Much Ado About Nothing

Performance history

The play was very popular in its early decades, as it would be later: in a poem published in 1640, Leonard Digges wrote "...let but Beatrice / And Benedick be seen, lo in a trice / The Cockpit galleries, boxes, all are full."

After the theatres re-opened during the Restoration, Sir William Davenant staged The Law Against Lovers (1662), which inserted Beatrice and Benedick into an adaptation of Measure for Measure. Another adaptation, The Universal Passion, combined Much Ado with a play by Molière (1737). Shakespeare's text had been revived by John Rich at Lincoln's Inn Fields (1721). David Garrick first played Benedick in 1748 and continued to play him until 1776.[17]

The great nineteenth century stage team Henry Irving and Ellen Terry counted Benedick and Beatrice as their greatest triumph and Charles Kemble also had a great success as Benedick. John Gielgud made Benedick one of his signature roles between 1931 and 1959, playing the part opposite the Beatrice of Diana Wynyard, Peggy Ashcroft and Margaret Leighton. The longest running Broadway production is A. J. Antoon's 1972 staging starring Sam Waterston, Kathleen Widdoes and Barnard Hughes, and Derek Jacobi won a Tony Award for playing Benedick in 1984. Jacobi had also played Benedick in the Royal Shakespeare Company's highly praised 1982 production. Director Terry Hands produced the play on a stage-length mirror, against an unchanging backdrop of painted trees. Sinéad Cusack played Beatrice.

In 2013 James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave (in their seventies and eighties) played Benedick and Beatrice on stage at The Old Vic, London.

On stage

  • In the original production by the Lord Chamberlain's Men, William Kempe played Dogberry and Richard Cowley played Verges.
  • 1765 David Garrick played Benedick.
  • 1862 Henry Irving and Ellen Terry played Benedick and Beatrice.
  • 1930 John Gielgud played Benedick for the first time at the Old Vic Theatre and it stayed in his repertory until 1959.
  • 1960 Tony Award Nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play: Margaret Leighton
  • 1973 Tony Award Nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play: Barnard Hughes as Dogberry in the New York Shakespeare Festival production
  • 1973 Tony Award Nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play: Kathleen Widdoes
  • 1983 Evening Standard Award: Best Actor: Derek Jacobi
  • 1985 Tony Award Nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play: Sinéad Cusack
  • 1985 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play: Derek Jacobi as Benedick
  • 1989 Evening Standard Award: Best Actress: Felicity Kendal as Beatrice in Elijah Moshinsky's production at the Strand Theatre
  • 1994 Laurence Olivier Award: Best Actor: Mark Rylance as Benedick in Matthew Warchus' production at the Queen's Theatre
  • 2006 Laurence Olivier Award: Best Actress: Tamsin Greig as Beatrice in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, directed by Marianne Elliott
  • 2007 Zoë Wanamaker as Beatrice and Simon Russell Beale as Benedick in a National Theatre production directed by Nicholas Hytner
  • 2011 Eve Best as Beatrice and Charles Edwards as Benedick at Shakespeare's Globe, directed by Jeremy Herrin.[18]
  • 2011 David Tennant as Benedick alongside Catherine Tate as Beatrice in a production of the play at the Wyndham's Theatre, directed by Josie Rourke.[19] An authorized recording of this production is available to download and watch from Digital Theatre.
  • 2012 Meera Syal as Beatrice and Paul Bhattacharjee as Benedick in an Indian setting, directed by Iqbal Khan for the Royal Shakespeare Company, part of the World Shakespeare Festival
  • 2013 Vanessa Redgrave as Beatrice and James Earl Jones as Benedick in a production at The Old Vic directed by Mark Rylance.
  • 2013 German-language production ("Viel Lärm um Nichts"), translated and directed by Marius von Mayenburg at the Schaubuhne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin.

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