Love is nothing to be frightened of (or is it?) | Malcolm Galea and Faye Paris

Malcolm Galea and Faye Paris speak to us about their take on William Shakespeare’s enduring reluctant-lover couple: Benedick and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing – a new version of which will be staged at San Anton Gardens under the direction of Chris Gatt later this month.

Malcolm Galea (left) and Faye Paris (right) play Benedick and Beatrice in this year’s ‘Shakespeare at San Anton’ production of Much Ado About Nothing.
Malcolm Galea (left) and Faye Paris (right) play Benedick and Beatrice in this year’s ‘Shakespeare at San Anton’ production of Much Ado About Nothing.

You play the first 'meet-cute' couple in history. Beatrice and Benedick hated-each-other-then-loved-each-other LONG before Harry met Sally. Pressure?

Malcolm Galea: Well, there wasn't before you brought it up... I actually think that this kind of romantic pairing predates even Shakespeare. The Bard is justly famous for his dialogue and iconic style but very few of his characters and plot devices were original as far as I know. This is actually my first time playing a lead Shakespearean character (my biggest role before this was the unfortunately named Bassanio in 2005's The Merchant of Venice) so I guess there could be some pressure in that. I'll let you know after opening night!

Faye Paris: Correction! Benedick and Beatrice have loved each other from the start, they are just too proud to admit it. The pressure comes with any part played, especially when it comes to doing the character justice.

Beatrice and Benedick are two very steadfast, strong and particular characters (what you see is what you get with them... until it isn't). Did they give you enough room for manoeuvre to carve out your own take on them? What can we expect from the way you've tackled them?

MG: With Shakespearean comedy you need to work pretty hard on the interpretation to keep it contemporary. 'Much Ado About Nothing' lends itself particularly well to modern-day audiences and Benedick is certainly a very rich and relatable character to play. He starts off being a cocky individual and confirmed bachelor. However, as the play wears on, several chinks begin to appear in his self-esteem and it's only when he obtains the object of his love that he is complete again. My challenge is to present him as a larger than life character while also bringing out his nuances.

FP: The themes in the play are contemporary and they way the characters are written is timeless and very easily open to interpretation. Everybody has a friend with similar traits to Beatrice: the self-professed bachelorette. Apparently I have been cast in the part because I am a red head so all I need to do is live up the stereotype - headstrong, short tempered and a tease... ha! Piece of cake!

The play presents a very specific conception of the idea of love (to wit: cater to peoples' egos, and they're bound to fall in love) - do you agree with how Shakespeare presents the 'game of love' in this particular play?

MG: I think it's a very valid interpretation. Benedick's character is similar to that of many alpha-male types whose swaggering and posturing belies a low self-esteem and desperation to be liked. Having someone openly dislike him (as Beatrice does) would put him off-guard and the sudden realisation that she is actually in love with him would certainly be food for his ego. I don't think that Benedick and Beatrice's relationship would be a healthy one in the long run but I doubt that Shakespeare was too worried about that. The fact that Claudio (in the other love plot) seemed to forget his grief at Hero's apparent suicide and happily accepts to marry her relative (who was next in line for Hero's inheritance) in her stead indicates that the subject of love is tackled with more than a little cynicism in this play.

FP: Beatrice and Benedick have always loved each other. They find in each other a match to their wit. Their repartee is just flirting, in a way. They are so decided that they will never marry that they are blinkered to what is really happening between them. So really the 'gulling' scenes are just a push in the right direction.

Why do you think the 'Shakespeare in San Anton' has endured as an annual theatrical tradition, and how would you say that the atmosphere of this particular play takes advantage of it?

MG: There are worse ways to spend a balmy summer evening than watching some Shakespeare in the serenity of San Anton Gardens (interrupted by the occasional copulating cat). Much Ado About Nothing lends itself exceptionally well to an outdoor setting since most of its scenes are based in external locations like orchards and gardens while the whole piece has a general Mediterranean outdoorsy feel.

Much Ado About Nothing will be playing at San Anton Gardens between July 24 and 30 at 20:45. Tickets at €15 can be booked through