Preview: Much Ado About Nothing, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

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The Independent Culture

For West, the production is an opportunity to "learn the Crucible stage as an actor" before he directs on it, while for Rourke, who made her name working on new writing at the Donmar and the Royal Court, Shakespeare represents new challenges. The maxim she learnt at the Royal Court, to "treat an old play like a new play and a new play like a classic", underpins her approach.

The designer Giles Cadle, who won an Olivier award for his work on His Dark Materials at the National, has been charged with creating a "Mediterranean" feel for the set, as Rourke explains: "It has a big terracotta floor, and because a lot of the play is about eavesdropping and overhearing, there are lots of shutters and places where people might be lurking."

For Rourke, the main appeal of the play lies in Beatrice: "There is something about Beatrice, her extraordinary spirit and the incredible change that she undergoes, from swearing never to marry to deciding that she wants to do it, that speaks directly to my experience. Beatrice is saying to herself, on one level, 'Can I live my life differently; is there an alternative?' I think that's a conversation everyone has [with themselves]." Rourke's production aims to bring out this universal message, and she describes the cast as being "brilliant at making it sound incredibly fresh, and making it make sense."

Whatever the message of play, West is determined for the audience to have fun. "After all, it is a celebratory piece, and what better way to begin than with a party?"

21 September to 5 November (0114-249 6000; www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk)

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