Much Ado About Nothing
This is probably the funniest Shakespeare comedy. It concerns a group of soldiers returning from
the war to stay at the country house of Leonato, a wealthy landowner. This production will be set in
a mythical England at the end of the second world war and will feature both music and singing. As
with most Shakespeare, the text has had to be edited to a reasonable running time, which has been
done by the director.
One of the young returning soldiers, Claudio, falls instantly in love with Hero, Leonato’s young
daughter. His commanding officer the Prince, Don Pedro, makes the arrangements with Leonato
that they should be married in a week’s time. Almost everyone is delighted but, amid all
celebrations, two men are not...
The first is Benedick, one of the Prince’s most trusted officers and a confirmed bachelor – unhappy
to see his friend Claudio married off. He carries on a running battle of bitter and sarcastic wits with
Beatrice, the spirited and highly intelligent niece of Leonato, who is as determined as he never to
marry. A battle, that is, until Don Pedro has an idea. What if Beatrice and Benedick can each be
made to believe that the other is madly in love with them?
The second unhappy man is Don John, the treacherous and scheming half brother of Don Pedro,
who will do anything in his power to upset his brother’s plans, not caring who gets hurt or even
killed in the process.
This is a whirlwind play, with the touching and fantastically funny romance of Beatrice and Benedick
stumbling towards true love, woven round the plot to break up the young lovers and ruin Hero. It
has an ensemble cast, with many memorable and likeable characters and some of Shakespeare’s
most easily understood dialogue. There are laughs, chills, true love and, of course, a happy ending –
well, for almost everyone...
Recommended viewing for those interested in auditioning is the Kenneth Branagh film from 1993
(Mike has a couple to lend) and the David Tennant and Catherine Tate version from 2011, available
online through Digital Theatre. It will be performed as if it were a modern play, with the emphasis
on pace, timing and ensuring the audience understands everything – and that they laugh a lot!.