Treasure Island: Our Top Adaptations


Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island is a recognised literary classic, which remains in print 140 years after its initial publication as a serial in children’s magazine Young Folks in 1881. Even if you weren’t encouraged/forced to read it at school, there’s a 50/50 chance your ideas about pirates came straight out of Stevenson’s brain, inspired by the motley bunch he met around the streets of Edinburgh and the stories he heard abroad.

With this in mind, it’s unsurprising that Treasure Island has been adapted over 50 times in the century following its release – everyone from the Soviets to the Muppets had a go at producing their own spin on it. Ahead of our show (premiering in August), we thought it was worth rounding up the adaptations of the classic that you really shouldn’t miss. For, um, different reasons.

If I were Jim, I’d feel a bit sketchy about Long John Silver too.
Image (C) Walt Disney Animations 2021, used for educational purposes

1) Treasure Island – Walt Disney Corporation (1950)
This is Disney’s first ever fully live action film and the first ever version of the story to be filmed entirely in colour. It was met with acclaim for its photography and production values, and remained very popular with both American and British audiences of the time.

2) Treasure Planet – Walt Disney Animations (2002)
For anyone curious, this was one of the first few films I ever saw in the cinema. It takes the concept of the novel and puts in in space, with a feline captain (played by Emma Thompson) and a robotic Long John Silver (in case you thought what was missing from the original was more lasers). It had…mixed reviews. In fact, it somewhat sunk the studio for several years until Tangled was released, but it’s bloomin good fun, especially if you like your classic literature with more space cannons than sense.

Look at that cigar. Your favourite pirate could never.
(C) Fida Cinematografica, used for educational purposes

3) Between God, the Devil and a Winchester Spaghetti Western (1968)
You have no idea how gutted I am that I can’t find out more about this film. All I can determine is that it’s Treasure Island with cowboys, made in Italy with lots of famous American actors of the 1960s. I can only assume it’s wildly unfaithful to the book and incredibly cool. The title alone earns it a spot on this list.

4) Treasure Island – British/American TV production (1990)
The really fascinating thing about this film is the sheer amount of famous people in it. This was one of the films that gave Christian Bale his start, but also starred Peter Postlethwaite, Christopher Lee, Oliver Reed, Julian Glover and Charlton Heston as Long John Silver (opinions seemed to wildly diverge on whether this was a good decision). It’s faithful to the book to a fault, including the many more gory scenes that occur, but it’s worth a watch to see Spartacus, Saruman and Batman stuck on a ship together in a rather budget set. As a bonus for fans of other pirate films, they were sailing round on the Bounty II, the second model made for the rather poorly received Mutiny on the Bounty starring Marlon Brando in 1962 (the ship was later sunk by Hurricane Katrina in 2005).

Honourable mentions:

• Alvin and the Chipmunks had a crack at an adaptation in an episode in 1988
• The Royal National Theatre produced a superb stage adaption in 2014, continuing a tradition of casting Jim Hawkins as a girl (in this case, Patsy Ferran)
• Orson Welles actually made two adaptations, one for radio in 1938 and another on film in 1972
• The Soviet Union made three different adaptations: 1938’s “loose” adaptation, a Lithuanian release in 1971 and a three part film in 1982 which was described as almost “entirely faithful” to the novel. If the Soviet versions of JRR Tolkien’s works are anything to go by, expect some odd puppets and some even odder dialogue.

5) Muppet Treasure Island – Walt Disney Company, 1996
Well, what else were you expecting? Hot off the success of The Muppet Christmas Carol, the company decided to delve into pirates with remarkable success. Kevin Bishop, Tim Curry, Jennifer Saunders and Billy Connolly join the Muppets for a relatively faithful version of the tale – the only major new additions are an unexpected love story and some scuba diving rats. A must-see, it’s what Robert Louise Stevenson would have wanted.

And you thought Tim Curry reached his peak in Rocky Horror.

If you’ve got to the end of this list and you still need more pirates, tickets are available for our Edinburgh Fringe Show Hunt for Treasure Island (if you’re thinking it sounds like Hunt for Red October, you’re right but we’re cooler and there are more spelling related puzzles, something the original was missing). We’d love to see you there.

The Six Types of Flyerers at the Edinburgh Fringe and How to Deal With Them


Picture the scene. It’s the first week of the Edinburgh Fringe. You know that you need to get down the Royal Mile to see a show you’ve booked at the space, which is apparently a feminist mime reinterpretation of unpublished Oscar Wilde letters (your friend is in it). But to get down there, there is one obstacle in your way.

Well, a couple of thousand obstacles in your way.

Flyerers. A persistent, difficult and dangerous species which have the power to make you feel guilt, frustration and deep confusion. Here is the unofficial guide to the different breeds and how exactly to handle them.

The mercenary often moves in a pack, making them considerably harder to avoid.
photo credit: byronv2 Fringe on the Mile 2016 052 via photopin (license)

The Mercenary
This breed of flyerer has been hired by a show to flyer on their behalf. Maybe the show is that rare show which will make enough money to justify this extravagance. Maybe the organisers couldn’t face the Royal Mile everyday. It isn’t for the weak. Either way, mercenaries are likely to have little to no idea about the show they are advertising. They probably couldn’t tell you where or what it is, let alone how much it costs and how on earth to get there. They usually have obnoxious hoodies.
How to deal with them – they are easily dissuaded by people with little to no interest in their show. A simple “no thank you” and a hasty retreat ought to do it.

The Hunter
This particular beast will clock you as you are walking down the mile. If you fit into their target demographic (which is usually broad), they will approach you tactically, cutting off all avenues of escape. If by some miracle you manage to avoid them, they are likely to chase you down the Mile until you accept a flyer as a way of shaking them. It’s entirely possible that if you don’t take a flyer, they will follow you around for the rest of the day out of sheer persistence.
How to deal with them – just take the flyer. There is no getting out of this one and there are plenty of bins around further away. Just don’t throw it away in plain sight of them or they will begin the chase again.

The Snob
Every so often, you will get flyered by someone who acts as though they’re bestowing a truly wonderful gift upon you by giving you their flyer. You should be grateful to share Mile-space with this particular thespian and they will let you know that. They might even make disparaging remarks about being forced to flyer for audiences. Even though their profit-share is about as likely to be profitable as the Tories are to increase Arts Funding.
How to deal with them – they’re probably too lazy to flyer you anyway but avoid getting into a conversation with them about the show, for fear of being subjected to a description of their commitment to method acting.

Flirt to Convert
This one is easy to spot. Their costume looks good and they know it. They are attempting to bring in an audience through sheer animal magnetism. The male edition is a particular favourite amongst older women – vaguely cheeky remarks and lots of getting far too close to the person you are flyering. They’ll probably promise to come and see your show too, which is a blatant lie unless there is any chance of sex.
How to deal with them – this one really depends on whether or not it’s worked on you. If you’re into what they’re offering, by all means go and see their naked ventriloquist Cabaret set entirely to the soundtrack of Brokeback Mountain. Otherwise, smile politely, and accept that you are very unlikely to see them at any of your shows, regardless of what they’re promising.

Just to prove how edgy his show is, this man is wearing an ineffectual blindfold. But think of the ART.
photo credit: byronv2 Fringe on the Mile 2016 0227 via photopin (license)

GCSE Drama Students With A Lot Of Feelings
Also pretty easy to spot, mainly because they’re actually not going to try and flyer you. Instead, they will recreate crucial, emotional sections from their piece about identity/dystopia/emotions/shouting indiscriminately/fear (delete as appropriate). The scenes are often threatening and/or confusing, but by golly they’ve got a lot of feelings and they’re keen to share them. With anyone who will pay. Their parents think they’re wonderful.
How to deal with them – this group may not actually try to flyer you at all. They are often quite happy to stand in the middle of the mile and shout things for a few hours, then go away pleased. You might get one earnest looking fifteen year old run up to you and ply you with one but most of them prefer to have feelings.

Stunt Flyerers
Similar to the GCSE students but almost more concerning in that they are adults. So they know what they’re doing and they probably funded it themselves. Stunt flyerers can be found shouting off-putting things like “Worst show on the Fringe” and “You will hate it”, which are not wholly inaccurate. Other variations include terrible puns, such as pretending their flyer is a telephone (it isn’t) or a piece of litter (it is). Sometimes they will just make themselves and everyone else feel very uncomfortable, by doing something faux-outrageous and really rather silly, like tying yourself up or pouring wine over your own head repeatedly. (A rare exception to this is the actual stunt acrobats on the mile who are usually extremely talented. And also smug)
How to deal with them – Walking round most of them will do the trick since they don’t want to break the illusion of being mad/uncomfortable/angry simply to catch a punter who isn’t utterly enthralled.

The Hungover Flyerer
If you happen across this sorry soul, have mercy. They are in their own personal hell, surrounded by bright lights and noisy people after a late night and too many pints in C Main. No need to approach; they would probably rather not have an audience today anyway.
How to deal with them – keep a respectful distance. If requested, take a flyer, offer your condolences and move on.

Disclaimer: this post was written entirely in love. I love the Fringe, and I
even love the madness of the Royal Mile. For anyone headed there in 2017, I am a self proclaimed Hunter and I pride myself on getting anyone to take a flyer from me. Happy flyering!

Much Review About Nothing: The Joss Whedon Edition

Much Review About Nothing

This week, we take a look at the much acclaimed black and white 2012 edition of Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Joss Whedon. He filmed it in 12 days, shortly after wrapping on Avengers Assemble and the entire film was shot in his private home. As often seems to be the case, this entire cast is made up of “the one from that thing, you know?” – in this case, rather than obscure BBC shows, it’s the entirety of Joss Whedon’s back catalogue. Agent Coulson, that bloke from Firefly and most of the background extras in Avengers Assemble pop up in various guises. If they weren’t so good, you would have to assume that Joss Whedon was the ultimate I-only-cast-my-friends director. (We all know one)

And is it any good? Well, yes. It’s well thought out, it’s nicely shot and there is not a single Styrofoam lion to be found. The text seems to work well in the setting and there are no rogue cast members attempting to derail or distract so broadly, I’m calling this one a success. The main takeaway I had from it is that the plot works better when you assume everyone was permanently either hammered or hungover – evidently, Joss Whedon has a very well stocked alcohol cupboard. And with that, onto Much Review About Nothing: The Joss Whedon Edition!

This version has also chosen to begin with Beatrice and Benedict’s backstory, and it’s another case of Benedict The Horrible Love Rat as he walks out on Beatrice after a night together. Bit of a somber start, especially given most stage versions begin with a flotilla of minstrels and a party.

We switch to the present time and Agent Coulson is here! He is playing Leonato, who receives a text rather than the usual Ye Olde Scroll to inform the household that Don Pedro is approached. I’m unclear as to what war has just occurred, but it’s apparently not terribly exciting as most of the household are far more concerned with the salad preparation than the news of a war being over.

Agent Coulson just did a little roar. Not quite a Brian Blessed sized roar but a roar nonetheless, and with very little context or justification. I also appreciate Beatrice’s desire to have a knife in her hand whenever she refers to Benedict, but it’s hindering everyone else’s salad prep.

There is a fairly lowkey entrance from the victorious army – Don Pedro and his cohort of “soldiers” look less like battle weary soldiers and a bit more like Sixth Formers returning from a particularly hard General Studies lesson. Except for Borachio, who looks about 12 and surely isn’t old enough to either go to war or drink.

Beatrice and Benedict have their first verbal spar in private, whilst angrily flower arranging. I had never considered aggressive floristry as a potential method of attack against an ex-lover but I will consider it such henceforth.

Dramatic music as Don John has appeared. He seems to be restrained with freezer ties…this is one of a few moments in the film where you stop and ponder – Art? Or budgetary limitations?

Most of the discussion over whether Claudio should marry Hero takes place in a very obvious children’s bedroom, with obvious tiny children’s beds.

We interrupt this high brow Shakespeare to bring you a deleted scene from Mamma Mia

Either no one is going to sleep at all while they’re here, or they’re going to be highly uncomfortable. Benedict monologuing around a giant Barbie house only serves to underline this situation.

And now they wrestle on the tiny beds, which looks hazardous to them and also to the structural integrity of the bedframes.
It’s all lots of fun, although I do have trouble believing any of them were at war until recently.

Now we cut to Don John, who seems to have been given a sex cage rather than a children’s room. Which is just as well, since Conrade is A) a woman and B) not being very subtle about what she’s actually doing in his room. I wonder with this scene whether every director that approaches it finds it so dull that they have to spice it up with caverns, oil or sex. Or possibly all three. Either way, plotting and villainous monologues are currently second fiddle to general sexy behaviour.

Borachio enters as they are getting towards the business end of things, and they have to stop with all of the sex. For now. Probably just as well since Borachio looks about 12 – not old enough to have had a full Sex Education class, much less actually do the deed himself.
The second he leaves, they jump right back to it against a door. This must be a little bit weird for Joss Whedon considering that it’s not a film set, it’s actually his house.

We interrupt this highly acclaimed production to bring you Laurence of Arabia. Is it me or is most of this film Benedict in silly disguises?

We cut to the party preparations, and Agent Coulson is wearing a very fetching paisley scarf. Beatrice appears to have overdone it on the predrinks and is drunk while everyone else is getting started.

Drinking near a swimming pool may be aesthetically pleasing but it is also incredibly dangerous so lose 10 points for your poor party planning, Agent Coulson. Borachio reveals an unexpected talent for piano playing – this film is nothing if not efficient, it would seem.

There is a drunk man hitting on Beatrice and he is doing his level best to pull focus throughout most of the scene. An attitude I can fully get behind – you milk that screen time, drunk man. But then Benedict comes along and one-ups him by threatening Beatrice with a flaming marshmallow. Then joins a conga line. Why not?

When the hangover hits

We reach the morning after and EVERYONE IS IN THE POOL. WHY? Did you miss my memo about it being dangerous??
It’s not quite everyone; it’s actually just Claudio surrounded by Don John, Conrade and Borachio, leading to questions about what on earth was going on under the water.
Having been confused by the Bad Guys Swimming Club, Claudio storms straight into the house to find Benedict. And hungover Benedict has no time for your misunderstandings, Claudio. He is cleaning the house the morning after, like an A+++ party guest though, so points to Benedict.

Still-drunk Don Pedro is riffing away on a guitar. He’s not terribly good but he is a prince so no one says anything.
It’s a genius move to have these conversations played out as though everyone is drunk and/or overexcited though, since it explains the sillier bits of the Shakespeare without assuming that the characters are a bit stupid.

I also like to conduct my Shakespearean villainy from the comfort of a heated swimming pool

Hero looks fairly unenthused about marrying Claudio and based off it being agreed while everyone was sozzled, I can concur with that. Don Pedro drunkenly propositioning Beatrice works beautifully though.

More shots! How is anyone sober around here? Hero evidently isn’t as she is substituting having any lines for pulling focus by spitting out her drink at unexpected moments. Got to work with what you’re given, I guess.

Don John has found out about Claudio and Hero via an air vent of plot convenience, and he is unhappy about it. But telling the 12 year old to go and seduce people seems like a poor solution – I definitely had a poor grip on the concept of sex aged 12.

Benedict grousing about love while surrounded by Wedding Admin is perfect. Less perfect is the decision to have a different woman appear every time he mentions women in general.

“Shall we hear this music?” and an iPod is connected. Genius. Points to Whedon for that one. It’s also very nicely staged to have Benedict on the other side of the windows during the tricking scene, leading to general hijinks and commando rolling around in the background.

This is followed by some unconvincing yoga as Benedict attempts to impress Beatrice with his Cobra. Not an innuendo.

“Just act natural,” they said

Then Beatrice rather dramatically falls down the stairs. Which looked both dangerous and painful but apparently she’s A-OK and the scene continues. Hero and Margaret are both played by extras in Avengers Assemble – I hope that saves you an IMDB trip if you were watching and wondering where you had seen them before.

We’re back in the lads’ bedroom/6 year old girl’s room again and a ladder of toys has been added in the corner. Benedict has shaved and Don Pedro and Claudio are doing lots of manly fist-bumping.

But then an ominous underscoring begins and Don John appears, accompanied by the eerie harmonica music of betrayal. I like to imagine it was just Joss Whedon playing a harmonica off camera for the atmosphere.

Oooooh here is Nathan Fillion’s Dogberry as an overly earnest home-security man. And it works! He’s accompanied by a troupe of incompetent interns as the Watch and it’s frankly a masterclass in making difficult Shakespeare work.

They stumble across Conrad and Borachio, who has had possibly his first ever taste of alcohol. It hasn’t agreed with him.
And suddenly we plunge into some slightly seedy soft-focus flashback scenes, in case the audience isn’t smart enough to work out what “wooed” means in this context. Sex. He means sex. They are then arrested by the interns, who look far too young to be handling firearms.

It’s wedding time, and the Messenger from way back in the first scene is here and throwing shade as much as his hastily expanded part allows. Which is to say, he’s doing an awful lot with very little.
Agent Coulson looks adorably ready for a wedding. He should rock this look in Marvel movies too.

Props to the photographer for continuing to photograph the wedding as it takes a turn south and Claudio starts hurling accusations of sex around. She’s been paid for a job and she’s clearly going to do it, regardless of what the content of the photos is.

Just a quiet country wedding, they said. What could go wrong, they said. Friar Francis decided he needed to start charging more.

The issue of setting it in the modern day is that it feels very uncomfortable seeing people discussing virginity, or a lack of, in public. Although how much of that is my crippling Britishness is up for debate.
But the Messenger clearly agrees with me since he’s awkwardly trying to shoo away the crowds. Or perhaps he’s still just trying to build his part.

Benedict sneaks away for a shot mid-service. This is the sort of wedding etiquette I can get behind. Meanwhile, Hero faints, slightly anti-climatically and probably just because the lines don’t make sense without it.

And now Agent Coulson is having a fatherhood crisis and alternating between hugging Hero and threatening to kill her if she’s had sex. Fathers in Shakespeare – who’d have them? Between Lord Capulet, Lear, Gloucester and now Leonato, there aren’t many solid models for parenthood circa 1600.

The famous post-wedding scene between Beatrice and Benedict takes place in the dining room. Unsure if they were both moping or or hoping to take advantage of all of the free catering. Or both.
Beatrice telling Benedict to duel Claudio now sounds like an even more onerous obligation since first, he’s going to have to work out what on earth a duel looks like in the 2010s. Water guns? Gladiator podiums? I would opt for the latter.

Time for a much less macabre interrogation scene than is often the case, and the Sexton looks like anyone would look when presented with a room of interns with a lot of feelings. He’s also staggeringly competent by comparison and it’s wonderful.

Don Pedro and Claudio are STILL drunk (go crazy, since clearly Joss Whedon is paying) and are only sobered up by a double whammy of Benedict suddenly slapping Claudio and a heavy dose of underscoring. And still no one is bothered that dueling is highly impractical.

The Watch have brought Conrad and Borachio (I’ve finally worked out who he reminds me of and it’s a budget Alex Pettyfer from about 2005) to confess their crimes. Agent Coulson gets to demonstrate some serious acting chops – this scene is actually very moving.
It’s then promptly upstaged by Dogberry; Nathan Fillion is scene-stealing as only he can.

But then we take a turn for the drastically happier as Benedict sings badly and woos Beatrice with aplomb, all while aping the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet.

They’ve reassembled the wedding set with incredible efficiency, and the same photographer is back! I wonder what she’s been up to, and I hope they pay her extra for double wedding duty.
Happily, Don Pedro is finally sober for the first time since the shoot began.

And we end on a less frenzied and more relaxed note than other adaptations, with a little bit of music and an awful lot of dorky disco dancing all round.

Drinks Consumed On Screen: A highly concerning 34. I don’t know who picked up the tab for that one.
Not Cricket Rating: It’s Cricket. A smart, fast and very competent version of the play with excellent acting and beautiful cinematography.

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 Branagh Edition

Much Review About Nothing

Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 Much Ado About Nothing is generally considered the definitive version. It’s probably the one you were shown in English Lit that one time. The period setting, the big set pieces and the generally competent handling of verse set it apart from some of the other Shakespeare adaptations of the 1990s, and Branagh and his then-wife Emma Thompson provide arguably the best version of Benedict and Beatrice to hit the silver screen.

With all of that in mind, we sat down together to watch it again, partly because it’s great but mostly because our Artistic Director really fancies Kenneth Branagh. And I’ve got some bad news – it turns out that the film isn’t quite as good as we remembered. You probably remember the classic chapel scene, and the beautiful scenery. But do you remember Oily Keanu Reeves? Or how much walk and talk there is in this film? Or that Michael Keaton, of Batman and Birdman fame, clocks in a career-worst performance here? Get ready for Much Review About Nothing: the Branagh Edition, with Kate, Kosi and I.

And we’re off! Well, after a nicely read but uncomfortably long prologue about all men being scumbags.

Wow. Everyone who was anyone in 90s British cinema was in this film. And by that I mean Brian Blessed and Imelda Staunton.

Much Ado

We interrupt this acclaimed Shakespeare to bring you The Magnificent Seven

Keanu, why are you victory punching? You lost, dude. That’s the set up of the entire film.

There is so much buttock in this film. I do not remember this and I’m guessing critics and English Lit teachers must have forgotten too.

OK they’re putting their clothes back on again after an uncomfortably long bathing scene. But how does anyone know whose clothes are whose? Everyone in this film dresses exclusively in white!

Time for the first Benedict vs Beatrice sparring match. And it’s fierce enough that an entire noisy courtyard of people stops to watch two people talk quietly to each other in a corner.

Why does Don Pedro have a weird silver cup for his walk around a garden? Is there anything in it? Has he stolen it? Why does it suddenly disappear? So many questions and so few answers.

“Come thronging and delicate desires” – I think Claudio has just hit puberty and I feel like there will be dire consequences for all. Also, the plan for Don Pedro to woo Hero while pretending to be Claudio is the same sort of stupid as “pretend to be dead and someone will fix it”.

Oh my. I had forgotten about this scene. Oily, oily Keanu Reeves getting a homoerotic massage from Henchman #1. It’s fortunate that he is so distractingly naked and shiny because pretty much everything else in this scene is awful. I can only assume that Branagh was also too distracted by the light bouncing off Keanu’s abs to be able to offer much direction.

He’s just so shiny

“I would take a bite out of oily Keanu” – Kosi’s input on this scene.
“Naked wistful Keanu has a powerful underscore” – Kate’s input. I’m assuming this is about the music and not an innuendo.

It’s time for a big party scene! Leonato & co are literally walking across the dancefloor in a 6-man long line, which looks neither practical, nor comfortable. Is there nowhere to sit down in all of Messina?
Ah. OK. There is a single bench but Imelda Staunton is having sex on it. So that explains that.

This is the weirdest party. It’s just a montage of grapes, sex and goat masks interspersed in no particular order.

And now Benedict is doing a silly accent. The sort of silly accent which would only make it into the final cut of a film if the director was the one doing it.

But then everytime you think it can’t get any sillier, Emma Thompson casually sidles onto screen and does a masterclass in making people feel things. Doubly poignant now because it’s quite reminiscent of her character in Love Actually. And because Thomson and Branagh very sadly divorced after this film was made, breaking up the golden couple of British cinema. Booooo.

Ooooh OK it’s time for the proposal. There are more twinkles than Tinkerbell in this underscoring and it’s incredibly distracting. Also – it’s good that Hero has great eyebrows since they are having to do most of the acting for her. The poor girl hasn’t had a line in about 25 minutes.

Judging by the arrangement of the characters in pretty much every stage of this scene, I have to assume it is the custom to stand in awkwardly long straight lines at parties. Even if you can’t see the person you are addressing.

“When mean you to go to church”
“Tomorrow, my lord”
Whoa there, Claudio. You only just hit puberty; maybe let’s chill for a bit before you find out about sex. I don’t think the heavy handed underscoring could take it.

And we’re into the first of many close ups of Branagh monologuing.
What’s that? Vanity project? What a totally unfounded accusation.

Don Pedro’s weird silver cup is back. Is it the only prop he is allowed? Did Branagh steal all of the good ones, like the comedy collapsing deckchair?

If no one falls in the fountain, I shall be cross because it will be a waste of a perfectly placed bit of set.

Claudio’s accent is migrating rapidly. Where is he supposed to be from? Otherwise the tricking scene is actually pretty stellar, as they play it straight and let the script speak for itself.

The scene between Beatrice and Benedict immediately after is absolute gold.
Why does Beatrice have a knife and where does she keep it?
We may never know but I hope it makes a reappearance.

The women tricking Beatrice is also excellent, largely due to Emma Thompson having fun in the background with a series of well placed statues.

“He is the only man of Italy” – um Hero, I think you’ve forgotten Oily Keanu there. I certainly haven’t.

Trippy editing like this may never win you an Oscar but it will earn you points for enthusiasm

Although trying to explain why you’re soaking wet at dinner ought to be fun.

We interrupt this period Shakespeare to bring you Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Why are they Irish Dancing? Even more questions.

The casting of Keaton as Dogberry was widely panned and unfortunately, I can completely see why. It feels like he doesn’t understand why the lines are so funny – he’s trying to mask them with a stupid Jack Nicholson impression and mindless slapstick.

Does Don John live in the cellars? I can understand why he’s a bit bitter about things if everyone else got nice rooms and he was actually sent to the cellars to be alone and oily.

The scene where fake Hero has lots of naughty pre-marital coitus is also fairly well done, although it does rely on every woman in this part of Italy having the exact same hairstyle. And Imelda Staunton having an absurd amount of sex.

More of a criticism of the script here, but it’s convenient that Borachio comes out and gives Conrad a blow-by-blow (cheeky) account of his day here, so that everyone gets to hear it. Rather than going “you know, stuff. Sex. Villainy.”

Keaton’s Dogberry has gone from irritating to a little psychotic here. Leave poor old Ben Elton’s eyes alone. He needs them to spot better parts in other feature films.

That’s a nice wedding set piece. It would be a shame if someone was to… rip it all up and flip it over…

The thing with this scene is that as Robert Sean Leonard plays it, he looks like an arsehole on account of him being really cold and scheme-y. Which is OK if you want your audience to hate Claudio. But not if you insist on constantly underscoring him with twinkles and fairy dust. It sends mixed messages.

STOP HITTING HERO IT’S ABUSE. I don’t care if you just hit puberty and you have a lot of feelings. It’s bad manners.
Also – called it on the pretty but precarious wedding decor. He literally flips every bench he can find because Claudio has a lot of #feelings. And #angst.

Hero has fainted. I can only assume that the effort of having more than four lines in a scene is too much for her. To be honest, she’s done so little in this one that they may as well have brought her on already unconscious.

Leonato, your daughter’s already passed out. STOP HITTING HER. Toxic masculinity, man.
Brian Blessed is crying and not interfering. Be more like Brian.

The chapel scene between Beatrice and Benedict is still one of the best bits of any Shakespeare film ever. It’s a short and turbulent scene but they manage to hit every character beat in a very natural and moving way. And chuck a few more benches because why not. Leonato’s furniture bill is going to be enormous at the end of this.

Keanu is back in the cellar but he is now running, laughing and fist pumping simultaneously.

I think the Sexton is all of us in the interrogation scene. He’s done with your crap, Dogberry.
Also – where is Dogberry supposed to be from? “Devon/Ireland” is proposed by Kosi.
I think Dogberry is the real villain here. He could literally be saying anything in that voice and we would never know.

You earn that screentime, Conrad. You yell those lines.

Leonato and Brian Blessed are back and having a bit more #angst. I’d love to know what Hero is up to right now. If she’s sensible, it’ll be Tinder and a lot of wine and romcoms.
Kate says she wants Brian to roar. I concur.
Richard Briers is utterly heartbreaking as Leonato in this scene. Brian Blessed is also good but a little overshadowed by his enormous sleeves. You could get a small child into one of them.
I would back Brian in a fight with Robert Sean Leonard though.

Benedict: “You have a squishy face”

Benedict is confronting Claudio and being #manly and #heroic and #dashing. Also – Robert Sean Leonard has a really squishy face.

Kate correctly predicts a slow zoom and dramatic underscore as Claudio discovers that he’s been shortlisted for the Worst Decision Made By A Romantic Hero award. (Other nominees include Romeo, Ross Poldark and Edward Cullen)

We interrupt this classic film to bring you the beginning of Shrek.

Are those the demons from CBBC’s Raven in the background of the funeral scene? I hope so.

Claudio: “Wow, I really do have a squishy face”

Benedict trying to write a poem that rhymes is all of us in English Lit. The struggle is real.

It’s nice that they’ve managed to mend the wedding decor so quickly. And apparently they’ve managed to also mend Hero because with barely any screentime at all since the wedding, she’s come back all good as new and ready to marry the psycho who tried to attack her. True love.

Claudio’s face as he sees Hero again looks distinctly like an orgasm face. Sorry.

And now we run! Because running is fun! We love to run! Even though the place we’re running from was laid out for the thing we are running to do! But running is more fun than logic or financial solvency!

This is really just an in-depth examination of male sexual awakening in 1600s Italy

Keanu is back to interrupt your happy running and underscoring. Which is a blessed relief. But then he gets taken away and everyone else dances!

For a very long time!

Except Don Pedro because no dancing for you, Don Pedro. You’re apparently going to die alone for no special reason beyond Shakespeare not feeling up to a triple wedding.

Total Scenes of Walk and Talk: 17
Not Cricket Rating: It’s Almost Cricket. It’s still pretty good. It’s just not as good as we all remembered.