Shakespeare Plays Available in Video Format
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All’s Well That Ends Well
Antony and Cleopatra
As You Like It
The Comedy of Errors
Coriolanus
Cymbeline
Hamlet
Henry IV, part 1
Henry IV, part 2
Henry V
Henry VI, part 1
Henry VI, part 2
Henry VI, part 3
Henry VIII
Julius Caesar
King John
King Lear
Love’s Labour’s Lost
Macbeth
Measure for Measure
The Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Much Ado About Nothing
Othello
Pericles
Richard II
Richard III
Romeo and Juliet
The Taming of the Shrew
The Tempest
Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus
Troilus and Cressida
Twelfth Night
Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Winter’s Tale
Shakespeareana

Available versions

1967: Alan Cooke

1973: Nick Havinga (Joseph Papp)

1984: Stuart Burge

1987: Herb Roland (Peter Moss)

1993: Kenneth Branagh

2010: Brandon Arnold

2011: Josie Rourke

2012: Joss Whedon

2012: Robin Lough (Jeremy Herrin)


Adaptations

2005: ShakespeaRe-Told: Much Ado About Nothing


Much Ado About Nothing
1987: Herb Roland (Peter Moss)

This a CBC production based on one from the Canadian Stratford Festival, though it is not filmed in front of a live audience. It feels somewhat stagy, but not excessively so.

As with many others, the setting is fairly arbitrarily changed to a different time and place from the original (presumably Messina, a city in Sicily). Here it's apparently Edwardian England. Why this is thought to be better for Much Ado About Nothing, I really don’t know, but it is not really an impediment to the play either.

Beatrice here is Tandy Cronyn, the daughter of Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, and Benedick is Richard Monette, a long-time veteran of the Stratford festival. She is 42 years old here, while he is 43 — which strikes me as a bit old for either of them, but they have the acting talent to carry the parts with a certain amount of panache. Beatrice seems a little more reserved and less whip-smart than many of the others I’ve seen; but a more contemplative Beatrice is not necessarily a bad thing; Benedick’s reactions to a number of the situations are genuinely nuanced. His first response to Beatrice’s “Kill Claudio” is to laugh, and then his face registers his perplexity and alarm as he realizes that the request is genuine. It’s the kind of transformation that really can only work on film; the mechanics of stage acting require larger motions.

Hero and Claudio are played with more depth than one sometimes finds, and I think the play is the stronger for it. It’s true that they are often treated just as a bland foil against which to display the pyrotechnics of Beatrice and Benedick, but the dark rationale of the center of the play requires Hero’s pain and Claudio’s cruel assault to be taken seriously.

William Hutt brings an august presence to the role of Leonato; those who have seen Slings and Arrows will remember him as the actor playing Lear in the production of the third year. He’s not as silly as the character Richard Briers presents in the Branagh version, but rather a somewhat overly refined aristocrat who is easily misled by the scandalous story about Hero.

All the other parts are played with polish and finesse, but none of them leaps out at me, at least, as particularly brilliant. Dogberry is decked out as a turn-of-the-century bobby, and takes a middle path to the role. He unwraps his lines in a rather deadpan delivery that seems funny only if one is paying close attention, but it gets funnier as it goes along. As a change of pace, it’s rather refreshing.

There are some peculiar changes of lines here and there throughout. I cannot really figure out why, unless they were thrown in to adapt to the context. At one point, Italy is changed to England; at another, Leonato enjoins Dogberry to “have some tea ere you go”, which is a variant from the original “wine”. However one wants to account for such things, it is a deviation from the script as written.

This is certainly a worthwhile production of the play, and were it the only one available, we could consider ourselves fortunate. As it is, it is up against some stiff competition: for my own turn, it’s not as crisp or engaging as either the Burge (1984) or the Branagh (1993), though it is more complete than the latter. If one has a chance to survey a number of them, though, it’s definitely worth watching.


Antonio: Richard Curnock

Balthasar: Eric McCormack

Beatrice: Tandy Cronyn

Benedick: Richard Monette

Borachio: Daniel Buccos

Claudio: Keith Thomas

Conrade: Lorne Kennedy

Dogberry: Eric House

Don John: Brent Carver

Don Pedro: Edward Atienza

Friar Francis: Maurice Good

Leonato: William Hutt

Margaret: Sheila McCarthy

Ursula: Hazel Desbarats

Verges: Brian Tree