This week I’ve been on possibly the strangest mini-kick I’ve ever experienced. Thanks to YouTube’s recommendations, I discovered and watched David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s rendition of “Much Ado About Nothing.” From then on, I’ve been getting into more adaptations of Shakespeare’s work. I honestly never thought I’d say that in my lifetime.
I’ve had a mixed relationship with Shakespeare. Like most people, I was first introduced to his work in school. I always detested having to read and study his plays, not just because it felt like a chore but also because I’ve always been a visual learner. Whenever we would watch a movie related to whichever play we were studying, I often found the work more interesting afterwards. However, I was also drawn to the tragic stories over the romances like “Romeo & Juliet” and “Twelfth Night.” It’s cliched by now due to their popularity, but I adored “Hamlet” and thought “Macbeth” was awesome in how messed up it was. Despite this, I was happy to leave Shakespeare behind once I left high school.
But lately, I’ve found that watching Shakespeare via plays and adaptations makes me appreciate the Bard far more than I did back then. Aside from Tennant and Tate’s “Much Ado,” I’ve also watched Joss Whedon’s version, Tennant’s version of Hamlet, the meta comedy “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead”, “West Side Story” aka my preferred take on “Romeo & Juliet”, and Ian McKellen’s “Richard III.” I know this is a small taste of Shakespeare, but I’ve found that if a rendition of his work has a gimmick, actors/actresses I enjoy, or both, it makes it easier for me to get engaged with the story and language. In fact, the one adaptation that did stick with me from high school was Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet” for how epic and stylized it was.
Besides YouTube, I have to partially blame Kyle Kallgren (formerly known as Oancitizen) for making me want to continue seeking out more Shakespeare adaptations. It was thanks to the yearly Shakespeare Month portion of his web show, Brows Held High, that I initially watched Whedon’s “Much Ado” back in 2014. I’ve spent this week catching up on his other Shakespeare videos to see what other adaptations are out there. Again, it’s really bizarre to me that I’ve taken this much interest in something I couldn’t wait to get away from in school. I don’t consider myself obsessed at this point, but I can at least say I have a newfound respect for Shakespeare. I’m more than happy to make some fresh memories out of the fun I’ve had checking out his work now instead of remembering the tedium I felt back then.