THIS JOURNAL DOCUMENTS MY INTAKE OF ONE BOOK, ZINE, CD OR DVD A DAY. RATINGS ARE: ***** = Godhead, **** = Great, *** = Good, ** = Fair, * = Why Bother?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Much Ado About Nothing (***)

from Shakespeare Retold
Warner Home Video, 2007, 360 minutes
originally broadcast on BBC TV, November 2005

I checked this out from the library, a Beeb telly production of four Shakespeare plays retold "for a 21st century audience." So far I've made it through three of the four 90-minutes titles and the first entry looks to be the best production. Much Ado About Nothing recasts Beatrice and Benedick as rival co-anchors on a nightly newscast, ex-lovers whose open hostility masks a deeply felt passion that viewers know is much ado about something. Liberties are taken with the original plotlines (for example, heroine Hero faking her death to teach her lover a lesson after being humiliated at her wedding is instead turned into Hero suffering a coma after being shoved by rejected suitor "Don" - who in the play is her devious uncle Don John) - but while "the play may be the thing," I have just as hard a time keeping the Bard's narratives straight as I do following Raymond Chandler's novels, so whatever. The thing with both geniuses isn't the straight-and-narrow plotline so much as the beautiful language, wit and characters. And by that standard, this one's a winner.

What makes this update work is a clever, swinging soundtrack ("Tom Jones!), an imaginative script, and an outstanding cast - in particular Sarah Parish as Beatrice and Damien Lewis as Benedick. Both are veteran British TV actors.

No comments: