiers was more evident than a battle weary troop. Messina residents seemed neat, tidy and cool and the shoe fest continued with the ladies with the addition of suitable attire befitting W1A.
Screens surrounded the acting space allowing for digital interjections of scenes with guest players, Simon Callow, Rufus Hound as informers and Meera Syal delivered the breaking headlines on Messina News, though this in turn gave the conflict elements of the play a certain distance, which meant the opening scenes, with their youthful enthusiasm, emphasised instead the focus on friendship and desire. It fell to the effective Jude Owusu’s Don Pedro to give a sense of gravitas in the opening moments therefore, and in terms of strength and intensity of performance mention must be made of James Maclachlan playing Borachio as he schemed and manouvered, bringing out the darker elements of the play.
Humour was always evident with the quarrelsome Beatrice and Benedick – she, feisty, strongly Scottish and challenging and he, angular, awkward, tall and fay but slowly as push comes to shove they become betrothed, a match you feel not necessarily made in heaven, and all the better for it. With a delivery that was clear and witty, Alison O’Donnell and Daniel Boyd captured the relationship with a sense of fun and truth; you really did feel they had met their match. The cast was ably led by the inspired casting of Caroline Langrishe. Playing Hero’s father, Leonata, she managed the love matches and disappointments with flair and strength.
Change is central to this play; change of heart, of position of intention – and the fact that this production captured the complexity of the relationships with fun and verve is a testament to the creative abilities of this skilled cast showing us how ’man is a giddy thing’.
What was so enjoyable about this production was how clear the narrative was. The verse was crisp and the emotional dynamics unequivocal as the soundscape and music heightened the drama. With actors playing scenes from the aisles the staging embraced the audience – we felt we were the soldiers, the court and congregation or voyeurs. However, this is not style over substance, The Faction have really pulled it off with a heady mix of the innovative and an assured contemporary acting style without losing site of meaning or language.
This pop up theatre experience is well worth a visit and befits its setting in the stylish and creative zone of Selfridges and Co, ‘Refashioned’.
Pop in, you won’t be disappointed and take a younger niece or nephew, they will love it.