I watched Much Ado About Nothing last night for several reasons.
1. After subjecting myself to the dismal, stomach-wrenching sacrilege of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's go at Taming of the Shrew, I was in desperate need of some deftly handled Bard.
2. Much Ado's clever banter always seems to remind me what I'm looking for.
3. It never fails to lighten my spirits.
From those opening lines, with Emma Thompson perched so perfectly in an olive tree, reading to the picnic on the Tuscan hillside, it gets me.
Sigh no more, ladies.
Sigh no more.
Men were deceivers ever.
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey Nonny Nonny!
With a quick opening scene and a prelude of what's to come, the viewer is then surrendered to the joyous strains of Patrick Doyle's masterful score, which sweeps you down the hillside, back to the villa, infecting your blood with the high spirited anticipation of what's to come.
The best part, however, is the masterful execution of banter between Emma Thompson's Beatrice and Kenneth Branaugh's Benedick. After watching an over-the-top Petruchio who milked the audience in awkward silences that he misinterpreted as interest, and the hectic Katherine who threw tantrums, not shrew storms, on stage, throwing Shakespeare's clever lines back and forth at each other at level 11 with little emotional range and less understanding of what they were saying, it was like manna from heaven to watch Beatrice and Benedick. Thompson and Branaugh deliver lines as though they were modern vernacular, as though these words, and none other, sprang to mind. They don't ride Shakespeare's clever coattails. They breathe his artform like it is air. And they leave me smiling.
Beatrice: I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.
Benedick: God keep your ladyship still in that mind, so some gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate scratched face.
Beatrice: Scratching could not make it worse on't were such a face as yours...
Benedick: When I said I will die a bachelor, I did not think I would live till I were married...
Beatrice: I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest...
Benedick: Thou and I are too wise to love peaceably.
Benedick: Serve God. Love me. And mend.
Benedick: For man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion...