*. This BBC adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing was the first instalment of the four-part Shakespeare Retold (or, too clever by half, ShakespeaRe-Told). The idea was to rework the plots of Shakespeare’s most popular plays into modern settings. Something that has been done before many times, but they gave themselves a bit more liberty than usual and were obviously having some fun with it.
*. So the story here has Benedict (Damian Lewis) and Beatrice (Sarah Parish) as bickering co-hosts of the news program Wessex Tonight. They’re obviously meant for each other, but it’s up to their co-workers to bring them together. Meanwhile, the subplot has the dopey sports guy Claude (Tom Ellis) pining after the weather reporter, Hero (Billie Piper). They seem headed for matrimony before a former fling of Hero’s named Don steps in to spoil things.
*. I thought they did a good job with this set-up, striking the right note right from the start with Tom Jones singing “Just Help Yourself.” The idea of having the court transformed into a television set works really well, with the office politics and all the in-fighting/in-fucking going on. And aren’t TV personalities the minor royalty of our own day? Close enough.
*. I also liked Lewis and Parish, though they didn’t have much chemistry with each other. The scene of them reading Shakespeare together was very well imagined. Claude and Hero were both pretty and dim. Don isn’t evil so much as just a loser, but no less dangerous for that. Dogberry is an officious security guard but thankfully speaks in regular English.
*. The plot revolves around the attempts to trick the two couples into falling into and out of love, but the paired gulling scenes, usually the highlight of this play in production, were a bit of a let-down. Those are the scenes that everyone remembers the most from this play, and here Benedict listening in on a conversation that’s taking place in the sound booth with the mic (deliberately) left on seemed awkward, while Beatrice overhearing her girlfriends talking while sneaking a smoke in the washroom was just kind of grim.
*. The wedding train-wreck is always a tough watch, but they get through it quickly. Claude has been fooled by some bogus sexting. But overall I thought there was a credible job done of updating the sexual politics for the twenty-first century. Hero actually did have a relationship with Don in the past, though it took the form of the much despised pity fuck. And after being such a jerk at the wedding it’s not clear if Claude is going to get back in her good graces. He still has some growing up to do.
*. An easy-listening, small-screen entertainment. Which I think makes it pretty close in spirit to what Shakespeare was aiming for. No need to make much more ado than that.
Why does Shakespeare even bother getting out of bed in the morning if this is all he has to offer? What is Shakespeare’s hot take on tv news programmes? And why does he always drag Tom Jones into it? Putting It’s Not Unusual into the opening of King Lear felt shoehorned in for me…
Tom Jones just didn’t fit well with Lear, I’ll grant you that. But this is still better than some Aristocats proxy watching,
You know what would be a big hit now? Super heroes doing Shakespeare!
It’ll reinvigorate the MCU and bring about a Shakespeare revival. Disney needs to get on this idea now!
There actually is a Deadpool comic where he riffs on Shakespeare. Just read it a few months ago.
See, it has begun……
I like Damien Lewis, but haven’t heard of this, it actually sounds quite watchable.
I thought Lewis was surprisingly good as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall. Wasn’t expecting that sort of a Henry, but it worked. Parish is good here too.