New adaptation has a very French connection
William Shakespeare is like one of those tour buses that take tourists around his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon – you wait years for a decent adaptation of one of his works to come along and then, to be or not to be, loads of them appear at once.
That’s because, to put it bluntly, he’s been dead for 400 years. The BBC likes to mark an event by throwing lots of programmes at it (see the current David Attenborough season for an example), and so the Bard is the latest in a long line of venerable institutions to be celebrated.
That might sound like a criticism, but it’s not. Our first taste of Shakespeare tends to come from lessons at school and, if the teacher isn’t particularly inspiring, he can come across as rather dry and indecipherable. If that’s been your experience of him so far, then the latest instalment of The Hollow Crown may turn you from being apathetic into a genuine fan.
In 2012, as part of a celebration of British culture around the time of the London Olympics, the BBC broadcast the first series, which was an award-winning adaptation of several of Shakespeare’s history plays featuring an all-star cast.
Four years on and at last, the second series, subtitled The Wars Of The Roses, is heading out way and which performances of Henry VI, Parts I, II and III (the last two have been condensed into one film), and Richard III.
Tom Sturridge plays Henry in The Hollow Crown: TheWars of the Roses – Henry VI Part I (Saturday, BBC2, 9pm), which focuses on the loss of England’s French territories. Sophie Okonedo, Michael Gambon and Hugh Bonneville are among the supporting cast.
"To have the chance to work with some of Britain’s most talented actors is a dream come true,” says executive producer Pippa Harris. “We couldn't be more delighted to have them on board."
“Building on the critical success of The Hollow Crown, this extraordinary cast and production team will raise the bar of British drama once more and build on BBC Two’s reputation for distinctive drama,” adds Ben Stephenson, controller of BBC drama commissioning.
While much is expected from tonight’s feature-length drama, it’s next week’s programme that could attract record audience figures for a Shakespearean adaptation thanks to the fact that it stars flavour of the month Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role of Richard III.
Royal appointment Tom Sturridge stars in the drama.