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Much Ado About Nothing
by William Shakespeare

Dates 13, 14 and 15 April 2000 @ 7:45pm (3pm Saturday matinee) Tickets:
Venue: Chelsea Theatre, Worlds End Place, Kings Road, London SW10


Don Pedro - Kerry Dockrill
Benedick - Martyn Barmby
Claudio - Anthony Worssam
Don John - Harry Vendryes
Borachio - Sean O'Farrell
Conrade - Shaun Baker
Leonato - Michael Hubbard
Antonio - Tim Molyneux
Friar Francis - Abby Browde
Hero - Emma Stratton
Margaret - Jean Challendar
Ursula - Krista Stearns
Beatrice - Louise Ball
Dogberry - Allan Draycott
Verges - Andy Hamilton
1st Watch - Jamie Clapperton
2nd Watch / Messenger - Mike Bennett
3rd Watch / Boy - Helen Isaacs
Sexton - Rob Buck
Balthasar - Phil Lean


Directed by Daryl Hutchings
Produced by Phil Matcham
Stage Managed by Rob Buck

Sound and Lighting by Phil Herrey and Andrew Fortune
Props by Elise Burford
Costumes by Carmen Betteridge
Set Design by Rob Buck
Set Construction by Mark Higgins and members of the company


Much Ado About Nothing is, depending on your point of view, one of the most or least appropriate titles in the Shakespearean canon. Certainly it is hardly a pretentious play; compared to others among the Comedies, there is no grandiose fairytale setting (A Midsummer Night's Dream), no clown's comeuppance (The Merry Wives of Windsor), no meditation on the pastoral life (As You like It), nor even any pursuits of bears (The Winter's Tale). There is the enigmatic title characteristic of the period and a pleasing story of loves lost and regained; and that is surely all?

But a closer look reveals much more; indeed this is a play which well repays close attention. Life in Messina is instantly familiar, at least in outline, to a modern audience; indeed, Messina is, to all practical purposes, an English city of the Renaissance rather than an Italian one. Its different social classes never step outside their respective mores, though they may sometiems betray impatience with them, and the play skilfully explores the tensions between lord and householder, and between householder and peasant. Messinite women - especially young and marriageable women - live in virtual captivity, traded in marriage and subject to censure and worse if they step out of line. Young men can achieve renown and a desirable bride (with her inheritance) through valour on the battlefield and a mastery of the elaborate and brittle courtesies appropriate to the up-and-coming, even if their behaviour at home is anything but heroic.

So far so familiar. But a Shakespeare comedy is not primarily a social tract but a story about characters and this, of course, is the play's trump card. The pairing of Beatrice and Benedick is justly celebrated, that of Hero and Claudio (usually) disparaged; but a closer look at any of the main characters reveals subtleties and contradictions that make them a challenge to act and to direct. Almost all the characters are played off against each other somewhere in the course of the action, and the play's social nature is one of its strengths. For all the improbabilities in the plot, the play is cannily structured and well paced. The dialogue is witty and supple, and, perhaps above all, it is gloriously funny - arguably this is the most immediately accessible of the Comedies. Even given the play's undeniable dark side, which spreads out from the brooding figure of Don John to encompas and test the mettle of everyone before the symbolic final redemption, the darkness only serves in the end to highlight the joyfulness of that "miraculous" ending.

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