Much Ado by Hillary and Anna-Elizabeth Shakespeare (yes, their real names are Shakespeare, but presumably no relation) is a film version of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing set in the present day where a rugby team arrives for a house party in the Suffolk countryside. Much Ado will be available on digital download from 24th April.
Using the actual dialogue from the original Shakespeare play (albeit ever so slightly chopped and reformatted) a mini bus with the ‘Aragon’ rugby team breaks-down and calls in at the house of Leonato (Peter Saracen) for some well acquainted hospitality. Leonato welcomes them to his home with his daughter Hero (Jody Larcome) and niece Beatrice (Emma Beth Jones) by putting on a party. Close friends, the girls are looking for love and their affections for Claudio (Luke Hunter) and Benedick (Johnny Lucas) are coyly played out in tandem.
Pedro (James McClellend) is the confident leader of the arriving rugby team who says he will help cupid’s cause by wooing Hero for Claudio. This peculiar offer turns out well for the pair at first whose romance starts to blossom, but this is just the beginning as John (Jack Boal), the unreconciled and malicious bastard brother of Pedro, is hell bent on causing as much mischief as possible for the courting couple with the assistance of his followers Conrade (Ed Francis) and Borachio (Nils Behling).
Meanwhile Beatrice and Benedick are doing everything possible to show they are not interested in each other’s affections with their often scathing insults towards one and other. So it is again down to Pedro to give cupid a helping hand, concocting a plan to get each of them to believe the other is head over heals in love. The farcical conversations are then staged for Benedick and Beatrice to overhear in the hope of igniting their belief in one another’s love.
Set in a very big house in the countryside this one location provides a perfect backdrop with its extensive grounds for a posh teen house party complete with an indoor swimming pool, tennis court, sauna and roof top jacuzzi all put to good use, scene by scene, as the story unfolds through the course of the party.
Emma Beth Jones is in her element playing the feisty Beatrice working with Shakespeare’s dialogue that still fizzes and resonates despite its datedness. Generally you can’t win using the original Shakespeare script – too slow and deliberate it becomes stilted, too fast and naturalistic and the words get lost in the deluge of exchanges. The directors and cast have to be given credit here for the playful way they’ve brought the script to life and there’s even a role for Balthasar the singer (Joseph Emms) who plays his guitar adding a touch of boy band pop to ‘hey nonny, nonny’.
Film: Much Ado (2023)
Director: Hillary and Anna-Elizabeth Shakespeare
Genre: Drama, Romcom
Stars: Emma Beth Jones, James McCelland, Luke Hunter
Run time: 1hr 56mins