Last week I was lucky enough to go to London and watch (my personal favorite) the Shakespeare play 'much Ado About Nothing' starring the critically acclaimed David Tennant and Catherine Tate as Benedick and Beatrice.
I had been looking forward to this as soon as I got the letter home from school about the trip. I had seen various adaptions of the play through several films but never a comedy and never a live performance. 'Much Ado...' has always been my absolute favorite (although admitting only after Romeo and Juliet...) so understandably I was incredibly excited.
As far away from the Elizabethan era as you could get, Shakespeare's famous play was set in 1980s Gibraltar, leading to a wonderfully extravagant, tacky, party atmosphere evident throughout the entire play. Seeing the play 'live' brought the many comic aspects of the play brilliantly to life, making it side-splittingly funny and incredibly real. Seeing such talented actors making the emotions felt by such a wide range of characters come to life was riveting and I could honestly barely look away. In all honesty, the whole play had me glued to the very edge of my seat the whole time and, despite having studies the play for quite some time now, I found myself seeing it in a completely different light.
However, I couldn't help but think there was too much of a focus on the role's of Tate and Tennant. Their captivating wit and charisma, combined with the prominence of characters Benedick and Beatrice gave the whole thing an added lease of life. It made me reconsider how I viewed the characters and certainly made me view Beatrice as less academic; yet at the same time I often felt I was just watching their partnership as Donna and The Doctor from 'Doctor Who' with added cigarettes and an eighties pop backing track. Undeniably, the audience was captivating, but where they really watching Shakespeare? Or were they just watching two iconic television stars?
Any well covered work will be full of different takes and interpretations, Shakespeare is perhaps the best known example of this. Yet when I watched a film adaption of 'Much Ado...' starring Kenneth Branagh as Benedick I never once mistook him for Professor Lockhart, despite being a fan of his role with the second Harry Potter film. This was of course, inevitable. The cult following of 'Doctor Who' combined with the mind-blowing popularity of both Tennant's and Tate's roles within the series meant it would be difficult to disassociate and the huge amounts of people now taking an interest in Shakespeare following their involvement is a huge blessing for the literary world, I just wish sometimes that people could just separate actor from playwright and just enjoy Shakespeare.