1982 – 1985 RSC Production

Playbill Much AdoIn 1982, former Royal Shakespeare Company Artisic Director, Terry Hands brought a wildly successful production of Much Ado About Nothing to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. The play enjoyed such high praise that it went on to tour France, Germany, Spain, Austria and North America before transferring for a hearty run as a double bill with Cyrano de Bergerac at Broadway’s Gershwin Theatre.

As well as directing the production, Hands also designed the lighting of the piece, earning himself a Tony Award nomination for his efforts. Further creative team members included scenic design by Ralph Koltai, costume by Alexander Reid and music by Mel Rodnon. The show also featured an original score by Nigel Hess.

Hands’ piece played with the notion of multiple reflections. Avoiding a traditional representation of the court of Messina, Hands used glass to surround the stage as well as many glassy surfaces in the piece such as the floor of the stage itself and a large drawing of a tree etched in glass.

The production also used real fencing, with Ian McKay acting as fencing consultant.


Leonato – Edward Jewesbury

1985 RSC Much Ado About Nothing Broadway
A page from the 1985 Much Ado About Nothing Playbill

Antonio – Jeffery Dench

Don Pedro – Derek Godfrey (Ken Bones for Broadway run)

Claudio – Robert O’Mahoney

Benedick – Derek Jacobi

Beatrice – Sinead Cusack

Balthasar – Phillip Denis (Robert Craig for Broadway run)

Hero – Clare Byam Shaw

Don John – John Carlisle

George Seacoal – David Shaw – Parker

Hugh Oatcake – Albie Woodington

Margret – Alexandara Brook

Messenger – George Parsons

Borachio – Geoffrey Freshwater

Conrade – Richard Clifford

Dogberry – Christopher Benjamin

Boy – Rhys Hopkins

Verges – Jimmy Gardner

Ursula – Katy Behean ( Cathy Finlay for Broadway run)

Friar Francis – George Parsons

Watch – Christopher Bowen, Simon Clark,


Awards and Critical reception

The New York Times called Terry Hands’ production “stylish,” and  praised Nigel Hess’s score as “exceptionally beautiful” and also called Jacobi and Cusack “close to perfection.”

The production received seven Tony Award Nominationsin 1985, winning one as Best Actor in a Play went to Derek Jacobi.

1993 Queens Theatre Production

In 1993 two stars of today began to shine in a production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Queens Theatre in London; director Matthew Warchus and actor Mark Rylance.

Marking a turning point in both the men’s careers, this well received production took the West End by storm, making a name for both the young director and young actor ahead of their career peaks.

1993 Queens Theatre Much Ado About Nothing

The show also featured Mark Hadfield, who also went on to be a well-known theatre actor, appearing most recently in Jeeves and Wooster and Made in Dagenham.

This production of Much Ado was produced by Infinite Space and Thelma Holt and also featured choreography by Melly Still, music by Claire Van Kampen (married to Rylance) and designs by Neil Warmington.

Warchus’ production, set in the 1930’s, opened for press on July the 6th 1993 and ran


Leonato – Jonathan Newth

Don Pedro – Jack Ellis

Claudio – David Morrissey

Benedick – Mark Rylance

Beatrice – Janet McTeer

Hero – Rachel Joyce

Don John – Kevin Doyle

Margret – Christabelle Dilks

Gentlewoman – Rachel Lay

Borachio – Mark Hadfield

Conrade – Richard Katz

Dogberry – Gerard Kelly

Verges – Brian Shelley

Ursula – Jill Brassington

Friar Francis – Andrew Bridgmont

Watch – Dickon Tyrell, Graham Hubbard

Awards and Critical Reception

The 1993 production of Much Ado About Nothing received excellent audience and critics’ praise. The Evening Standard noted: “The production is staged in a huge blue tent, on whose flaps are painted sea and clouds. The world inside the tent, with its grass and deckchairs, cocktails and sliding panels of black blinds for the villainous Don John scenes suggests the pleasure-prone Thirties.”

This production also enabled Mark Rylance to win his first Laurence Olivier Award. Rylance fended off competition from Patrick Stewart, David Suchet and Henry Goodman, going on to win the 1994 Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Play for his role as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing.

2006 Swan Theatre and West End Production

Tamsin Greig Much Ado About NothingInitially presented as part of the 2006 Complete Works Festival at the Swan Theatre in Stratford, Marianne Elliott brought an uproarious production of Much Ado About Nothing to the stage.

Designed by Lez Brotherston, Elliot created a modernised version of Shakespeare’s politically tinged comedy, setting the show in 1950’s Cuba.

The production was praised for its ingenuity and featured movement by Sarah Gorman, sound by Chris Shut, lighting by Neil Austin and original music by Olly Fox who brought a Cuban band to the stage to play 50’s style “big band” tunes.

Starring comedienne and actress, Tamsin Greig as Beatrice, the production was very favourably received, so much so that the production transferred to the West End’s  Novello Theatre for an additional month long run.

This version of Much Ado About Nothing ran in rep at the Swan Theatre in Stratford from May – October 2006 and at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London from December 2006 – January 2007.

Cast and Creative

Leonato – Nicholas DayMUCH_ADO_ABOUT_NOTHING_52.jpg

Don Pedro –  Nicholas Day

Claudio – Adam Rayner

Antonio – Leon Tanner

Benedick –  Joseph Millson

Beatrice – Tamsin Greig

Balthasar – Yvette Rochester-Duncan

Hero – Morven Christie

Don John – Jonny Weir

Margret – Amy Brown

Borachio – Jamie Ballard

Conrade –  Geoffrey Lumb

Verges – Steven Beard

Ursula –  Caroline Wildi

Friar Francis – Patrick Romer

Sexton – John Heffernan

Dogberry – Bette Bourne

Members of the Watch – Sam O’Mahony, Curtis Flowers, Christopher Davies, Shane Frater.

Awards and Critical Reception

This production of Much Ado About Nothing won Tamsin Greig her very first Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress at the 2007 ceremony.

Not only did the show win a much coveted Olivier, the critical response was similarly glowing at both the Swan Theatre and the Novello. For example, Guardian critic Michael Billington described Elliot’s production as “joyous” and praised it’s “sexy southern sultriness.”

The Telegraph’s Charles Spencer also highly praised the piece for “gloriously combining sparkling wit and emotional depth.”

2013 Old Vic Theatre

Mark Rylance, an actor who won a Laurence Olivier Award for the role of Benedick in a prior production of Much Ado About Nothing, took a turn at directing the piece.

Mark Rylance Much Ado 2013 Old Vic Theatre Much Ado About Nothing Staged at the Old Vic Theatre in London under Kevin Spacey’s artistic leadership, the production of Much Ado About Nothing was somewhat unconventional due to its casting of iconic lovers, Benedick and Beatrice. Taking on the roles usually reserved for youngsters were Vanessa Redgrave who was 76 and James Earl Jones who was aged 82.

Not only did Mark Rylance tamper with the usual casting, he also moved the setting of the piece to 1944 wartime rural England. Whilst presumably this was a nod to the military themes running throughout the show, many critics had mixed feelings regarding the decision.

Sceneographically speaking, Ultz’s designs were somewhat sterile, with many suggesting the show looked as if it were staged under a giant wooden Wagamama table.

This production of Much Ado About Nothing ran from September 19th – 30th November 2013.

Cast and Creative

Leonato – Michael ElwynOld Vic much Ado

Don Pedro – James Garnon

Claudio – Lloyd Everitt

Antonio – Alan David

Benedick –  James Earl Jones

Beatrice – Vanessa Redgrave

Beryl – Katherine Carlton

Hero – Beth Cooke

Don John – Danny Lee Wynter

Margret – Melody Grove

Borachio – Kingsley Ben-Adir

Conrade – Trevor Laird

Verges – Tim Barlow

Ursula –  Penelope Beaumont

Friar Francis & Dogberry – Peter Wight

Members of the creative team include Ultz as designer, Mimi Jordan Sherin as lighting designer, Emma Laxton on sound, Sian Williams providing movement and Clare van Kampen providing music.

Critical Response

Rylance’s production of Much Ado About Nothing was met with disappointment from the critics.  The majority of reviews pointed out the nonsensical nature of the casting, with The Guardian saying “You can’t help wondering why Earl Jones’s Benedick is a boon companion to the youthful Claudio or why Redgrave’s Beatrice, however youthful in spirit, appears to be older than her uncle.” Similarly The Telegraph’s Charles Spencer labelled the piece “laborious and misguide.”

Bad reviews aside, the critics were unanimous in their admiration for Redgrave and Jones as actors, they just did not think the piece played to their strengths.

2011 Wyndham’s Theatre Production starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate

Much Ado About Nothing logo Josie RourkeThen 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.

Catherine Tate and David Tennant Much Ado About Nothing

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.


MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING by Shakespeare, , William Shakespeare, Director - Josie Rourke, Wyndham Theatre, 2011, Credit: Johan Persson

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.

Kenneth Branagh 1993 Film Adaptation

Kenneth Branagh Much Ado About Nothing Emma ThompsonActor and director, Kenneth Branagh adapted Shakespeare’s popular stage play Much Ado About Nothing into a film in 1993. The motion picture was a romantic comedy that grossed $36 million worldwide, making it one of the most commercially successful Shakespeare film adaptations ever released.

Branagh’s adaptation, produced BBC Films, Renaissance Films and American Playhouse Theatrical Films,  very much stuck to Shakespeare’s original plot. Whilst the text was modernised every so slightly in Branagh’s screenplay, the film very much carried the essence of Shakespeare’s original.


The film is peppered with an all-star cast, including Branagh’s former wife, Emma Thompson and Kate Beckinsale in her film debut. See the full casting details below.

Leonato – Richard BrinesMuch Ado Kenneth Branagh

Don Pedro – Denzel Washington

Claudio – Robert Sean Leonard

Benedick – Kenneth Branagh

Beatrice – Emma Thompson

Hero –  Kate Beckinsale

Don John – Keanu Reeves

Margret – Imelda Stanton

Antionio – Brian Blessed

Borachio – Gerard Horan

Conrade – Richard Clifford

Dogberry – Michael Keaton

Verges – Ben Elton

Balthazar – Patrick Doyle

Ursula – Phyllida Law

Friar Francis – Jimmy Yuill


Whilst it is highly likely that Shakespeare’s original production would have included music in some form or another, it does not carry a score which directors can replicate. In Branagh’s film adaptation, he enlisted long-time collaborator, Patrick Doyle, to create an original score for the piece.

Doyle also makes a cameo in the film as the musician, Balthazar. His original music for the film includes numbers “The Sweetest Lady”, “The Conspirators”, and “Sigh No More Ladies.” Other pieces of orchestration can be heard as part of the overture, during the masked ball and at Hero’s wedding.

Response and Awards

Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing was met with a warm critical response and was by all means a box office success.

Whilst the film was nominated for several awards, including the BAFTA for Best Costume and the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy Motion Picture, the only two awards that were won were an Evening Standard Award for Best Actress which went to Emma Thompson and the London Film Critic’s Award for Best Producer which went to Branagh himself.