|"TNT are know as the best touring theatre company in the world". --CCTV China.|
“I never though Shakespeare could be so entertaining.” --CNN TV
“True music theatre.” --CLASSICAL MUSIC MAGAZINE London
“TNT prove how Shakespeare can connect with any audience anywhere in the world.” --JAPAN TIMES
Much Ado About Nothing China Tour-
Date: 24(Thur) March, 2011
Venue: Tianjin Binhu Theatre
Date: 25(Fri), 26(Sat) March, 2011
Venue: Beijing NINE Theatre ( Chaoyang Cultural Center, No.17 Jintaili, Chaowaixiaozhuang, Chaoyang District)
Date: 30 April(Sat), 01 May(Sun) , 2011
Venue: Shanghai Lyceum Theatre
The China Tour of TNT Theatre UK is presented by Milky Way Arts & Communications Co. Ltd
Much Ado About Nothing throws down a challenge to the audience with its very title. What is this play? A comedy that is not always funny? A tragedy with a happy ending? A thriller even? Or is it a masque: that strange mix between symbolic drama and dance theatre that was to overwhelm English theatre a few years after Shakespeare’s death. I think the answer is yes to all these questions – MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING defies categorisation but at the same time it reveals Shakespeare’s genius. We are used to thinking that tragedy is more profound than comedy, but Shakespeare balanced the comic with the tragic, he knew that profoundest truths are often revealed through laughter – which is a human emotion than no animal can express – whereas sorrow is not so unique. Shakespeare knew that tragedy is enhanced by comedy and vica versa. It is perhaps that presence of comedy in his tragedies that takes them to the peak of human achievement; for surely the gravedigger in HAMLET, the Fool in KING LEAR and the Porter in MACBETH are essential to these iconic masterpieces. The later Shakespeare abandons tragedy altogether, surely believing that tragic-comedy is the most perfect mirror of the human condition. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is part of a long tradition of dark English humour that starts with Chaucer and continues to this day – Dickens, Wilde, Charlie Chaplin and Beckett all contributed to the genre and Beckett’s famous line: “Fail, try again, fail better” is clearly related to the glorious title of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Love and life are never darker than when they are held to be nothing.
Our approach to the play is to try and explore its extremes, not to flatten it by making its conflicting moods and fast changing values into one harmonious whole. This is a baroque masterpiece not a social documentary or romantic comedy. Shakespeare alerts us to this with his setting (or lack of it). It seems Don Pedro is Spanish, Claudio is Italian, while Dogberry and maybe Beatrice are clearly English. Hero seems to be lifted from the classics and to behave as such, (that is from the poems of “Hero and Leander” etc). There is a battle but no one gets hurt. There is an evil villain but he disappears half way through the play. There are whole scenes where nothing actually happens – such as the brilliant scene where Dogberry’s Watch fail to tell Leonato of the evil plot. So our approach has been to let all these elements co-exist as Shakespeare probably intended. We have not sunk to the easy director’s trick of setting the play in a consistent time and place – why is this so popular? This play is clearly not set anywhere. We accept this in Baroque painting why not in theatre? And here is a key – the classical world offered the Baroque artist an alternative universe. So our approach is to embrace the baroque, with all its exaggerations and super-realism. This allows the play to breathe (we feel) and allows us to be grotesque – a key word for TNT theatre – and we think for Shakespeare. Besides, the Baroque was entertainment, a release from Christian art and a lot of fun. This is a comedy where the audience is supposed to laugh.
Surveillance, tricks, deceits and lies are not just part of the fabric of Messina (as they are in Elsinore) – they are relished. They are almost the only way that this society works. Nothing can be believed that is not first overheard. Nothing is real unless it is discovered by spying. What is spoken openly is usually a lie or a trick. Even the “good” figures inhabit this world and relish its conventions: for example Hero and the Friar. This is not an accident or a game, it is how Messina functions. It therefore seems to us that this secretive and deceitful behaviour must be heightened and dramatised. In doing so we try to expose the folly that Shakespeare was aiming at with his dark comedy. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is a claustrophobic drama. Beatrice is the great rebel, a woman who openly speaks her mind in a (corrupt) man’s world and expects to be left on the shelf for her pains. Her greatest moment is her command to Benedick to “kill Claudio”. Because at that instant she sees through the pretence and asks in two plain words for justice in an unjust land. Benedick has to change, not so much because he responds to Beatrice as a lover but because he responds to Beatrice as a rebel who insists on plain truth and justice. When he denies his old bachelor self little is at stake, but when he challenges his old friend to a duel to the death the stakes are high and the denial of his former self far greater. But Shakespeare twists the plot and lets Benedick off the hook. It is the stupidest of all, Dogberry and his Watchmen, who unravel the evil and bring justice. Harmony prevails and even Don John is caught and punished. Has anything been learnt or was it all truly Much Ado About Nothing? This is the glory of Shakespeare’s great comedies: it is for the audience to decide. Tragedies have closure (or catharsis). These dark comedies touch us because they resonate and ask us if all our petty cares and self-deceptions are much ado about very little.
by Paul Stebbings 2011
About TNT theatre
The company was founded in 1980 by Paul Stebbings and other actors trained in the Grotowski method in Britain and Poland. While valuing the imaginative and physical techniques of the Polish director they wanted to extend their work into comic and popular forms with greater contemporary relevance. Their first production, HARLEQUIN, was a commedia dell’arte based on the life of the Russian artist Meyerhold and his struggles with Stalin. (The play was revived in 1989 and became the first play about Stalinism to be performed throughout Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall). Other productions took popular forms and explored serious themes; such as finance and fairy tales in FUNNY MONEY, vaudeville and war in ENGLISH TEA PARTY and the detective thriller and violence in THE MURDER OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. Since its foundation all TNT productions have been written or edited by Paul Stebbings and Phil Smith. The company’s approach to the classics is to critically examine the themes of the original rather than slavishly present a hallowed text. Since 2000 the company has extended this approach to interpretations of Shakespeare with considerable international success.
Music plays an important role in the company’s work, and most productions include a newly commissioned score. Notable music theatre productions include CABARET FAUST (inspired by Klaus Mann’s MEPHISTO) and the WIZARD OF JAZZ (prize winner at the Munich Biennale) both scored by the well known composer, John Kenny. TNT’s most ambitious production to date was the integrated drama, dance and music version of Melville’s MOBY DICK, with a score by John Kenny and Paul Flush. Other long term members of TNT are the choreographer Eric Tessier Lavigne and composer Thomas Johnson.
TNT began its collaboration with The American Drama Group Europe and producer Grantly Marshall in 1993. Notable productions include BRAVE NEW WORLD, LORD OF THE FLIES, FAHRENHEIT 451, DEATH OF A SALESMAN, OLIVER TWIST and many of Shakespeare’s greatest plays including our recent award winning HAMLET, OTHELLO and TAMING OF THE SHREW. TNT has received regular funding from the British Council and the UK Arts Council and collaborated or co-produced with organisations such as the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron), The St Petersburg State Comedy Theatre (Akimov), Tams Theatre Munich and St Donats Arts Centre (Wales) and the current long term collaborations with Costa Rica’s Teatro Terruno (Café Britt) Milky Way Productions in Beijing and the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre. TNT has toured from London to Hong Kong, from Guatemala to Tokyo, from Atlanta to St Petersburg and Tehran to Berlin in venues that range from village halls to opera houses and from castle ruins to National theatres.