Nothing Much to Do (The Candle Wasters, 2014)
The first time I studied Much Ado About Nothing, I was 11 years old, in my final year of primary school, and we weren’t allowed to watch the film because it was not deemed appropriate (yet the Baz Luhrmann Romeo and Juliet was apparently fine). I studied it next when I was in Sixth Form, preparing for my A Levels, and there watched my first adaptation of it: Kenneth Branagh’s famous 1993 film. I found myself studying it once again at university, and this prompted me to seek out some more adaptations: the BBC ShakespeaRe-told 2005 television film, the Joss Whedon 2013 adaptation. I have never managed to see this play on stage (although my parents took my sister to see the Tenant and Tate 2011 production and I am unendingly jealous) but this is far and away one of my favourite Shakespeare plays and I will never tire of finding new adaptations which bring it to life. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered, about half-way through its run, that there was a web series adaptation of this play. Nothing Much to Do lived up to all my expectations of a Much Ado About Nothing adaptation, and remains one of my favourite Shakespeare adaptations.
Nothing Much to Do follows the story of rival vloggers, Beatrice and Benedick, as they go through their final year at Messina High. The series makes great use of a multi-channel format: aside from Beatrice and Benedick’s channels, there is also Ursula’s channel which houses her own videos, Dogberry and Verges’ detective show, and Balthazar’s songs. The diversity of videos making up the narrative is cleverly shown as each character has a different editing style and, in some cases, camera quality: there are even two videos which are clearly filmed on a phone, as the character doesn’t have access to a camera. This all serves to make Nothing Much to Do feel incredibly natural and realistic, as though you are watching real people discovering how to use the medium of youtube to record their lives.
This realism is aided by solid writing and great adaptation choices. The script is incredibly clever, and every time I watch through I notice something new from the play and the world of Shakespeare. Dogberry and Verges (‘the weird year nines’) as obsessive Sherlock fans is one of the most hilarious and unique interpretations of those characters I have ever seen, and the first time I heard the Kazoo Sherlock theme as the introduction for their detective show I had to pause because I was laughing so hard. The modernisations of the other characters are also great: Pedro as the popular captain of the football team who is also the student leader is a fitting choice, while Hero is much more of a fleshed out character, given the agency that she never has in the source material.
The natural tone of the series is also a result of the acting and improvisation. Aside from the fact that the actors playing teenagers are actually teenagers (thankfully not so unusual now), the standard of acting is high across the board. I particularly want to mention Harriett Maire, who plays Beatrice, and Caleb Wells, who plays Pedro, who stand out in an already good cast. Two of my favourite episodes in the series are ‘The Limitations of Technology and the Art of Self Representation in the Modern World’ and ‘Help Me (Make Hero’s Present Awesome)’, which are a brilliant showcase of Maire’s acting. Beatrice’s facial expressions in both of these episodes are fantastic, and her monologue about Benedick is one of the most realistic and natural pieces of acting I’ve ever seen. It really feels like a teenager trying to work out her feelings. By contrast, it’s hard to pinpoint one episode which showcases Wells’ acting, since Pedro has a fascinating arc throughout the series, and, despite not being credited as one of the main characters, consistently steals all the scenes he appears in.
All in all, Nothing Much to Do is a fantastic standalone series which adapts Much Ado About Nothing in a clever and engaging way. From the characters to the video editing to the script, the series forms a realistic and coherent narrative which I have enjoyed watching and re-watching. Maybe I’m a little biased because I love the source material so much, but I like to think I can be objective enough about these things to make balanced recommendations: this is a series I would not hesitate to recommend again and again.