"It’s been reworked by Matthew Dunster, so it was essential to have a look and see whether he'd cut any of my speeches...I'm joking! It’s set in Mexico in 1910 at the time of the revolution with Pancho Villa and Zapata and Huerta. So it’s really, really exciting..."
As the cast begin their first week of rehearsals, Steve John Shepherd tells us about his previous experience with Shakespeare, the play, and the world of this production.
Time: 3 minutes 5 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Rona Kelly: Welcome to the first in our series of podcasts for Much Ado About Nothing, and today we are joined by Steve who is playing Don Pedro.
Steve John Shepherd: Thank you. Hello.
RK: Let’s just get to know you a little bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your experience of Shakespeare and performing Shakespeare?
SS: My experience of Shakespeare, there’s been a bit of a gap. I went to drama school, Central, and did it intensively for three years as you do. But then when I came out of drama school I got side-lined into a television career, which once you’re in it’s quite difficult to leave. So it’s nice to get back into [Shakespeare], and just explore his plays again. It’s a really nice feeling. It’s just so dense, even something like Much Ado you think initially it’s kind of a light comedy. That’s for about ten minutes and then it changes and becomes something entirely different. It really is just wonderful writing, so it’s really nice to get back to that.
RK: You mention that you studied it at drama school. Can you remember any particular plays which you did around then?
SS: Twelfth Night we did, Two Gentlemen of Verona we did, Romeo and Juliet. We did Hamlet, quite a few Lear, and that was an opportunity to put on big beards and smoke pipes and every single prop that you could possibly have!
RK: Just adding to the poor guy’s list. 'We definitely need working pipes!'
SS: Yes! 'I need a pipe and stilts...'
RK: In the same scene.
SS: Yes, absolutely! And it was great. But of course when you’re doing it at drama school you have to share the parts, so if you’re playing Hamlet you hope to get the good speeches.
RK: And how familiar were you with Much Ado About Nothing?
SS: Not familiar at all. I know there’s a movie out there somewhere, some actor called Denzel Washington’s playing Don Pedro (I’ve never heard of him!) But I didn’t watch it on purpose, so it’s nice to come with fresh eyes and ears, and hear it for the first time with the company.
RK: Yes, because it’s from the comedies but it’s one of the maybe lesser known ones, as opposed to the ones that you maybe study in school I guess: Midsummer and Twelfth Night.
SS: Yes, I think you’re right. But it has a darkness to it, as all of his things do; even the lightest things you think of being flippant, but they’re not. There’s a darkness to them. And when you look at them on paper you think, 'Hang on a second, he’s doing that...' And it’s really interesting.
RK: Did you read the play before you started rehearsals, just to get a bit of a better grasp of your character?
SS: Absolutely. I couldn’t have turned up having not read the play, I would have been too frightened. It’s been reworked by the director Matthew [Dunster], so it was essential to have a look at that and see whether or not he'd cut any of my speeches...I'm joking! [To see] what the vibe was going to be. It’s set in Mexico in 1910 at the time of the revolution with Pancho Villa and Zapata and all those guys, Huerta. So it’s really, really exciting.
Thanks to Alison for the transcription of this interview.