Much Ado About Nothing: William Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing: William Shakespeare

★★★

(directed by Mark Rylance, The Old Vic, London, until 30 November)

Much Ado About Nothing is the closest that Shakespeare came to writing a screwball comedy and I love it dearly, mainly for the barbed word-play. I’ve seen several versions (my favourite is still the sun-drenched Kenneth Branagh film) and I was very interested by the idea behind Mark Rylance’s new adaptation at the Old Vic. Here Beatrice and Benedick are played respectively by Vanessa Redgrave (76) and James Earl Jones (82): two older people who, after watching their young friends fall in love, are finally persuaded to end their age-old skirmishing and embrace their affection for one another before it’s too late. I thought it was a marvellous take on the play – but unfortunately the production doesn’t live up to the brilliance of this concept. It was rather disappointing because, with such a director and such actors, it should have been a cast-iron success.

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Coriolanus: William Shakespeare

Coriolanus: William Shakespeare

(directed by Ralph Fiennes, 2011)

This was one of the many films I missed in the cinema, but I remember the critical acclaim that greeted its release in the UK last year. Last night I finally settled down to watch it; and what a treat it was. Fiennes’s directorial debut brings the action right up to date, telling the story with handheld cameras and news reports alongside more traditional techniques (the British newsreader Jon Snow has a cameo as the Fidelis TV presenter). Almost without exception, the excellent cast handle Shakespeare’s language with such ease that it feels almost like normal speech, and the story is presented with such clarity that (not knowing this play at all), I was completely gripped.

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Anonymous

Anonymous

★½

(directed by Roland Emmerich, 2011)

One of my friends keeps saying that I should read Jasper Fforde‘s books, which are set in a world where people riot over the question of who wrote Shakespeare’s plays (he clearly thinks I’d have sympathy with such a cause). As such, how could I resist Roland Emmerich’s new film Anonymous? In retrospect, I really wish I had resisted it. But that is part of the purpose of this blog. I am here to suffer really, really silly film-making so that you don’t have to. Think of it as a noble sacrifice.

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