Monday, November 07, 2005
The play's the thing
BARD! Much Ado About Nothing, BBC1, 8.30pm
Billie Paul Piper, classical actress. How many of us saw that one coming when she was on Top of the Pops, cheerfully if mimefully informing us that we were her mo'ivation? Not many. And perhaps "classical" actress is pushing a bit, but she's done Chaucer on the BBC (after a fashion), she's doing Shakespeare on the BBC (after a fashion), and what's more classical than Doctor Who? Not much.
Since the Chaucer updates were such a success, the Beeb has gone all Bard on us with a selection of Shakespearean favourites updated in a modern setting, and tonight's opener is the comedy of wits Much Ado About Nothing. The play centres around the eternally sparring Benedick and Beatrice who do not realise (because they never watched Moonlighting) that their constant bickering means they are attracted to each other, and a young girl who fakes her own death after her virginity is called into question. We don't really know why, that sort of thing happened all the time on Melrose Place (and yes, we did steal that joke from an old episode of Boy Meets World. Sue us).
The new version is set in a newsroom where Benedick and Beatrice are the co-anchors. Damian Lewis and Sarah Parish play the respective parts, and we can hear the sexual chemistry fizzling from here without even seeing the show, but maybe that's because we just really like those two. Billie Piper's Hero (no, really, that's her name) is the weathergirl whose wedding - not to mention professional reputation - is left in tatters when rumours of an affair are spread, much like her legs. No, we didn't really just go there, honest. Also popping up in supporting roles are Derek "Book Group" Riddell, Nina "Teachers" Sosanya and Olivia "Peep Show and Green Wing" Colman. Try to overlook the fact that it came from a high-culture source and just admire the bitching, okay?