Shakespeare ReTold: Much Ado About Nothing, BBC1

by | Nov 7, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say if you liked it

A sumptuous, delightful contemporary adaptation of one of the Bard’s best plays.

What to say if you didn’t like it

A parasitic 90 minutes which brought to mind the image of a grotesquely obese TV producer, growing ever more bulbous as he sucks the inspiration from the mind of the slumbering Shakespeare through a McDonald’s straw.

What was good about it?

• The setting of a regional TV studio was clever as it firstly awarded the narrative a deceptive depth, as the traumatic human drama contrasted sharply with the trivialities of regional news, and it also allowed the characters to construct a false front – especially Beatrice and benedick – which again contrasted favourably with their initial mutual loathing.

• The initial courting of Billie Piper’s Hero by the, initially endearing, Claude (Tom Ellis).

• The characters were well-defined (apart from Claude) and believable. The most engaging were, not surprisingly the two leads Beatrice (Sarah Parish), who was cynical, witty and charismatic, but still slept sorrowfully on one side of a double bed; and benedick (Damien Lewis), who was at first slimy, abhorrent but infuriatingly charming, but later, when he and Beatrice fell in love again, became noble, likeable, but less charming because of his greater vulnerability. And he got rid of his goatee beard.

• The narrative threads were initially disparate, which aided the overall drama and helped quickly sketch all the protagonists, but were eventually expertly weaved together, culminating with Claude and Hero’s abortive wedding.

• The contrast between the uplifting romance of Hero and Claude and the wearied cynicism of Beatrice and benedick, whose mutual frigid dislike begins to thaw when they spot Claude proposing to Hero. And this scene was well-observed as they are dancing together like grappling spiders when the see Claude kneel before Hero, and they fire off a volley of disparaging comments about the blindness of love, yet move closer to one another as they do so, as if bonding through their ageless contempt.

• The peripheral characters were a joy, too. The best of whom was the officious security guard Mr Berry, who demanded that everyone show their ID when they arrived for work even if they’d been employed there for decades. And later at a party, he hilariously bemoaned that his lack of height kept him from joining the police force. “There is no proven link between height and the ability to fight crime. Columbo – tiny, absolutely tiny!” But best of all was at the wedding, where he and his callow sidekick Vincent attended dressed in their security guard uniforms.

• The neat conclusion in which the contrite Claude begged Hero to resume their relationship. A request she rightly refused, but they remained friends echoing the near tragic affiliation she had borne with Don – clandestine meetings on the beach, his declarations of undying love.

What was bad about it?

• Including Shakespeare in the sub-title was allusive of those cloying US teen dramas, in which the Bard’s name is surgically affixed to the name in order to stamp it with undeserved credibility and weight.

• While the regional news studio was effective, we’re becoming nauseated by the incessant mockery of life outside the M25. And the scorn is always perpetrated by Londoncentric attitudes: “Ho! Ho! Those bumpkins down in Bournemouth with their tales of pixies and dancing, while us important, regal Londoners can always call on senseless footage of Her Majesty the Queen welcoming despotic, mass-murdering tyrants to one of her many opulent abodes and be charmed by the amoral synthesis of the cultures.”

• Benedick presenting a TV antiques show at 4am. This was unrealistic as antiques shows are forbidden to step beyond the boundaries of daytime TV – between 10.30am and 5.45pm – in much the same way as violent thugs are ASBOed from straying into town centres.

• The crippling deception of Claude over the fidelity of Hero, by the envious Don, bore all the familiar hallmarks of Shakespeare – the artificial contrivance of a dramatic twist to rescue the story from drifting drearily into a happy ending. Granted, slivers of Claude’s jealous persona had been hinted at before, but much like in Othello, the abandonment of trust in the object of his affection rang false. Don had only a few scraps of circumstantial evidence to trick him into thinking they had an affair, a sham Claude was only too eager to accept.

• The very end sought to deceive the audience that Hero had forgiven Claude and that they were indeed getting married, but it was evidently the long overdue nuptials of Benedick and Beatrice.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

07/11/2005

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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