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Much Ado About Hope

First aired: The Signal: Season 7, Episode 19
Written by Helen Eaton
Read by Helen Eaton
Edited by Helen Eaton

How did you react to the recent news that Joss Whedon had secretly filmed a version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing? My first reaction was one of outright giddiness. I confess that I practically waltzed round my flat with a goofy grin fixed on my face and the music from Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 film version running through my head. I love Shakespeare’s use of language and the prospect of hearing some choice Whedonverse actors delivering his lines is, to me, quite delicious. There are obviously some rather major differences between Joss Whedon’s writing of dialogue and Shakespeare’s, but when I think about what I like about both writers, the same thoughts come to mind: a masterful control of rhythm, imagery which is both original and vivid, a stylised naturalness and even a tendency to make up words. When it comes to Shakespeare, there isn’t much worse than actors who mangle and flatten the dialogue, but I think I can be pretty sure that Joss Whedon won’t let that happen this time.

Another reason for my giddiness was the particular choice of play. Much Ado About Nothing is a lot of fun. Sure, the plot is contrived and utterly silly, but the joy of watching the two main characters, Beatrice and Benedick, at each other’s throats and sarcastically bantering away, more than makes up for that. The story is also simple and accessible enough to mean that there’s no need to study up before watching it on stage or screen. It’s possible to enjoy it immensely and follow along with the plot quite happily, even if some snatches of dialogue pass you by.

I think if Joss Whedon had announced a cast of unknowns for his version of Much Ado, I would still have been excited, although to a lesser extent. But, of course, he didn’t. As the press release itself said, the film features “a stellar cast of beloved (or soon to be beloved) actors”. Many of those actors are known to me because of their roles in Firefly, Buffy, Angel or Dollhouse, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them again. In many cases, the pairing of actor and role looks inspired. I’m sure I’m not the only person excited to see Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof - Fred and Wesley from Angel - reunited to play Beatrice and Benedick. And then there’s the intriguing prospect of Sean Maher as the villainous Don John. I’m also curious to see what Fran Kranz - Topher from Dollhouse - will do with Claudio, a character I’ve often thought a bit wimpy. Perhaps the biggest draw for Browncoats though is Nathan Fillion as the buffoonish constable, Dogberry. That I cannot wait to see. Dogberry’s put -upon sidekick, Verges, is played by Tom Lenk - Andrew from Buffy and Angel. The pairing of these two actors is surely a match made in Whedonverse heaven.

So, as you can probably tell by now, I’m looking forward to seeing this film one day. But there’s another reason why the announcement about Much Ado has got me excited: it has given me hope. I know almost nothing about the film industry, but the idea that Joss Whedon can secretly film Much Ado in twelve days makes me think this man really can do the impossible. What does that mean for us Browncoats, fervently hoping for more filmed Firefly content? I don’t know. But I do know one thing: I have more hope now than I had before.

Much Ado will be the first feature from Bellwether Pictures, a “micro-studio” created by Joss Whedon and his wife, Kai Cole, and described as being for the production of “small, independent narratives for all media, embracing a DIY ethos and newer technologies”. This description also gives me hope, and makes me think of Mal’s words to Zoe in Out of Gas about taking on a “Small crew, them as feel the need to be free. Take jobs as they come— ain’t never have to be under the heel of nobody ever again.”

The name “Bellwether” suggests that Joss is planning to lead us to pastures new. Maybe, just maybe, one day he will be leading us into the black again.

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