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In an era that has witnessed the steady rise of YouTube and its own brand of celebrities, it seemed only natural that literary web series adaptations would find their way into the vlogging sphere at some point.
Well known for their reimagining of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice into 2012’s Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Pemberley Digital has led this up and coming genre, lining up the ranks with the Emma adaptation Emma Approved, and Frankenstein MD. There is no shortage of alternatives outside Pemberley Digital, either. Some adaptations are definitely better than others, but there is nonetheless a series for almost every area of the literary spectrum. If Jane Austen isn’t quite your cup of tea, Anne Shirley is a seventeen-year-old vlogger in Green Gables Fables, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre comes to vlogging life in The Autobiography of Jane Eyre. Whether you’re up for Edgar Allan Poe retold in A Tell Tale Vlog, or Peter Pan reimagined in The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy, YouTube has something for you.
Particularly popular for these web series adaptations, however, is the world of Shakespeare.
As someone who has at one point become too weary of Romeo and Juliet retellings and didn’t quite enjoy the web series Jules and Monty as much as I’d like to, I wasn’t too excited about discovering The Candle Wasters. The Candle Wasters is a team of four young women that produced a New Zealand-based adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing roughly a year ago, and if anything, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t find them sooner.
Their adaptation, Nothing Much To Do, is a reimagining told through three different YouTube channels — one for the modern Beatrice, one for the modern Benedick, and a third, more neutral vlog, to show parts of the story not present in Beatrice and Benedick’s stories. Beatrice (Harriett Stella) and Benedick (Jake McGregor) are high school students caught, to the dismay of their group of shared friends, in a heated rivalry that often gets in the way of the gang’s daily shenanigans. The bitter air between the two, however, makes way for a romantic storyline as the drama in the core of the story unfolds and they are forced to re-evaluate the dynamics of their peer group.
There’s more characters featured in this series than most adaptations, but instead of being scattered and overwhelming, Nothing Much To Do thankfully does not allow any characters, major or minor, to fall flat. The actors are convincing and lovable in each of their roles, and the chemistry between the two main characters rounds out a charming, well-developed cast. The larger number also allows the series to branch out from the typical bedroom-restricted monologues, and most episodes feature different filming locations and interactions with secondary characters.
The plot does take a while to pick up, but the modernized adaptation of the same storyline and at times even the exact same scenes from the original Shakespeare is refreshing and realistic enough that you can’t begrudge the slow pace of the first few episodes. Multiple elements of the original Shakespeare play are brilliantly present in the narrative, smoothly transitioned into the world of teenage woes and impressively far from being anachronistic. It’s obvious that The Candle Wasters have closely studied the material they’re working with, from clever allusions to specific lines in Much Ado About Nothing to cheeky references to other Shakespeare plays passed off as offhand remarks. Combined with an amazing cast and extremely well written dialogue, this easily makes Nothing Much To Do my new favourite literary adaptation on YouTube.
The Candle Wasters are currently working on Lovely Little Losers, an adaptation of Love’s Labour’s Lost serving as a sequel to Nothing Much To Do. They have recently launched a Kickstarter for Bright Summer Night, an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and with what I’ve seen so far, I can vouch for the fact that this production crew is brilliant at what they do, and deserves all the support they can get.