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24 September 2014

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Sarah Parish as Beatrice, Billie Piper as Hero and Damian Lewis as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing

The Making of Much Ado About Nothing - page one

Diederick Santer is a producer for BBC Drama Series & Serials, where he produced the first three series of the hit hairdressing drama Cutting It. He has also worked as a script editor for Granada and for United Productions, where we worked on ITV series including The Last Train, Always and Everyone and the first two series of Where The Heart Is.

Here he describes the process of producing the BBC ONE updating of Much Ado About Nothing.

The script

In the summer of 2004 I started work with writer David Nicholls on a modern adaptation of Shakespeare's much-loved romantic comedy, Much Ado About Nothing. He'd been talking with Kate Bartlett (producer of The Canterbury Tales) about doing one of the Shakespeare adaptations she was planning.

The idea was to bring his plays to a new audience, and hopefully help to spark a renewed interest in Shakespeare, by asking some of the UK's top TV writers to adapt them into modern settings. David chose Much Ado, and decided to set it in a department store. With Kate busy on other projects, I was thrilled to take over. I'd long been a fan of David's work - I'd loved his episodes of Cold Feet and had just read his hilarious debut novel Starter For Ten (currently being filmed with James McAvoy in the lead role).

I liked the department store idea, but at our first meeting David told me he was losing faith. He felt that the themes and the characters of the play just wouldn't work out in that setting. Determined to make it work, script editor Kate Evans and I offered to take David out to lunch. In the hope of inspiring him we met him in the cafeteria of John Lewis's on Oxford Street in London.

I told him he could have anything he liked, and that it was my hope that we would find a way to make Much Ado About Nothing into an Are You Being Served? for the 21st century. None of this impressed David in any way so he went a bit quiet, then Kate and I asked him if he had any other ideas for where to set the play.


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