The production features a Black cast, and reconceptualises the text as an Afro-futurist vision.
Per BBC News, artistic director Erica Whyman said she was “saddened but not surprised” by the reaction, which came from a “minority” of people.
“The idea that Shakespeare’s plays belong to one group and not to another is nonsense,” said Whyman, addressing the “disgraceful” backlash.
The new production of Much Ado announced its cast back in December. The lead roles of Benedick and Beatrice will be played by Michael Balogun and Akiya Henry respectively.
“It’s a responsibility for a cultural organisation like mine to make sure we’re not just representing Black culture on our stage but actually trying to to properly understand what has been missing from our cultural world,” said Whyman.
In 2020, the RSC issued a statement in response to criticism of a production of Romeo and Juliet focusing on the diversity of its casting.
“We will not stand by when ignorant, hurtful responses are posted publicly. We must call them out as what they are: racist,” said the company.
Much Ado About Nothing opens at Stratford-upon-Avon’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre on 4 February.
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