Richard II: ‘sad stories of the death of kings’

7th July 2012

Let’s be absolutely clear: the opening film in The Hollow Crown, shown on BBC2 last Saturday, is a thrilling Richard II (on BBC iPlayer until 28 July). With Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear as, respectively, Richard and Bolingbroke, and as directed by Rupert Goold, this is a wonderfully confident and compelling adaptation distinguished by an astonishing central performance. The film looks great (director of photography Danny Cohen) and it sounds great (composer Adam Cork). That said, I want to ask a few questions of it and raise a concern or two, whilst also exploring a little further its images and ideas. read more »

Catching my breath

2nd July 2012

I was in a very rainy Glasgow over the weekend at the International Screen Studies Conference. Back in London today, I am looking forward to a month or so when I can finally do some writing, reading and viewing. This feels like a time to catch my breath after the production of Julius Caesar and Shakespeare’s Sonnets, which have meant that the last few months have been fairly hectic – and I still have lots to reflect on from both experiences (some of which I intend to post here).

There is so much to see (and to blog about), including Saturday’s Richard II (on iPlayer for a month) and then the two parts of Henry IV (above) which I’ll catch at BFI Southbank tonight. I am really keen too to return to The Space, to see (and blog about) much of what I have been missing there, and to continue working my way through the wonderful Globe to Globe recordings. I want too to get to dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel and I have one or two other small adventures scheduled across the summer.

‘Shall I compare thee…?’

27th June 2012

Oh yes, it’s completely thrilling to say that The Sonnets by William Shakespeare for the iPad was launched today. A collaboration with Touch Press, Faber and The Arden Shakespeare, it features a wealth of content, including performances on video of all 154 of the poems. You can download it for £9.99 from the iTunes store, and it is already attracting fantastic reviews. As the app of the day at msn’s tech & gadgets it is described as ‘a marvellous piece of work… worth every penny’. For The Telegraph, Shane Richmond awards it 5 stars and describes it as ‘a wonderful app that will provide hours of enjoyment’. Boyd Tonkin wrote in The Independent that the app is ‘a digital delight … even the mighty rhymster might have gasped in awe at the latest medium to carry his verse.’ And at the weekend, Robert Collins in the Sunday Times called it, ‘a masterly app… It’s all so intuitively easy to use and so superbly thorough that you start to feel that this is precisely what a book should be. As accessible as it is scholarly, it’s an extraordinary achievement, that brings the sonnets bracingly to life and definitively sets the bar for the future of digital reading.’ (There is so much I want to write about this – so, more later…)

Shakespeare Uncovered and unkind cuts

26th June 2012

After a string of posts about Julius Caesar, this one stays with Shakespeare but shifts the focus to another programme. I want to muse today about the first in the series Shakespeare Uncovered (and I would be grateful if someone can explain to me what the title means.) The idea of these six films, which are made by Blakeway Productions with 116 Films and Thirteen in association with the BBC and Shakespeare’s Globe, is that each one has a prominent thesp (although Trevor Nunn also does one) exploring one of Shakespeare’s plays. To come we have Macbeth with Ethan Hawke (did I mention it is an American co-pro – anyway that’s tonight at 21:00 on BBC Four) and David Tennant on Hamlet. And the first film, shown last week and on BBC iPlayer until 10 July has a radiant Joely Richardson looking at two plays: Twelfth Night and As You Like It.

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‘I shall see thee again’ [Updated]

25th June 2012

So, friends, Julius Caesar is on BBC iPlayer. Available until 10.29pm on Sunday 1 July. Go here for my round-up of reactions, including links to reviews from the Guardian, The Independent and The Arts Desk, and here for my blog during last night’s broadcast. There is an interesting thread under the Guardian review, and I have posted a couple of the comments across the jump at the bottom. And now I have added a (lengthy) digest of the past 36 hours on Twitter. For me, one of the the most thoughtful responses so far is Peter Kirwan’s at The Bardathon blog which is really worth reading. read more »

‘Never till tonight, never till now’

24th June 2012

06:20 (Monday morning): In fact, I didn’t add to the blog (see 22:23 below) after the end of the broadcast. In part this was because my two sons came back from the pub disappointed and dejected (no, they hadn’t been watching Julius Caesar) and in part because some very nice people rang and texted and mailed (with congrats). So I’ve had a night’s sleep to reflect – and I am still totally thrilled with the way the film looked and sounded and leapt off the screen. Greg and the whole cast and the art department under Michael Vale and DOP Steve Lawes and editor Trevor Waite and the sound team and everyone else who contributed have made something really pretty wonderful. A thousand thanks to one and all. read more »

‘Be thou my witness…’ [Updated]

22nd June 2012

As I have done previously with our productions of Hamlet (2009) and Macbeth (2010), I am using this page to draw together responses to our new film of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Julius Caesar. The film is first broadcast by BBC Four on Sunday night, 24 June, at 8pm, and we very much hope that you will see it then or during the following week on BBC iPlayer. Over the coming days I will update this post with all of the reactions I can find – and your thoughts and questions will be very welcome in the Comments below. For the latest news, follow @Illuminations on  Twitter – and if you comment about the film there please use #JuliusCaesar. Across the jump you will find links to the key BBC resources, to articles, previews, reviews, blog posts and more, as well as an index of links to all the previous Illuminations posts about Julius Caesar.

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‘The order of the course’

20th June 2012

Today we started the grade for our film of the RSC’s Julius Caesar. The final sound mix is underway too. So it’s all a bit busy, and that’s without the other projects to finish off and the new ones to prepare. Here is how ‘the order of the course’ plays out over the next few days. Remember too that all of this is against the backdrop of continuing PR and marketing (my BBC blog post has just gone live, and Greg Doran’s Guardian feature has appeared). Oh, and a pile of paperwork is waiting back at the office, transmission notifications to send, and even this note to scratch out… read more »

‘Much that I fear may chance’

19th June 2012

It may be that in all the excitement about the imminent transmission of Julius Caesar you have missed the news that the England football team play Ukraine this evening. And although your faithful blogger would not normally bring his interest in the beautiful game to this column, there is a connection between Caesar and what may chance tonight in Donetsk. England are playing for a quarter-final place in the Euro 2012 championship, and should their result better the score of France’s simultaneous game against Sweden, then not only will we proceed to the next round (cue unrestrained rejoicing across the land) but we will also top Group D. In which case we will face Italy on Sunday night, with kick-off at 7.45 pm UK time. read more »

‘Read mine first…’

17th June 2012

There is something a little strange about seeing in print a review of your programme when it is not yet finished. But the transmission master of our film of the RSC’s Julius Caesar will only be delivered  on the morning of the broadcast – which is next Sunday, 24 June. So in the last few days we have released a handful of not-yet-complete copies for journalists to take a look at – and our first advance review has appeared, courtesy of Michael Moran at The Lady (‘for elegant women with elegant minds’). More on this below, along with extracts from Saturday’s All the world’s a screen by Sarah Hemming for the Financial Times. She discusses films from stage productions, with contributions from our director Greg Doran and nice comments about Macbeth and Hamlet as well as Julius Caesar. read more »