CEDAR CITY, Utah — London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art is performing at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City this week. This is a historic moment for both companies.
The setting is 1960s Italy; the play is “Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare. It’s an audience favorite at the Utah Shakespeare Festival – but this production is a first.
“This is the first time this tour will be seen in the United States, so it’s a wonderful opportunity for festival audiences to see something that European audiences have seen for years but we’ve never had access to. before,” said Frank Mack, executive director of the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
The performers are recent graduates of London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, or RADA, and this week highlights the partnership that company now has with Utah Shakes.
Natasha Rickman is directing production.
“The opportunity to come and see Shakespeare in these beautiful theatres, the fact that we’re going to watch the shows, we learn to do cross-cultural exchange, in terms of learning how other people do Shakespeare, being able to share some of our practices , is the most exciting thing, really!” says Rickman.
The partnership was announced over two years ago, but the pandemic put the exchange on hold. The agreement includes an annual RADA production at the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the hiring of at least one RADA student or graduate each season.
This year, there are two in the USF company. This is a five-year agreement. Funding comes from an anonymous donor.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival is a revelation for the London company.
“I would have no idea there was this love and appreciation for Shakespeare and theater in general in this part of the world. I had no idea!” said Perry Williams, who plays Benedick.
Chloe Claudel is an American graduate of RADA. She plays the role of Béatrice in “Much Ado About Nothing”. Claudel said the Utah Shakespeare Festival was also a surprise for her.
“It’s really moving to see what a community there is around theater and the enthusiasm for theater that there is here,” she said.
Performances of “Much Ado” continue throughout the week. Cast and crew at the festival say they look forward to hosting a production and new company members “across the pond” for years to come.
For more information on RADA tickets, click here.