Then Donmar Warehouse director, Josie Rourke, brought a contemporary twist to Shakespeare’s classic comedy as she set the production in 1980’s Gibraltar. The production is best known for its casting of David Tennant and Catherine Tate in leading roles as this marked the first time the pair had worked together since their time on screen as Doctor Who and his assistant, Donna.
Tennant and Tate once again proved a dynamic duo despite initial concerns that Doctor Who fans would only see the pair as their onscreen personas.
Rourke’s production, produced by Sonia Friedman, was largely true to Shakespeare’s original narrative. However it had many modern day nuances peppered throughout the performance. For instance, as well as being set in 80’s Gibraltar, Rourke played up the text’s military element, setting the scene as if the action takes place in a holiday location for ex-soldiers who are recuperating after war.
One other slight change Rourke made to the text was swapping the role of Antonio, Leonato’s brother, for a wife character. This was apparently intended to heighten the family drama when Hero is accused of promiscuity.
Rourke’s Much Ado About Nothing previewed at the Wyndham’s Theatre on May 16th 2011, with opening night on the 1st June 2011. The show closed after a limited but successful run on the 3rd September 2011.
Aside from Tennant and Tate, who played quarrelling lovers Benedick and Beatrice, the cast included many other talented performers. See the full list below.
Leonato – Jonathan Coy
Don Pedro – Adam James
Claudio – Tom Bateman
Benedick – David Tennant
Beatrice – Catherine Tate
Hero – Sarah MacRae
Don John – Elliot Levey
Margret – Natalie Thomas
Titus – Joshua Berg
Borachio – Alex Beckett
Conrade – Lee Knight
Dogberry – Lee Knight
Verges – Mike Grandy
Balthazar – Enzo Squillino Junior
Ursula – Kathryn Hunt
Friar Francis – Clive Hayward
Awards and Critical Reception
This production of Much Ado About Nothing was hailed a success by critics and audiences alike. The Telegraph gave the show four stars, praising Rourke’s production as witty and inventive. Similarly, The Guardian gave the production four stars and hailed the show as “spirited.”
This production received seven BroadwayWorldUK Awards, two WhatsOnStage Awards and was nominated for a Laurence Oliver Award.