Monthly Archives: August 2013

Not Much Ado

I love Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”.  It’s probably my fave comedy.  I had been looking forward to seeing Joss Whedon’s take on the text, and was very excited to get tickets when it was being screened as part of the New Zealand Film Festival.

Quick disclaimer: the screening was interrupted by power surges which did mean the visuals kept cutting out.

Here’s what I did genuinely like about Whedon’s version: the soundtrack.  Great ensemble/party scenes.  (Note to self: that’s the kind of birthday party I’d like to have.)  The black and white was sophisticated and beautiful.  The physical comedy was funny, and not overdone in the slightest.  The editing of Shakespeare’s script was highly skillful (although I was fascinated that the ‘Ethiope’ line was in, and the ‘Jew’ line was out.  Says something about our modern sensibilities and what jokes we can tolerate, I think.)

One of my problems with this kind of ‘translation’ of Shakespeare is the jarring juxtaposition you can get between Shakespearean lines and a modern setting.  For me, this was something that Whedon just didn’t manage to overcome.  I couldn’t understand why Hero’s chastity was such an issue when the film was at pains to establish that Benedick and Beatrice had slept together.  I didn’t understand why Don Pedro and his men were even staying at the house in the first place.  The context was all off.

Ultimately, this was sufficiently disconnecting that, while I found the film visually (and aurally) very attractive, it just didn’t work for me.  I’m afraid my love still remains with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson.

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Shakespeare: World Traveller

I was indulging an old love of mine – watching repeats of ER – when I spied a very promising documentary that was on the channel next.  It was entitled “Shakespeare, India and Me” and followed British actor Felicity Kendal as she returned to her childhood home of India and charted Shakespeare’s progress and influence in that massive country.

Shakespeare, India and Me

I was fascinated.  It focused on how Shakespeare’s plays first came to India, the first Indian actors in a Shakespeare play, the translation of Shakespeare into native Indian languages, and then the adoption and adaptation of Shakespeare in Indian drama and film (yes, Bollywood included!)

Something that particularly struck me was a comment Felicity Kendal made about her father.  I hadn’t known that her parents were actors, and in fact had had a troupe which toured around India performing plays – including to royalty!  She mentioned that her father didn’t want to be known as an actor, but rather as a “missionary”, spreading the word of Shakespeare.  Now that’s a job description I would love.

It also got me thinking about the role and place of Shakespeare in this former British colony of New Zealand, and makes me even more proud of an endeavour like this one:

Troilus and Cressida

which was an entirely Maori language version of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, performed as a part of the Globe to Globe multi-lingual productions of every Shakespeare play last year.

It goes to show, doesn’t it, that Shakespeare truly was “not of an age, but for all time”.

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