- Theatre: Wyndham’s Theatre, London, UK
- Play Run: 16th May 2011 to 3rd September 2011
- Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, including a 15-minute interval
- Writer: William Shakespeare
- Production: Sonia Friedman Productions
Cast – in order of appearance/speaking
Leonato – Jonathan Coy
Messenger – Leo Starr
Beatrice – Catherine Tate
Hero – Sarah MacRae
Don Pedro – Adam James
Benedick – David Tennant
Don John – Elliot Levey
Claudio – Tom Batement
Innogen – Anna Farnworth
Conrade – Lee Knight
Borachio – Alex Beckett
Titus – Joshua Berg
Margaret – Natalie Thomas
Ursula – Kathryn Hunt
Angelo – Derek Howard
Boy – Eugine Lewis/Mario Marin-Borquez/Bailey Pepper
Balthasar – Enzo Squillino Jnr
Dogberry – John Ramm
Verges – Mike Grady
Hugh Oatcake – Clive Hayward
George Seacoal – Nicholas Lumley
Friar Francis – Clive Wayard
Sexton – Enzo Squillino Jnr
Maria – Hannah Warren-Green
Benedick – Alex Beckett
Beatrice – Kathryn Hunt
Leonarto, Friar Francis – Nicholas Lumley
Claudio – Lee Knight
Don John, Don Pedro – Clive Hayward
Dogberry, Verges – Derek Howard
Hero, Margaret, Innogen – Hannah Warren-Green
Borachio, Conrade, Hugh Oatcake, Sexton – Leo Starr
George Seacoal, Messenger, Balthasar, Dance captain – Joshua Berg
Other roles are covered by members of the company.
Director – Josie Rouke
Designer – Robert Jones
Lighting – Peter Mumford
Music – Michael Bruce
Sound – Emma Laxton
Movement – Georgina Lamb
Much Ado About Nothing is perhaps one of William Shakespeare’s best loved comedies. Set in Messina in Sicily, the soldier-prince Don Pedro and the men who serve under him are returning from war to lodge on the estate of the governor Leonato, where they will stay for a month. The play deals with themes of love and marriage, fidelity and deceit and that old favourite, the battle of the sexes, with a good measure of guile and misdirection thrown in for good measure. Central to the plot is the wooing of Leonato’s daughter Hero by Claudio, a traditional three stage love-rejection-reconciliation story. However, interwoven around what could have been a somewhat bland and predictable storyline is the tale of feuding lovers Benedick and Beatrice. It is their constant bickering and sniping that provides most of the humour of the tale.
When we meet the pair they are locking horns in a battle of wits that, it is hinted, has stemmed from some sort of failed relationship long ago. Their enmity towards one another is long-standing, and both are vocal in making it extremely clear to everyone around them who will listen that they will never be tied in marital bliss. Benedick holds marriage in such contempt that he even tries, unsuccessfully, to dissuade Claudio from pursuing his affection towards Hero. Thus, when the rest of the company have time to kill before the wedding, they decide to amuse themselves by bringing together in love the unlikely couple. In turn, Benedick and Beatrice are duped, by means of separate gulling scenes, into believing that each harbours a passionate and morbid love for the other. Previous hostility be damned, they do not hesitate long in declaring their love.
Meanwhile, the path of love is not running smooth for the tale’s other pair. Don Pedro’s bastard brother, Don John, a man twisted and eaten up by petty spite and jealousy of his sibling’s successes, is determined to cause mischief and to try to throw the plans awry. Engaging his own men Conrade and Borachio, they hatch a plot using Hero’s own waiting-woman Margaret to unwittingly discredit the bride-to-be in front of Claudio and Don Pedro. While celebrating the success of the deception, however, Borachio and Conrade are caught and detained by the Night Watch, led by the bumbling and over-zealous Dogberry.
Sadly, the revelation of Don John’s plan does not come quickly enough to prevent Claudio revealing what he believes he saw the previous night in front of a stunned wedding congregation. Hero, shamed and rejected, collapses as Claudio and Don Pedro leave the church, with even her own father initially believing the accusations. It takes the astute and observant Friar Francis to convince Leonato of Hero’s innocence, and he hatches a plan to make all believe that Hero has died of her grief while they try to put things to rights. Beatrice snatches the opportunity to test Benedick’s declaration of love for her, asking him to show his devotion by killing her enemy Claudio. Benedick refuses her demand, although he does go as far as challenging Claudio at their next encounter.
Once informed of the plot hatched by Don John and the latter’s hasty flight from the city, Leonato extracts a promise from Claudio to make amends by marrying his mysterious niece. It is only at the actual moment of marriage that the niece’s bridal veil is lifted to reveal that she is, in fact, Hero. Benedick and Beatrice also discover the deception that has been played on them, but on consideration find that they have actually fallen for one another. The double celebration ends with a dance and the happy message that true love will overcome even the most insurmountable of obstacles.
The Wyndhams Theatre production updates the action to the 1980s and the setting to a Mediterranean military base.