LIW Review: Nothing Much To Do
Posted (late) in honor of the third anniversary of the first episode on March 26th.
Nothing Much To Do has been the gold standard in literary-inspired webseries for close to three years. The series won eight out of ten awards (best supporting actress, best costume and set design, best ensemble cast, the honorary award, best script, best actress, best actor, and best LIW) at the first-ever literary-inspired webseries awards in 2015.
NMTD was created by The Candle Wasters, a group of four young women from New Zealand who decided they’d like to create a Shakespeare adaptation. They chose Much Ado About Nothing and set it at Messina High School in Auckland, New Zealand, where Beatrice Duke has moved to stay with her cousin Hero while her parents are in Australia. Bea decides to take up vlogging, and that’s where the story starts.
Beatrice Duke’s parents move to Australia, and she chooses to spend her last year of high school at Messina High with her dear cousin Hero, her old friend Pedro, her arch nemesis Benedick, and the rest of the gang. Hero has a crush on soccer goalie Claudio, and when it starts looking like things might be on track for the pair of them, the characters decide, led by Pedro, to get Beatrice and Benedick together. The result is a romantic comedy musical of Shakespearean proportions, with the occasional flamingo or bathtub thrown in, just for good measure.
The series takes place across three YouTube channels, all of which are essential for understanding the entire story. The main channel is Nothing Much To Do, home to Beatrice and Hero’s weekly vlogs. Once he sees Beatrice doing it, Benedick decides to take up vlogging as well. His channel is called benaddicktion. The third channel, Watch Projects, is home to Ursula’s film projects, Verges and Dogberry’s detective show, and Balthazar’s music videos.
NMTD was the first webseries in which all of the content on all YouTube channels was equally important to the plot. The description boxes on every video were written in character and were often as important as the content of the videos themselves (see “An Ode” and “one foot on sea one on shore one in the boiling hot lava”). The titles of the videos also reflect the personalities the person uploading them (Benedick, for example, gives all his videos one-word titles that are thematically linked in his mind to the contents of said video).
The Candle Wasters stayed up late to upload videos when the characters would have. The characters interacted with the audience (and once with each other) in the comments section. Beatrice also had a Twitter account, Hero had an Instagram, and Ursula had a Tumblr, and the transmedia supplemented the story but was not necessary for understanding it.
Also, these people act both like the characters in the play and like actual high schoolers, which is rare in any sort of adaptation, much less one with no budget.
The only non-white character is Ursula, who is of Asian descent, but the LGBTQ+ representation is strong, especially for 2014. Hero and Leo have two moms, who are off on their belated honeymoon for the duration or the series. Balthazar is openly gay (though he never actually uses that word). There’s also another semi-surprising and very satisfying coming out in one of the final episodes.
Astonishingly good for not having a budget, because The Candle Wasters put in the extra effort to borrow good film equipment and to edit skillfully.
My three favorite things about NMTD:
1) Benedick’s bathtub vlogs
2) The music. Seriously. These people deserve many awards for the music in this show.
3) “one foot on sea one on shore one in the boiling hot lava” – you have to watch it to know why.
While I personally don’t find any faults in this webseries, there are a few things about it that are difficult for other people. The Candle Wasters have a hatred of exposition, so a lot of background information is late, vague, or nonexistent. It can also be hard to understand all of what’s going on if you don’t read the video descriptions, which is an extra step not required by many other webseries. Racial diversity, as I said, is low, but considering the resources The Candle Wasters had at the time, I can’t fault them for that. Besides, every last one of their casting choices was perfect.
NMTD takes a famous Shakespeare play and, while staying completely true to the story, manages to bring in discussions of slut-shaming, create queer representation that doesn’t even go against canon, AND make the whole thing a musical. They explored the vlogseries format almost to its limits. And the characters are just so loveable.
I would recommend this webseries to anyone and everyone with any interest in Shakespeare, feminism, musicals, literary-inspired webseries, or a whole load of other things. My love for NMTD is eclipsed only by my love for the sequel, Lovely Little Losers, so stay tuned for that review soon.
5/5 stars. And I probably won’t be giving out many of those.
Wow, that got long. I wouldn’t have written a review this long for anything else, I swear.
Harriett Maire @harriettstella as Beatrice Duke, aka Queen of the World
Pearl Kennedy as Hero Duke, her cousin, “practically perfect in every way”
Jake McGregor @jakeasaurus–rex as Benedick Hobbes, Brit, Whovian, bird enthusiast
Matthew J. Smith as Claudio, long-time bachelor and soccer player extraordinaire
Caleb Wells as Pedro Donaldson, “all round great guy”
George Maunsell as John Donaldson, Pedro’s shifty half brother
Holly Parkes as Verges, has to wear the suspenders to prevent the Devil from infiltrating her
David Hannah as Dogberry, Sherlock fan and adorable little muffin
Jessica Stansfield as Margaret “Meg,” aka Queen of Scream
John Burrows as Robbie, Meg’s boyfriend
Reuben Hudson as Balthazar, the most adorable, precious, talented, non-confrontational person in all of webseries history
Lucie Everett-Brown as Cora, John’s shifty friend
Tina Pan as Ursula, lovely girl behind the camera
Alex MacDonald as Leo, older brother of Hero and coach of the soccer team
Created by The Candle Wasters @thecandlewasters
Approximately five hours
You can watch the whole thing on YouTube here:
Or here with links to the transmedia elements:https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1e5Y1TM2sDnE5SuaBl6Y9fFm3F2d9eptde0PjUTwN3oY/pub?start=false&loop=false&delayms=3000&slide=id.g617374c14_124