William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Sunday, 6, February, 2011

Shakespeare Retold

Filed under: Oddness,Poetry — williamthecoroner @ 22:45

I am not usually a fan of adaptations of Shakespeare.  Perhaps I was ruined by my first director, who did everything in the manner of Bertolt Brecht’s Epic Drama.  Actually, Shakespeare is good enough that it can withstand such treatment.  The musical comedy of the Life of Susan B. Anthony done in the Style of Good Woman of Szechuan (Don’t ask.  Just don’t ask) withered under such abuse. I’m of the opinion that Shakespeare should be done as written, unless you’re really, really good.

Be that as it may, the BBC’s production of Shakespeare Retold was worth a look.  The quality was spotty, as some adapters were better than others.  The Much Ado About Nothing (set in a contemporary regional British Newsroom) was absolutely brilliant.  The dialogue was snappy, I could buy the premise, Hero was not a wet mess like she is in the original.  Even the guy who played Dogberry was perfectly bumptious.

The second play on the disk was MacBeth, set in a contemporary London three-star restaurant.  While there were some creative flashes–I particularly liked the three supernatural garbagemen, and the blasted heath was a rubbish tip and the little joke about the “Scottish Chef” was clever.  But that was about it.  I can see the original MacBeth killing for a kingdom–when I watched the modern version, 1. MacBeth looked like he was about 20, no where near old enough to be an executive chef and 2. I kept wondering why he just didn’t go get a loan and start his own restaurant.  It would have been so much easier.  Of course, if characters were sensible, then there would be no PLOT.  I just couldn’t buy it.  It will be interesting to see what they did with the other two plays.



  1. I’ll keep an eye out for it… thanks!

    Comment by Old NFO — Monday, 7, February, 2011 @ 20:27 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the tip on the updated “Much Ado.” And if you haven’t seen them, I highly recommend Akira Kurosawa’s re-imaginings of “Macbeth” (“Throne of Blood”) and “King Lear” (“Ran”) as tales of medieval feudal Japan. There’s not really any Shakespeare left in the dialogue (as I recall), but Kurosawa and his actors really get to the core of the human conflicts and psyches of these two plays and their characters. Very effective and, in their way, very deeply Shakespearian.

    Comment by Reed — Tuesday, 8, February, 2011 @ 01:46 | Reply

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