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Last Updated: Monday, 10 April 2006, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
Now it's Much Ado about texting
William Shakespeare
Audiences are being asked to participate
Audiences are being invited to switch on their mobile phones to text actors while they are on stage performing in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

The interactivity in the play, part of the national curriculum, is aimed at engaging younger people who can find Shakespeare's works baffling.

The production, by Pirate Utopia, is being taken to several Norwich schools.

The theatre company, formed in 2002, was approached by teachers who want pupils to engage more with the Bard.

Its artistic director, who calls herself Panda Monium, admits she is taking a risk with the production which will be performed at the Norwich Arts Centre next month.

In Shakespeare's time people didn't just sit in a darkened theatre - they ate and mucked around
Artistic director Panda Monium

"It's like a Jerry Springer show - we're setting the play in that kind of context. Kids are familiar with that sort of format. They know what to expect and how to behave," she said.

"The audience will be coming in to what we are pretending is a TV studio where we are making a chat show. When we are "on air" everyone is talking in modern English but "off air" everyone speaks in Shakespearean language."

The audience is asked to participate by sending texts asking questions - in much the same way that audiences in chat shows are allowed to ask questions.

"We're making a direct link between the actors and the audience," she added.

"I love Shakespeare. I think he would be doing it. When he was working he was using the cutting edge technology of his day and I think he would really appreciate this.

"You will always have the purists who say it's not for me but in Shakespeare's time people didn't just sit in a darkened theatre - they ate and mucked around.

"In his time the actors interacted with the audience and ad-libbed."

Pirate Utopia is funded by Arts Council England (East) and is a member of the ACE Escalator Scheme for promising regional arts companies. It was formed with the aim of integrating new technology into live performance.

Much Ado About Nothing was selected because it is a prescribed text for Key Stage Three.


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