Much Review About Nothing: The More Cool BBC edition

Much Review About Nothing

Much Review About Nothing is back, and this time it’s modern! And cool! And no one speaks in ye olde English, because clearly the BBC programmers had a crisis in 2005 and decided that having survived 400ish years, Shakespeare’s scripts had run their course and simply had to be replaced. The result? Four adaptations of his best known works set in different workplaces, with entirely modern language.

Does it work? Well…sort of. Macbeth received excellent reviews at the time, but having rewatched it, it’s very hard to see why. It’s James McAvoy looking sad while dissecting bacon. And Much Ado About Nothing? Well, it has an awful lot of people in it who went onto much more impressive things. Rose Tyler from Doctor Who, Sergeant Brody from Homeland, Gary from Miranda and that one who was on Merlin one time all make appearances. This Much Ado is set in a local news station, and follows the plot but not the script of the original play. What did we think? Well, read on to find out – here is Much Review About Nothing: The More Cool BBC Edition.

And we open with a montage! Damian Lewis (who I once saw in Prezzo) and the woman who’s been in everything on the BBC (a hasty Google informs me she is Sarah Parish) are getting ready for a date. Damian has sprayed his crotch with deodorant for reasons best known only to himself.

Ahhh…OK. It’s Beatrice and Benedict’s backstory. He’s a nasty man who stood her up, although she gets an enormous amount of wine instead so I would question if she really lost out there.

We cut to three years later and everyone’s hair has gotten bigger. A fair assessment of the 2000s. In a totally laudable upgrade to the original Shakespeare, most of the opening dialogue is discussing local news stories which are so British, it hurts.

Gary from Miranda is here! And in this film he is playing…Gary from Miranda. In fairness, I think the only other thing I remember him for was wearing a dodgy wig in Merlin so maybe it’s best he stuck to what he was good at.

Our Don John in this story is just called “Don”, and makes one small mistake while putting together a newsreel. This presumably dooms him to villainhood for the rest of the play as mistakes at work equal EVIL INTENTIONS in this world.

Claude (Claudio)’s tie matches Hero’s dress. It can only mean true love.

This version also nails Dogberry and Verges, making them irritatingly officious security guards. There is an awful lot to like so far. It pains me to say it but it’s true.

Beatrice has a co-anchor who is old, pervy and possibly senile. He is also not in the original plot and hence is shuffled off after about half a scene. But Beatrice needs a new co-anchor, and there is now a sexy-ginger-shaped hole on that news sofa…

Sexism swinging both ways here:
“Can’t you just buy a new sofa?” from Beatrice – evidently new furniture is an adequate replacement for men.
“All of the men look at Hero like that. That’s why you have her on the show.” – gross, and doubly gross when that line is addressed to her dad.
“Bit sexist to compare a woman to a car.” “Depends on the car.” Nice.

But all might be forgiven as this version of Benedict is a creepy late night antiques dealer and I’m can see nothing wrong with that concept.

I can find nothing wrong with this picture.

Hero has Claude mesmerised with her wobbly pen trick. Not an innuendo and in fairness, I was also bewitched by that one the first time I saw it.

Oh but it’s time for some HEAVY BACKSTORY as we find out that in this version, Hero and Don (John) had sex one time. Huh. I guess they’re not going for Hero being made entirely of angel tears and chastity belts in this edition. I’m sure that somewhere, there will be some Shakespeare purists screaming but I’ll take it over the versions where the poor girl doesn’t get a line until Act Three.

It’s time for a fancy dress party! Are all of the costumes specially designed to reveal something not-so-subtle about the characters? You betcha. Hero is Marilyn Monroe, further cementing the Naughty Hero vibes this version is chucking about. They’ve also chosen to throw some mummy issues in for good measure, to up the #angst quota. They never really get mentioned again, though.

Margaret has come as every one of us at at least one Halloween party in our lives – “some sort of vaguely sexy cat”, but Ursula definitely wins this round as Little Miss Muffet. It ain’t subtle but this version sure is fun.

And of course, Beatrice has come as the ultimate single woman. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Don John (dressed as some hybrid of Cher from Clueless and the Joker before Heath Ledger made it cool) mildly insinuates to Claude that maybe Hero might have at some point come into contact with another man before him. Claude, who appears to be entirely ruled by his genitals, flies into an inconsolable rage at this idea. And what an idea – women touching things! In the world! How dare we!

Dogberry and Verges are on the verge(s) of flirting. It’s a couple I never knew I wanted and yet I really do.

We never actually see Claude resolve his anger with Hero, because the next thing you know, he is busy making out with Hero again. Beatrice and Benedict mimicking the two of them in love is a masterstroke from the BBC. Nuance be damned, this is hilarious.
I am sad, however, that there is a perfectly good pool and no one has ended up in it. Did they learn nothing from Kenneth Branagh’s version?

Don John is properly evil in this version. He’s not just an Elizabethan emo like all of the others, he’s a lonely, twisted and manipulative man. And you know what? It works.

Claude and Hero definitely went from a first date to an engagement in under seven minutes of screentime. Bit keen.

“You really put the W into Anchorman”. Gold. I’m borrowing that one.

Benedict is now debating shaving his pervy antiques dealer beard off. I’m in favour, but I’ve fancied Damian Lewis ever since his five minute turn as a clean-shaven Russian assassin on Stormbreaker (remember that one?).

The need to trick Benedict

is a little unexplained in this one, as Peter (Don Pedro)’s character has largely been absorbed into Leonard (Leonato), who never announces plans to make Beatrice and Benedict fall in love. It is, however, enjoyably meta – they’ve actually pre-planned their conversation on a script in the recording booth.

Beatrice has arrived at Hero’s hen party dressed as hot, bitchy Tinkerbell. And within ten seconds of meeting Benedict, makes a masturbation joke. Keep it PG, guys.

“There’s a large blue ball in your wardrobe” – as it very much were

“Are you smoking crack?” Beatrice says what we’re all thinking, watching Damian Lewis try and fail utterly to use an exercise ball. In his defence, I’m not actually sure what they’re there for, other than as disappointing space hoppers.

It would appear that it’s innuendo hour at the BBC as Hero and Margaret discuss “doing it” in a suspiciously clean nightclub bathroom. But seriously – where are the bits of mashed up loo roll and empty plastic cups?

“Why do they say sense of humour when they mean sex?” – CAN I GET AN AMEN

Don is back being a Proper Baddie, but he’s forgotten that CCTV is alive and well in this world. Rather than having to interrogate drunken henchman as in the original, Dogberry manages to locate Don’s villainy through being good at admin.

Beatrice hiding in a cubicle is all of us in clubs once we’re over the age of 20.

Hero and Margaret’s conversation in this version plays out beautifully as well, with Hero acting like a decent, concerned friend and Margaret bitching about Beatrice for all she’s worth. And taking it a little too far. Also, with regard to one of her insults, a night in with pitta and houmous sounds pretty ideal to me.

Damian has shaved! Perhaps he got the memo about stubble rash. Either way – it looks good.

Everyone is arriving for the wedding, and Benedict and Beatrice have been put in adjacent rooms in a hotel with a secret door between them (oo-er). I feel this definitely violates guest privacy laws. But it’s hella convenient for the plot so no objections here.

Meanwhile, Don has confronted Claude about Hero’s supposed infidelity, through the medium of a poorly assembled collage of Hero’s face and a forged reference to doing the naughty sometime.

Claude flips out at this display of poor craftsmanship and throws Don against a bookcase again and again. And again. And every time he does it, I become less and less convinced that the books are real.

Back to Beatrice and Benedict, and Benedict is reading the only book he has brought with him. And it’s a book of sonnets! What are the chances? Low. The chances are low. It’s an extreme case of plot convenience.

Now they’re on the same bed! JUST MAKE OUT ALREA


DY. Cease and desist with this sexually charged GCSE English Lit session.


They don’t kiss.

Beatrice’s reaction to the sad lack of kiss is all of our reaction to the sad lack of kiss.

Back to the less happy side of the story and Don has manage to make Hero look like a liar to Claude. Which fills in a crucial plot hole in the original Shakespeare as originally it was only Don John’s word against Hero’s, making Claudio look like an idiot and an asshole. This Claudio/Claude has evidence that Hero can’t be trusted. Even if it’s the evidence of a whiny little man who can’t operate cameras properly. (The clues were there from the start)

It’s time for the wedding. This can only go well. Claude looks constipated, Benedict is cracking inappropriate jokes and Beatrice has chosen to go bra-free, placing this production firmly in the 2000s.

“You’re beautiful. I’m sorry” – and with that, Gary from Miranda turns this into the wedding from hell.

And it is nasty. This version goes SO DARK. Less hair pulling and set destruction, but lots of verbal mud flinging. Props to Hero who shouts right back, and extra credit to this version’s Leonato/Leonard who sensibly sides with his daughter in the face of her psycho fiance. And rather than fainting, Hero storms out of the church in a flurry of lace, tulle and righteous fury.

The chapel scene that follows is beautifully scored (take note, Branagh) and other than a final awkward sex joke, the loving moment between Benedict and Beatrice is genuinely beautiful. And topped off with a hug that feels more appropriate and loving than a kiss would have been.

Beatrice’s exhortation to “kill Claude”, however, comes across as near-sociopathic. Probably because duels are a little frowned upon in this period, even if the victim in question is a colossal asshat with poor wedding etiquette.

Steamy stuff from the BBC

But it’s followed by a hot angsty kiss, complete with dramatic bouquet ejection (still not an innuendo). DAMN.

Claude and Don are drunk together and this is utterly unacceptable. I am not well versed in male drinking/dating etiquette but I feel like a line has been crossed here for Claude to be drinking with the man that ruined his wedding. Even if Gary from Miranda makes a very convincing drunk.

But what is this? Hero has made a highly irregular appearance post-wedding! Psst, Hero, everyone knows that girls that might have had sex one time are supposed to hide away and fake death while everyone else decides what happens to you…
And rather than allow the patriarchy to decide her fate, she smacks Don in the face.
It’s great.

And then, alas, she falls backwards into a pillar because there is only so far you can bend the plot before you have to abandon it all together. And the plot demands an unconscious Hero because in Much Ado, men only begin to feel bad after an instance of serious injury or death.

That’s a LOT of blood. Maybe they had some left over from Macbeth.

This adaptation has committed to going darker than most can go, since unlike in the normal productions where the audience knows it’s a fake-out, Hero’s life is in serious danger here due to the cruel manipulations of one man.

I’m sort of missing the local news stories right now. I could do with a welly wanging tournament to lighten things up a bit.

But in the midst of all of this, there is some happy news as Benedict finally makes amends for standing Beatrice up in the pre-credits scene. I would still have taken the wine, personally.

Claude and Hero’s story is wrapped up in a far more progressive manner, with Hero refusing to jump straight back into bed with a man so easily fooled that he dumped her and got drunk with his own enemy. Feminism: 1. Claude: 0.

But what is this? Another wedding? Surely Hero hasn’t changed her mind that quickly?

And with that, BBC’s cool, trendy and actually very competent production comes to an end.

Local News Story Count: 16 (my favourite was the news that Swanage has appointed its new Town Crier)
Not Cricket Rating: It’s Almost Cricket. It’s a genuinely very funny version, if occasionally a little heavy handed.

Much Review About Nothing: The BBC Edition

Much Review About Nothing

This week’s version of Much Ado About Nothing is a BBC classic, released in 1984 as part of their efforts to film all of Shakespeare’s plays. It was one of the last, despite being scheduled to air in 1978 at the beginning of the mammoth Shakespeare-athon that the BBC organised. Why? Well, as it turns out, there was an entire other version shot with Penelope Keith from The Good Life, but that version was canned and a whole new Much Ado was shot with a different cast.

And what a cast! The bloke from My Family, Lance Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army and that woman who was on Strictly Come Dancing once all make appearances here. And what did Kate, Kosi and I think of it? Well…it’s a much more staid affair than the Branagh – it’s actually quite hard to imagine anyone having any sort of naughty business in this version of Messina, so the idea of Hero having too much is similarly a stretch. But, without further ado (about nothing), here is Much Review About Nothing: The BBC Edition.

And after a very long and stately title sequence, we are off! Gosh, that is an enormous lion. Not live, sadly, but very square and looks distinctly Styrofoam.

How does that hat even stay on his head?

What is the point of the Messenger’s hat? It’s literally defying gravity here, hanging onto 75% of the side of his head, and it’s definitely not keeping any other part of his head warm.

I see this production also belongs to the well worn tradition of giving Hero as few lines as possible, because everyone knows that silence = chastity.

We’re five minutes in and already Cherie Lunghi as Beatrice is carrying most of this scene. Everyone else seems to have got the memo to look like you’re mentally planning a dinner party for once this day’s filming is done.

The men have entered! No horses or shouting in this version, just a casual stroll through the fakest orchard I have ever seen, against the least realistic landscape of Messina anyone has ever painted. But I suppose this was the second time round so maybe they were cutting corners on this one.

You have to admit there is a striking resemblance

Robert Lindsay as Benedict with the beard and the moustache bears a striking resemblance to Robin Hood from the first Shrek film.
He also has an incredible blusher on. Damn, Benedict. That blusher is poppin’.

Lunghi and Lindsay almost feel like they’re overacting in this moment, but I think it’s probably because they are the only two who are actually acting. Everyone else in the background has been deactivated into a sort of standby, BBC-actors-doing-Shakespeare stock pose.

I also appreciate that Lindsay is playing Benedict angrier than is the norm – it places him on an interesting line between clown and actually cruel that people often miss in the character.

This version of Claudio, played by Robert Reynolds, appears to have forgone emotion in favour of more buckles on his fancy red leather doublet. There are definitely more buckles than facial expressions in this scene from him.

Hey, they’ve left in the scene which is basically never done, where Antonio tells Leonato things we all already know. But dammit, the BBC is nothing if not faithful to the text, often at the detriment of pace, entertainment and technical aptitude.
Leonato’s costumes are all fabulous here, but this one in particular is reminiscent of a fancy dress Pope outfit.

And we’re back in the cellar again for Don John! Seriously, guys, let the poor man have some sunlight. Maybe he’s not evil, just suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

The baddies have been colour coded for our convenience, so it’s nice and easy to identify accomplices. Such as Conrad, who in this version looks like a budget Alan Rickman from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Nobody has moved more than their chin for the last five minutes. I assume this is a rule for BBC Shakespeare, to emphasise how seriously they take it.

Why does everyone in Shakespeare insist on walking around in straight lines at parties?! We’ve been through this; it’s neither practical nor comfortable, it just makes you look like you’re lining up for a particularly vicious game of British Bulldog.
Also – the extra in the green dress on the back row just nearly fell over. She styled it out like some Renaissance-y dance move though so it’s OK.

We interrupt this serious period Shakespeare to bring you that bit from Insidious where they’re all in some kind of circus hell

THOSE MASKS. I’m going to have actual nightmares.

We’re 20 minutes in and Hero has just had her first line. Happy days. She said it with such enthusiasm; it’s like she knows she won’t get many more.

These dances have so much hopping in them. Is this something we’re missing out on? Should someone restart a hopping craze for the 21st Century?

Kate has quite correctly pointed out that the man in the background has an enormous drum (oo-er) but no apparent intention of playing it. There are also more Styrofoam lions dotted about the place like very regal trip hazards.

I think Benedict is drunk. Or maybe Robert Lindsay was, and couldn’t be bothered to wait til he was sobered up to film. They did this thing in a week, you know. No time to wait around for sobriety. He’s also flagrantly breaking the fourth wall here, which is a little disconcerting as it’s less House of Cards style suave, and more manic.

“You, who have stolen his bird’s nest” – and by bird’s nest, he does mean vagina. Naughty.
Also, for a big, mean and scary villain, Don John’s villainous efforts have so far added up to upsetting Claudio a little bit over a small misunderstanding at a party, which is a big deal in Jane Austen and rather less impressive here. He’s no Iago.

Does Claudio still know he’s in shot? It looks like he’s been put onto standby mode again and is staring blankly in the corner of the screen. He’s so unresponsive that Leonato basically attaches Hero to him before he gives any sign of life.

They then have a very awkward first kiss while Leonato stands way to close to them. Dude. Personal space. They’re trying to hatch their first emotion together.

We slow fade into a closeup of Don John as he realises that his first plan was neither very effective, or even particularly evil. Meanwhile, Borachio is acting pretty much exclusively through his eyebrows. If they go any lower, they might actually swallow the rest of his face up. Where is Keanu Reeves when you need him? “Too slippery to stay in shot” – Kosi.

And we’re back in the orchard for the famous tricking scenes! Maybe this is where the pace will pick up?

I have no idea what game Benedict is are supposed to be playing with oranges. The fact that they are being used as balls confirms my suspicion that everything in this orchard is fake, and probably a prop from a previous BBC Shakespeare though.
He’s also definitely undone his shirt quite some way since the first scene.

Oh, now he’s thrown, attempted to catch and dropped the orange rather anti-climatically. That was probably a mistake but heaven forbid anyone reshoots a scene here. Instead, it shall remain where it is while Benedict goes back to breaking the fourth wall. It’s like he’s the only one who knows about the Matrix.

Goodness me, that is an enormous lute. Not an innuendo.

This scene is being played like a Parents Evening Meeting, as Don Pedro, Leonato and Claudio very solemnly discuss how disappointed they are in Benedict. Guys. Up the pace a little. Or maybe try a new emotion. Is there an expansion pack that only Beatrice and Benedict got loaded with?

Claudio is continually wandering in and out of shot, sort of like his programming has malfunctioned. He keeps pausing like he’s a Sim that just had an action cancelled.

Benedict is so shocked at these (very somber) revelations that he’s dropped yet another fake orange. Also, his shirt is so low now that there is a very real danger of a nip slip.

We interrupt this Elizabethan comedy to bring you Oliver Twist

Benedict appears to have caught the Parents Evening bug, as his delivery of most of his most famous monologue comes across less like excitement and romance, and more like lesson planning for a Year 8 Maths class. “The world must be peopled” is usually a hysterical line, and it sadly falls very, very flat here.

Oh dear. The BBC have been faithful to the point of leaving in all of the racism and antisemitism that is usually quietly disposed of.

We’re onto the next tricking scene and Hero has some lines! She’s determined to make the most of them too, and has dressed as a giant yellow napkin to make sure she is the centre of attention. Ursula, meanwhile, is modelling something which looks a bit more like you could buy it for an exorbitant price from Urban Outfitters.

Beatrice has been successfully tricked, and is also now breaking the fourth wall. Maybe it’s an achievement to unlock – once you’ve felt more than four emotions, you reach level two and become aware of the cameras. At level four, you realise that the entire orchard is fake and you are in fact on a cheap soundstage.

We’re in some sort of drawing room now, and it looks like it’s been filled up with all of the spare props from old history documentaries. I think Don Pedro has a game going where he tries to touch each one before the scene is over, as he’s worked his way through two silver goblets and a decorative globe within two lines.
Claudio has come dressed as the sort of gift bag that you put wine in.

This scene contains a much smaller lute than before. Still not an innuendo.
I’m also not sure Benedict has seen one before as he’s holding it by the neck and swinging it ineffectually.

Don John has literally popped out of thin air, and Don Pedro is so surprised by this that he dribbles into his beard. This is some high brow film making here.

This scene is actually played in a really interesting way as Claudio is far angrier with Don John than with Hero. Which makes an awful lot of sense given that it’s not only upsetting to Claudio, it’s also pretty offensive to the woman he loves to suggest that she is immoral. It still suffers from being played incredibly slowly, though.
Claudio throwing water over Don John is a neat bit of direction, but would have been more effective if it looked like it was done out of anger, rather than just because he had a programming malfunction and lost control of his arm.

We interrupt this sunny Italian setting to bring you the long lost music video for We Three Kings of Orient Are

Clive Dunn’s beard is no less majestic for being visibly fake.

Borachio and Conrad have arrived to drunkenly spill some secrets. Except that I’ve never seen two supposedly drunk people look more sober. Perhaps all of these scenes have gone on so long that they were drunk to begin with, but have since had time to sober up.

There’s not been an ornamental lion for a few scenes and I’m starting to miss them. A relic of happier scenes.

It’s time for the wedding and everyone has their shiniest clothing on. Claudio has gone to the effort of stapling a large ornamental tablecloth to his back, which is surprising given that he knows this wedding is a no-go.

Claudio is now casually renouncing Hero for maybe having sex with the man with the powerful eyebrows. Everyone is quite sedate about this. The extras are very calmly filing out of the church, probably to take advantage of the free banquet before it all gets put away.

Kudos to the director – they have at least left Hero’s lines in this scene rather than have her faint more or less on the spot, which is cool. And she is making the most of them to display a full three emotions, two and a half more than Claudio.

Oh no, I tell a lie – Claudio just had a big shout! A whole feeling, just to himself! Admittedly it lasts for two seconds, then he returns to standby and stares blankly into space again.

There is so little movement in this entire film that Hero fainting in the middle of the church actually feels like a jump scare.

Meanwhile, Benedict is hovering in the corner of the scene like a morally upright, wisecracking Quality Street chocolate in his shiny red and gold wedding get up.

The chapel scene in this version is darker than in others, perhaps because they’ve been a bit more bitter and less light hearted about their relationship in previous scenes. It’s less sweet and more tense but actually works well with that, and the lack of a kiss where it is traditionally placed is a sensible omission since it keeps this tension up. It’s a shame that the rest of the film can’t sustain the darker mood.

We’re back to the prison and the Sexton is not even pretending to write anything down; he’s just wiggling his prop quill over his prop parchment with no intention of making contact. Budget Alan Rickman looks utterly fed up and Clive Dunn’s beard has somehow gotten even less convincing.

The giant lion is back! I am pleased.

Pretty much all of the characters are wearing black now, and although there may be a more practical reason like mourning colours or whatever, I prefer the idea that Don John has unintentionally started a new craze for Scandinavian chic, 500 years before the rest of us caught on.

Well, that escalated quickly. What is usually played as a small spat between Antonio and Claudio has turned into Antonio chasing him around the giant lion with a visibly plastic sword. Where was this passion for the rest of the play? Maybe we just need more Antonio in our lives.

The watch have arrived to resolve the whole conundrum, and Verges appears to have become aware of the audience as well! Unless Clive Dunn just forgot he wasn’t supposed to be looking at the camera.

We interrupt this family friendly production to bring you Final Destination 7: Shakespeare’s Revenge

How did they manage to smuggle a brass band into the funeral? It’s like a really macabre version of the opening scene in Love Actually.

We’re into the final scene and everyone is wearing colours again! Perhaps most conspicuously, Don Pedro is dressed like a really fabulous set of road markings, accompanied by a bedazzled man bun.

I suppose it would be too much to hope for a few more emotions this late in the game, and true to form, Claudio’s reaction to the love of his life being mysteriously resurrected is one of mild confusion and apathy.
But never mind that because, in true Elizabethan style, this adaptation ends with couples alternately hopping erratically and making out.

Scenes with Conspicuous Styrofoam Lions: A staggering 23 scenes
Not Cricket Rating: It’s not really cricket. There are redeeming features but it’s just a bit too slow and staid to be considered entertaining.