Much Ado About Nothing
by William Shakespeare
Olivier Theatre, 14 August 1981
Length: about 2¾ hours, including interval
Beatrice: O God that I were a man! I would eat his heart in
The play, written between 1598 and 1600, was "Sundrie times publikely acted,
" but there were only two officially recorded performances in Shakespeare's
lifetime, both at Court, in 1612/13. These performances were part of the celebrations
preceding the marriage of Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I, to the Elector
Palatine, Prince Frederick of Bohemia. For one of them the play was called "Bennedick
and Betrice, " after the characters who form one half of the love plot. Charles
I entered this title in his copy of Shakespeare's plays.
The story exists in numerous forms, but it is likely that Shakespeare's main
source was John Harrington's translation of Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando
Furioso (1591). Shakespeare enlivened the familiar tale by the addition
of Dogberry and Verges, who became the principal means by which the villainy
is unmasked. The witty exchanges of Beatrice and Benedick form a foil to the
seriousness of the Hero-Claudio plot and the story of their wooing runs like
a counterpoint through the play.
The Quarto edition of Much Ado was first published in 1600,
and is thought to have been printed from a manuscript written by the playwright
himself. Shakespeare seems not to have supervised the publication of any of
his 37 plays. The Quartos (the eighteen plays published in his lifetime) are
described by the editors of the Folio (the collected plays, published posthumously,
in 1623) as "Diverse, stolen, and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed
by the frauds and stealth of injurous imposters that exposed them."
Much Ado has more prose in it than any other play in the canon
except The Merry Wives of Windsor. The characters in the Claudio-Hero
plot speak predominantly in verse, but Beatrice, Benedick, Dogberry and Verges,
who were Shakespeare's own contribution to the story, speak almost exclusively
in prose. It is this mixture of verse with variegated prose — now free, now
formal — which gives the play its characteristic texture, and looks forward
to the rich formlessness of the late plays.
The action takes place in Leonato's house and its environs. The play's setting
is Messina, but the many detailed references to the garden and the domestic
life of an Elizabethan household point inescapably to an English context.
Theatre includes: Dirty Linen (Arts), Saint Joan
(Prospect at the Old Vic), The Old One-Two (Soho Poly). NT:
The Passion, Plenty, The Philanderer, The Iceman Cometh. TV
includes: When The Boat Comes In, The Naked Civil Servant, Destiny,
An Englishman's Castle, Suez, The Cherry Orchard, PQ17, Stalky & Co, The
Country, Bognor, All Creatures Great and Small, Fallen Hero, The House of
Caradus. Films: Devices and Desires, Sweeney Two, The Elephant
Theatre includes: in London: Tarantara, Tarantara (Westminster
& Phoenix), The Journey (Roundhouse), The Government
Inspector, Romeo and Juliet, The 88 (Old Vic). TV: Second City
Firsts, Enemy at the Door, The Upchat Connection, The Crime of Captain Colhurst,
The Borgias, Into the Labyrinth. Film: The Planet Suite.
Numerous radio plays.
|Beatrice, niece to Leonato
Theatre includes in London: Widowers' Houses, King Lear, The Alchemist
(all transferred from Nottingham), The Philanthropist (also
in New York), West of Suez, The Great Exhibition, Something's Burning,
The Norman Conquests, Bloomsbury, All's Well That Ends Well, Measure For
Measure, Play, Tishoo. NT: Plunder, The Philanderer, Betrayal,
Othello, Sisterly Feelings, Man and Superman. TV Includes:
An Affair of Honour, Mrs Warren's Profession, The Sullen Sisters (Country
Matters), Song of Songs, The Pearcross Girls, King Lear, The Widowing of
Mrs Holroyd, The Norman Conquests, Abie's Will, Othello. Films:
Joseph Andrews, The French Lieutenant's Woman.
|Hero, daughter to Leonato
Theatre includes in London: The Cherry Orchard (Riverside),
A Portrait of Dora (New End). NT: A Month in the Country, Don Juan.
TV: Anna Karenina, Just William, Emily, Queen Victoria's Scandals, Invitations,
Wuthering Heights, Seconds Out, Tales of the Unexpected, The Flipside of
Dominick Hyde. Films: Holocaust 2000, Someone is Killing the
Great Chefs of Europe, Eagle's Wing, Les Miserables, Death Watch, Possessions,
Hammer House of Horror.
Theatre includes in London: Rafferty's Chant (Mermaid),
Forty Years On (Apollo), My Little Boy My Big Girl
(Fortune), Gone with the Wind (Drury Lane), Very Good
Eddie (Piccadilly), His Monkey Wife (Hampstead), An
Ideal Husband (Greenwich). NT: A Month in the Country,
Don Juan. TV includes: Upstairs Downstairs, The Sweeney, Minder,
Fallen Hero, Anna Karenina, Hamlet, Sense and Sensibility. Film:
Theatre includes in London: Not Drowning But Waving (Greenwich),
The Norman Conquests (Greenwich & West End), Zoo Story
(Regent's Park), Otherwise Engaged, Just Between Ourselves,
Alice's Boys (West End). RSC: When Thou Art King, Henry VIII,
The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising, Major Barbara. NT: Hamlet,
Saint Joan, The Recruiting Officer, Andorra, Philoctetes, Othello, The Royal
Hunt of the Sun, The Crucible, Much Ado About Nothing, Mother Courage, Love
for Love, Juno and the Paycock, The Storm, Betrayal, Close of Play, Richard
III, Othello, Sisterly Feelings, The Life of Galileo (London Drama
Critics' Award for Best Actor). TV includes: Eyeless in Gaza, The
Other One, The Seagull; most recently: The Breadwinner.
|Don John, Don Pedro's bastard brother
Theatre includes in London: Events in an Upper Room (ICA),
Dear Daddy (Ambassadors), Pinch Me Not (Greenwich),
The Irish Hebrew Lesson (Almost Free & NT Platform),
Flying Blind, The Key Tag (Royal Court), Measure for Measure
(Riverside), James Joyce and Co (King's Head). NT: Don
Juan, Serjeant Musgrave's Dance. TV: Shelley, I Claudius, Disraeli,
Escape Into Thin Air, Film: The Awakening.
Theatre includes repertory at Glasgow Citizen's, Cambridge, Mold Theatre
Clwyd, Ipswich, Ludlow Festival, Chichester Festival. In London: Stripwell
(Royal Court), She Stoops to Conquer, The Rivals (Greenwich),
Hamlet (Stratford East). TV includes: Chips with Everything,
French Without Tears, The Cost of Loving, Wings, Diary of Bridget Hitler,
Cousin Phyllis. Films: Galileo, The Europeans, Reds.
Has worked extensively in radio.
|Antonio, brother to Leonato
Theatre includes in London: The Love of a Good Man (Royal
Court), Look Back in Anger (Royal Court & Criterion). RSC:
Cousin Vladimir, Hang of the Gaol, Coriolanus. NT: Grand
Manoeuvres, Equus, Lark Rise. TV: Yes Minister, Churchill and
the Generals, I Claudius, Edward and Mrs Simpson, Edward VII, Crown Court,
Tales of the Unexpected. Roger Doesn't Live Here Any More, Badgers by Gaslight.
Gipsy Cottage, The Wilderness Years.
|Conrade, follower to Don John
Theatre includes in London: Live Like Pigs, Julius Caesar, Crete
and Sergeant Pepper, Marie and Bruce (Royal Court), Fat Harold
(New End), Rashomon (Stratford East), Light Shining
in Buckinghamshire, Mad World My Masters, Epsom Downs, Fanshen (Joint
Stock), AII Along the Watchtowers (ICA), Measure for
Measure (Riverside), Tom Fool (Half Moon), Plugged
Into History (7: 84). NT at the Comedy: The Crucible.
TV includes: Birthday, Jamie on a Flying Visit, Jazz Age, Seven Deadly
Virtues, Plugged Into History, The Roses of Eyam, Murder Must Advertise,
Stronger than the Sun, One of these Nights, Light, Autumn Sunshine, Kinvig.
Films: Porridge, Long Good Friday.
|Borachio, follower to Don John
Theatre includes in London: long association with the Royal Court, including
Edward Bond Season. May Fair Theatre: Flashpoint. Riverside:
Julius Caesar, Mother Country. NT: The Romans in Britain,
A Month in the Country, Don Juan, Serjeant Musgrave's Dance. TV includes:
Blue Skies from Now On, The Naked Civil Servant, Billy. Films:
The Land That Time Forgot, The Mouse and the Woman, If.
|Margaret, gentlewoman attending to Hero
Theatre includes in London: The Streets of London (Stratford
East), Whose Life Is It Anyway (Savoy), Time and the
Conways (Greenwich). TV: Breakaway Girls, Goodbye Darling,
Danger UXB, Kids, Coronation Street, The Professionals, A Fine Romance.
|Ursula, gentlewoman attending to Hero
Theatre includes at the Royal Court: Miniatures, Three Men for
Colverton, Macbeth, Life Price, One at Night, The Farm. Riverside:
Scrape off the Black, Black Man's Burden. NT: Equus,
A Month in the Country, Don Juan, Serjeant Musgrave's Dance. TV includes:
The Witches of Pendle. Headmaster, People Like Us, Thomas and Sarah,
Three Days in Sczecyn, Three Men in a Boat, The Duchess of Duke Street,
Brideshead Revisited, The Best of British (on Peter Gill). Films:
If, The Final Programme, Morgan, The French Lieutenant's Woman, O
Theatre includes at the Royal Court: Mother's Day, Skoolplay, The
London Cuckolds; Greenwich: An Ideal Husband, Don Juan;
Riverside: Scrape off the Black, Black Man's Burden. NT:
A Month in the Country, Don Juan. TV: Upstairs Downstairs,
The Duchess of Duke Street, Malice Aforethought, Grange Hill, The Best of
British (on Peter Gill). Films: One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing,
Full Circle, Sir Henry at Rawlinson End.
Theatre includes repertory at Crucible Sheffield, national tour of
Once a Catholic; Glass Houses (Royal Court). TV: Chance
of a Lifetime. Juliet Bravo, Coronation Street. Film: Absolution.
Theatre includes national tours of These Foolish Things
and Vanity; Mr Wilberforce MP (Westminster), The Italian
Straw Hat (Camden Festival). NT: The Shoemakers' Holiday, Man
Theatre includes in London: Bequest to the Nation (Haymarket),
Corunna (Theatre Upstairs), The Changing Room, Life Class,
What the Butler Saw (Royal Court and West End), Circle of Glory
(Prospect). RSC: Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, The Taming of the Shrew,
As You Like It. NT: The Passion, The Iceman Cometh, The Long
Voyage Home, Lark Rise, The World Turned Upside Down, Has Washington Legs,
The Crucible. TV: Shakespeare or Bust, Three for the Fancy,
The Fishing Party, Sounding Brass, Porridge, The Likely Lads, Speech Day,
People from the Forest, Midsummer Night's Dream, Send in the Girls.
Films: Kes, Brannigan, Absolution, Trial by Combat, Quilp, Jabberwocky,
The Great Train Robbery, Joseph Andrews, O Lucky Man, Sweeney, American
Werewolf in London. Has written for TV: Keep an Eye on Albert,
Thicker Than Water, School in Time, Sunshine in Brixton.
Theatre includes in London: Wakefield Mystery Plays, The Possessed
(Mermaid), The Seagull, The Bed Before Yesterday (Lyric), Maggie
(Shaftesbury), The Square (New End), Why Bournemouth
(King's Head), The Irish Hebrew Lesson (Almost Free & NT Platform).
Royal Court. Anarchists, Live Like Pigs, Skyvers, Magnificence, Eclipse,
Happy Days. RSC: London Assurance, Major Barbara, Twelfth Night.
NT: A Month in the Country, Don Juan, Serjeant Musgrave's Dance.
TV includes: plays by C. P. Taylor, Philip Purser, Don Haworth, A
Legacy, A Hole in Babylon, Maria Marten. Films: Brown Ale With
Gertie, Happy Days. Frequent radio work including membership of Radio
||Theatre includes in London: Romeo and Juliet, Henry IV Part I
(Shaw), The End is Nigh (New End), School for Clowns
(Half Moon), The White Deer (Unicorn), The Warp, Hitchhiker's
Guide to the Galaxy, Third Policeman (ICA), Le Grand Magic
Circus (Shaftesbury), Accidental Death of an Anarchist
(Belt & Braces). TV includes: By Common Consent, Saturday Sunday Monday,
Heartland, Brideshead Revisited. Films: Bloody Kids. Breaking
Glass, The French Lieutenant's Woman.
Theatre includes work at Oxford Playhouse, Bristol Old Vic, Guildford.
For Prospect: Staircase, Love's Labour's Lost, King Lear; Greenwich:
Rosmersholm; Riverside: Measure for Measure. TV includes:
The Forsyte Sage, and recently: The Life of Shakespeare,
Frontiers of War, Henry VIII, Timon of Athens, The Winter's Tale.
Films include: Running Scared, The Fourteen, Holocaust.
Theatre includes in London: Laughter, The Bukharin Play
(Royal Court), Julius Caesar (Riverside). NT: A Month
in the Country, Don Juan, Serjeant Musgrave's Dance. TV: As You Like It,
The Borgias. Film: Flash Gordon.
Theatre includes repertory at Southwold, Basingstoke, Newbury, Farnham;
Charley's Aunt at Chichester; tour of The Seagull; Macbeth
at Old Vic. TV: Jack Be Nimble.
Al Ashton (First Watch) Theatre includes: repertory at Belgrade Coventry,
Second City Theatre Company, Birmingham, Portable Touring Company, Leicester.
TV: Fallen Hero, Remembrance. Has written several plays including
two for BBC radio.
TV includes: Hunting Tower, The Voyage of Charles Darwin, Pride
and Prejudice, Ann Frank, Poor Jenny, Sergeant Cribb, King Arthur, The Life
of John Keats, The Other Arf, 1001 Nights. Films: The Stud,
The Day Christ Died, Felix Krull.
Theatre includes two years with Glasgow Citizens including The
Caucasian Chalk Circle, Twelfth Night, and tour to London with
Don Juan; work with Impact Theatre Company Leeds.
||The Broadside Band
|director, recorders, virginals
|lute, mandore, cittern
Work at the Royal Court, where he was. Associate Director from 1970 to
72, includes A Collier's Friday Night, The Local Stigmatic, The Ruffian
on the Stair, A Provincial Life (which he also adapted), A
Soldier's Fortune, The Daughter-in-Law, The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd, Life
Price, The Duchess of Malfi, Crete and Sergeant Pepper, The Merry-Go-Round
(which he also adapted), and his own plays Over Gardens Out, The Sleepers'
Den, and Small Change. RSC: Twelfth Night.
At Riverside Studios, where he was director from 1976 to 1980, directed
As You Like It, Small Change, The Cherry Orchard, The Changeling,
Measure for Measure, Julius Caesar, Scrape off the Black. Work abroad
includes: Much Ado About Nothing, Hedda Gabler, Macbeth (Stratford
Ontario), Landscape, Silence (Lincoln Centre, New York).
NT: A Month in the Country, Don Juan.
Alison Chitty (Designer) Work includes designing over 40 plays at Victoria
Theatre Stoke on Trent. In London: Old King Cole (Stratford
East), Ecstasy, Uncle Vanya (Hampstead), Measure for
Measure, Julius Caesar, Plays Umbrella Season (Riverside). Member
of the British theatre designers who won 1st prize at 1979 Prague Quadriennale
Exhibition. NT: A Month in the Country, Don Juan.
Theatre music includes Twelfth Night (RSC), As You Like It, The
Cherry Orchard, The Changeling, Measure for Measure, Julius Caesar
(Riverside), A Fair Quarrel, A Month in the Country, Don Juan
(NT), Duchess of Malfi (Royal Exchange Manchester). TV includes:
Hitting Town, Last Summer, Out, Six Plays by Alan Bennett,
Fox, Shoestring, The History Man, Rain on the Roof, Bloody Kids, Going
Gently, Camera. Films include: Private Road, Waterloo Bridge
Handicap, Hussy, Dead End, Parole.
Recently lit shows at Oxford Playhouse, New End Hampstead, King's Head,
Arts. NT: Overruled (Young Vic), Crossing Niagara, Bloody
Neighbours (ICA), Emigres, Troilus and Cressida (with
David Hersey), Bread (Young Vic), Strawberry Fields,
Camilla Ringbinder Show, Bow Down, The Passion (with William Dudley),
Half Life, Love Letters on Blue Paper, Herod (Cottesloe).
||Michael Cass Jones
|Deputy Stage Manager
|Assistant Stage Managers
|Assistant to the lighting designer
|Assistant Production Manager
|Set built and painted by
||Kimpton Walker Ltd
|Props and metalwork
||Anello & Davide, and Gamba
|Props and wardrobe care