William Shakespeare

directed by

Val Foskett

Performed at

The Wimbledon Studio Theatre

4th to 8th June 2002

  Pride, prejudice and persuasion
  About the playwright
  The cast
  The crew
  Production photographs
  Back to Carlton productions

Pride, prejudice
and persuasion

If asked to name the two most important English writers of all time, many people would say William Shakespeare and Jane Austen, but it was only when I began to work on this play, that I realised how much in common there is between Much Ado About Nothing and Jane Austen's novels, especially Pride and Prejudice. It is certainly a truth acknowledged, in Shakespeare's Messina, that a young man of fortune should be in want of a wife, and one of the striking themes from the outset of the play is of the pressure on those who are single to marry. Beatrice and Benedick, both professed rebels against this convention, are constantly urged, and finally tricked into marriage, and with the fervour of the convert, Benedick himself at the end tells the Prince “Get thee a wife”.

But the similarities go deeper. In both works, a quiet conventional girl (Hero, Jane Bennett) is courted by an impressionable young man (Claudio, Mr Bingley), who is then persuaded not to go through with the marriage. At the same time, a more vivacious and witty young lady, (Beatrice, Elizabeth Bennett) spars in amusement with a young man (Benedick, Mr Darcy) who appears not to like her at all! Bingley, like Claudio, listens to the advice and opinions of others rather than the promptings of his own heart, although Claudio also thinks he has seen proof with his own eyes. As Elizabeth is misled by Wickham's lies about Darcy, so Claudio believes the lies of Don John about Hero.

It is only after much adversity (the apparent death of Hero, the disgrace of Lydia's elopement) that these couples draw closer together. The quiet support and kindness shown by both Darcy and Benedick at a time when the women they love are so distressed indicates the depth of their regard, and each is willing to lose in social status (Benedick by leaving Don Pedro's service and challenging Claudio, Darcy by involving himself with Wickham's associates to bring about Lydia's marriage) to help the women they love.

Of course, the overall tone of the two works is different – in her three volume novel, Jane Austen could involve a larger cast of characters and a much extended timescale; the subtle changes in attitude of characters, the gradual realisation of the difference between appearance and reality, between prejudice and truth, are allowed a much longer time frame. Shakespeare had to grab the attention of his audience with a more immediate approach, a more spectacular disaster, a more public resolution. But perhaps, when you see his characters tonight, dressed in the style of Jane Austen's, the similarities may strike you too.

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The Playwright

“When you're the Father of girls…

…you pray.” So runs the song. Shakespeare was the father of two girls, Susannah and Judith. Susannah was the eldest and grew up to marry Dr John Hall, a respected physician. She was said to have “a lively mind and pleasant ways”, and was her father's main beneficiary on his death. Judith was the twin of Shakespeare's son Hamnet, who died at the age of eleven. Her marriage to Thomas Quiney was less fortunate – he turned out to be weak, selfish and a cheat. Shakespeare even revised his will to safeguard Judith's interests and prevent her husband from laying hands on her money. Shakespeare's plays are full of fathers of daughters: Prospero and Miranda, Lear and his three daughters, and in Much Ado, Leonato and Hero. Often the relationship seems stormy, the fathers railing at their girls, yet at the same time doting on them: “Mine, and mine I loved and mine I praised, and mine that I was proud on…” Was this the sort of relationship Shakespeare had with his own daughters? Was Judith “almost the copy of my child that's dead”? Was either of the girls rebellious, or was Shakespeare the father overprotective and stern? We can only guess….

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The Cast

Don Pedro the Prince James Derbyshire
Don John his bastard brother Ian Ward
Claudio a young lord Michael Ahmad
Benedick his friend Matthew Petty
Balthasar attending Don Pedro Jason Griffiths
Conrade followers of Don John Bennet Andrews
Borachio Graham Parks
Leonato governor of Messina James Grayston
Antonio his brother Aubrey Tredget
Hero Leonato's daughter Helen Dixon
Beatrice her cousin Kate Mitchell
Margaret attendants on Hero Kristen Bowditch
Ursula Georgina Gorham
Father Francis a priest Richard Broughton
Dogberry Master Constable Dylan Geoghegan
Verges his assistant Richard Broughton
George Seacole watchmen Philip Clarke
Hugh Otecake Dave O'Sullivan
Watchman Jason Griffiths
The Sexton - Alison Raffan

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The Crew

Stage Manager & Lighting Design ~ Sarah Hewitt
Sound Design & Lighting Operator ~ Simon Harris
Musical Director ~ Michael Ahmad
Music ensemble ~ Michael Ahmad
Richard Foskett
Kate Mitchell
Masks ~ Pippa Cain
Publicity ~ Mike Tierney
Producer ~ Elizabeth Hawes
Poster Design ~ Russell Thompson
Web page realisation ~ Matthew Petty
Photography ~ Simon Harris
Director ~ Val Foskett

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Click on any photograph to show a larger version, and then click 'Back' to return here.


Beatrice and Benedick are forever sniping at one another!

Claudio is in love with Hero.

Don Pedro and his bastard brother Don John arrive

Don John and Borachio plot ways of dishonouring Hero to prevent her marriage to Claudio


Leonato throws a masked ball

Don John gives Claudio the 'bad news' about Hero

Margaret and Hero discuss how much Benedick is in love with Beatrice...

But who should be hiding behind the screen - Beatrice of course!

Claudio, in love with Hero, sings, after which he and Leonato talk of Beatrice's love of Benedick

And who should be hiding in the garden - but Benedick of course!

After hearing this, Benedick spruces himself up with civet, and gets a ribbing from Don Pedro

Dogberry gives the night watch their instructions for the night

Meanwhile, Borachio and Conrade are rambling on drunkenly about the plot to dishonour Hero, and about how Borachio's faked affair with Hero was overheard by Claudio.

The watch hears Borachio and Conrade and arrests them.

Dogberry and Verges rush off to tell Leonato of their news, but with the wedding coming up, he's too busy to listen

Then, it's onto the Sexton for the prisoners

It's the day of the wedding, and Claudio, convinced by Borachio's deception refuses to marry Hero on the grounds of her unfaithfulness

Hearing of this unfaithfulness, Leonato disowns his daughter

With the full fury of both Claudio and her father, Hero falls down in a faint, appearing to all the world to have died of shame

Now, Benedick is a good friend of Claudio, but if he wants Beatrice's love, Beatrice orders him to kill Claudio in reparation for her friend, Hero's, death.

Benedick challenges Claudio to a duel.

Conrade and Borachio come before Don Pedro for forgiveness and to explain the plot

Suitable remorseful for his mistaken accusations towards Hero, Leonato asks Claudio if he will marry Hero's cousin - to which he agrees, even though Leonato makes the condition that Claudio shall not see her until they are wed.

Of course, it turns out that it's Hero after all, and she wasn't really dead, so the wedding between Hero and Claudio goes ahead after all.

Beatrice and Benedick read the letters of love they've apparently written.

And we get not one, but two happy endings!

All photographs © 2002 Simon J Harris

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