Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

directed by Michael Patterson

Performed at the

Mottisfont Abbey

20th to 29th July 1989

Gala Night on Sunday 23rd July

Much Ado About Nothing is usually dated about 1598, and was published in 1600. The main story, that of Hero and Claudia, has been traced to sources some quarter of a century earlier. But the enduring appeal to audiences over the centuries is the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick which is entirely Shakespeare’s invention, as are the comic constable Dogberry and his watchmen.

The play explores a variety of personal relationships and attitudes, set against the influences of class and social expectation. Whilst Claudio and Hero appear to accept reasonably readily the expectations of society and their families in the conduct of their relationships, Beatrice comes through by contrast as one of the earliest feminists - unwilling to conform and behave ‘as expected’. The parallel with the birth of womens’ lib at the turn of the century was one of the reasons I chose to set our production in early Edwardian times.

Although Beatrice and Benedick are frequently portrayed as young sparring lovers, their intelligence and wit, coupled with their confirmed batchelordom, must make them in reality mature adults, which is how we present them.

Another particularly current concept in the play is the comparison between today’s ‘Neighbourhood Watch Schemes’ and Shakespeare’s Watch. Ordinary citizens had a duty to serve a night’s watch on a rota basis: but the more intelligent paid others to do their turn for them, producing a ‘Dad’s Army’ in which Shakespeare readily saw the comic possibilities.

It is widely held that Shakespeare intended the title to be a pun between ‘nothing’ and ‘noting’. Certainly much of the plays’ fun lies in the way in which the audience can ‘note’ the actions, plots and feelings of all the characters, and decide in advance what the outcome might be.

Michael Patterson

Cast (in order of appearance)
A Messenger James Smith
Ursula Miss Jenni Watson*
Leonato John Smith
Beatrice Belinda Drew
Hero Georgia Bance
Don Pedro David Pike
Benedick Brian Stansbridge
Claudio Christapher Bennett
Don John David Bartlett
Antonio Albert Minns
Conrade Alan Watson
Borachio Bruce Atkinson
Margaret Jean Durman*
A Gardener John Carrington
Balthasar Graham Buchanan
Dogberry John Souter
Verges Grahan Buchanan
The Watch Kenneth Spencer, Derek Sealey, Graham Hhll, John Carrington, Barry Glasspell, Michael Shailer, Peter Neave
The Vicar Harry Tuffill
The Judge Albert Minns
*NOTE: There was an error in the programme transposing these two roles. The above is correct.
The Director of this production was MICHAEL PATTERSON
senior partner of Penyards, the Estate Agents, which he founded some 8 years ago, Michael joined ‘The Maskers’ as Musical Director for ‘A Funny Thing’, directed our first Mottisfont production ‘A Man for All Seasons’ and wrote and played an original score for the only show ever repeated by the company, ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’.

Brian is a Personnel and Training Managerfor Southampton City Corporation.He hasplayed many timesat Mottisfont, including the lead in ‘Tom Jones’; ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’; ‘Ring Round the Moon’ and ‘The Rover’. He is an accomplished folk singer and married to Angela - wardrobe mistress for ‘Much Ado’.

joined ‘The Maskers’ to play Jill in ‘Equus’ at the Nuffield ten years ago. She has since had many major roles and was Musical Directorfor’Lock UpYour Daughters’. This is her third Mottisfont appearance. She is professionally employed with Hampshire Theatre in Education based in Southampton

one-time teacher and youth leader now lecturing in the University School of Education, John has lengthy connections with amateur theatre groups and is making his debut with ‘The Maskers’. He is perhaps better known as a Director, especially with Southampton University Players.

A teacher in various Hampshire schools during the last 30 years, David is now an Educational Representative for Hampshire. He started acting in the ‘40’s with the Romsey Abbey Drama Group and RAODS. Joining ‘The Maskers’ in 1970 to play Napoleon in ‘War & Peace’, he has since had many leading roles, including four previous Mottisfont productions.

Age 25, Chris joined ‘The Maskers Youth Theatre’ after graduating from the Vienna School of Toothpick Carving in 1987, and has now moved on to join the grown ups. He mistakenly heard that this production was to be a play written by Joe Orton after his death.

a found member of ‘The Maskers’, played Benedick in our original production and has had over 20 leading roles since. A lecturer at the University, he has published several books on theatre, including a study of melodrama; editions of Wycherley, Vanbrugh & Boucicault, and shortly, Four Georgian Comedies.

a part-time secretary who has been with ‘The Maskers’ more years than she cares to remember! She has had many roles including recently, Beatrice Lacy In ‘Rebecca’ and the Countess in ‘Flare Path’; perhaps her most demanding role was as Vladimir in ‘Waiting for Godot’.

an executive with IBM, currently working on secondment to Wessex Regional Health Authority managing their computer developments, Harry played Sir Thomas More In our first Mottisfont appearance, ‘A Man for All Seasons’. Married with two sons, his wife is director of Winchester Samaritans.

since coming to the area from Tyneside in 1969 John has acted with most of the major local theatre groups. Over the years he has tackled most of Shakespeare’s clowns with Forum Theatre at Netley Abbey - including Dogberry. John retired early from a career in Engineering to pursue his interest in sculpture.

by profession a barrister, ‘Albie’ Minns is now the full time manager of the Wessex Childrens Cancer Unit Appeal. He joined ‘The Maskers’ in 1986 for the Mottisfont production of ‘Cyrano’, and won the Best Actor award at the 1987 All England Theatre Festival for Harry in Ayckbourne’s ‘Drinking Companion’.

a 17 year old member of ‘Maskers Youth Theatre’, Georgia is studying ‘A’ level English, German and Art at Richard Taunton College after attending Cantell School. She hopes to go on to do Drama at University or Drama College.She has also played with Forum Theatre and Southampton University Players.

David is a Disablement Resettlement Officer who has long ago lost count of the number of productions he has been involved in both in the UK and Singapore and Australia. An original Masker, David played Antonio in the first ‘Much Ado’, and has also directed a number of shows.

Jean is an accounts administrator at aWinchester hospital and joined ‘The Maskers’ six years ago playing Stella in ‘Streetcar Named Desire’. This is her fifth Mottisfont appearance, but she has also played outdoor theatre in the tropical heat of Mombasa, Kenya at a Muslim school.

An ex-policeman, ex-soldier, ex-land agent and now a sales representative, husband and father, Alan has found satisfaction in a least two of these roles. Joined ‘The Maskers’ in 1975 as an unforeseen result of marrying Jenni.

Bruce is a Project Engineer with IBM at Hursley, and began acting in New Zealand, and subsequently with the Esso Drama & Music Club on his return to the UK 7 years ago. He joined ‘The Maskers’ last year after coming to Mottisfont to see ‘The Rover’.

a founder member of ‘The Maskers’who has acted the complete ‘ABC’ of drama and directed many shows, including various touring productions of Shakespeare at Winchester Theatre Royal, the Old Salisbury Playhouse and the Nuffield. His productions of Gilbert & Sullivan have surprised many. Graham is a Project Engineer with the Pirelli Cable Company.

a founder member of the company, John played Claudio in the first production. Since then he has had many major roles, and has directed several successful shows such as ‘Lysistrata’ and ‘Oh What a Lovely War’. John is a school teacher.

For the Maskers
Produced & Directed by Michael Patterson
Production Assistants Graham Buchanan, John Carrington, Belinda Drew
Stage Manager Julia Campone
Assistant Stage Managers Debbie Moorhouse, Shauna Lockett, Sally Hilton
Lighting Design Clive Weeks
Lighting Assistants Anthony Baldry, Simon Pike, Ian Pooley
Sound Plot Tony Lawther
Sound Operators Wendy Hall, Richard Gorbutt
Wardrobe Angela Stansbridge, Mollie Manns
Properties Sheana Carrington
Set Construction Geoff Cooke, Bill Pitman
Set Painting Ken Spencer
Producton Assistants Ron Tillyer, Sonia Morris, Geoff Wharam 
Poster Design John Hamon
Front Of House and Bar Angela Barks

After the show on Tuesday night the Maskers' held a 21st Birthday Party!

Looking back the director, Michael Patterson, remembers:
The resplendent setting of the National Trust's Mottisfont Abbey provided The Maskers with the opportunity for a new approach to outdoor theatre - we moved the whole audience to a different location for each main scene. All 200 of them. Not once, but 3 times! The play opened, for example, around the main entrance to the great House, with the messenger arriving on horseback down the long drive. He was soon followed by the arrival of Benedick, in full Ruritanian military uniform, sitting in the back of his staff-car (a canary yellow, chauffeur-driven vintage car!). The audience loved the concept - each move gave them a chance to get a better position to see the action. They still remember the finale, the candle-lit entrance into the Chapel Arch, the setting for The Wedding, as dusk deepened over the Test Valley, and the sound of the church choir drifted over the river ...


click on a photo to enlarge it


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