1 August 2007 | rosian
One marvellous retell, two pretty good and one rather weak but still a good buy
I'm always a bit wary of Shakespeare or Chaucer or similar retells of old works because too often the modern writers put too much of their own personal fancies into the story and ignore the original. It's not often (well in my opinion anyway) that a modern retell turns out really well.
Shrew works splendidly. Terrific charisma between Rufus Sewell, who's one of my favourite actors anyway, and Shirley Henderson and their scenes are hilarious and charming magic. The wedding has to be seen to be believed! This is a very moreish play!
Much Ado is also splendid so far as Beatrice and Benedick are concerned, but the plot gets into a muddle over Hero and her suitor, her father and his black sheep devious brother Don John who in this version has become Hero's pretty pathetic friend who wants to be more and can't take rejection. Worse, the original clever Hero theme following the wedding fiasco in which she pretends to be dead to teach her easily fooled and untrusting lover a well-needed lesson is completely lost as the modern writer has her seriously injured for real by her lover during his temper tantrum at the wedding, and you can't be surprised she goes off him. Fortunately, the B-B plot and other aspects still make this compellingly entertaining viewing.
I wasn't entirely pleased with Midsummer Night's Dream. It's a very enjoyable light magical fantasy until the last scenes where the modern writer was clearly at a complete loss to know what to do with Bottom and Co's "entertainment". The original Pyramus and Thisbe play is so famous and so hilariously cringemaking that you just fall about, so it needed something equally clever and funny to succeed in this modern version. Unfortunately the writer seemed to have suddenly lost all inspiration and the "entertainment" isn't remotely funny, not even Bottom's badly misjudged "jokes", it all just falls completely flat. Oberon's solution, to make the wedding party think it's all very funny, works fine in the original as it is very funny to the real audience, but since this modern version hasn't got anything funny for an entertainment. Oberon's solution just makes it worse.
I wasn't so keen on the Macbeth. When I first saw this version on TV I was bored. The original is about Kings and power, and the modern setting chosen didn't work for me at all. I'd have preferred a political theme. Second time around it's a bit better but I wish the Beeb had kept to either comedies or tragedies, not pushed in this one tragedy which seems completely anomalous alongside the others and although I want to buy this DVD set, I am annoyed that one of the plays is so far from interesting me. If only the Beeb had adapted Love's Labour Lost, The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure or my favourite Twelfth Night......