The Wars of the Roses release

15th June 2016

We are delighted to confirm that our exclusive 3-disc DVD of The Wars of the Roses will be released on Tuesday 28 June. Adapted from the Henry VI plays and Richard III by William Shakespeare, this is the Royal Shakespeare Company production filmed by the BBC in 1964 and available for the first time since their broadcast on BBC 1 in 1965. One of the greatest achievements of the RSC and of British television in the 1960s has been digitally restored and is at last available on DVD.

‘A monumental production. One of the mightiest stage projects of our time, a production to remember all our lives.’
Bernard Levin writing for the Daily Mail in July 1963

The 3 discs contain 505 minutes including extras and retail at £29.99.


We will be writing much more about The Wars of the Roses over the coming days, but to begin with here is our press release:

The Wars of the Roses is the BBC’s compelling version of the RSC’s landmark production of Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy and Richard III. Adapted and directed for stage by Peter Hall and John Barton, it was acknowledged at its premiere in Stratford in 1963 as one of the defining Shakespeare productions of the post-war period.

Featuring a stellar cast including Ian Holm, David Warner, Janet Suzman, Donald Sindon and Peggy Ashcroft, Hall and Barton conjured up a vivid medieval world to reveal how the manoeuvrings and mendacities of the fifteenth century are echoed by politicians in our own time. In 1965, the BBC broadcast all three plays from the trilogy and The Wars of the Roses is presented in this boxed set in its original form but specially restored for DVD.

Directed for television in 1965 by Robin Midgley and Michael Hayes, the BBC harnessed state-of-the-art production techniques to ensure that the plays were presented as more than simply filmed theatre. The TV adaptation was shot over an eight-week period with 130 BBC and RSC staff. John Bury’s mammoth and menacing steel set and the use of 12 cameras – some hand-held, some on raised platforms – aimed “to get to the heart of the production” (Michael Bakewell, BBC executive), so that the final product could be edited more like a film than a piece of static filmed theatre. This was recorded at the beginning of stage-to-screen production, which for cinemas is so commonplace today.

DVD extras:
A 20-minute film Making The Wars of the Roses featuring interviews with original cast members, David Warner and Janet Suzman.
16-page booklet giving background information and critical writing about the production, accompanied by a stunning range of stills.

DVD information:

Format: PAL region 0
Subtitles: English for the hard of hearing
DVD barcode: 5060291820102
DVD catalogue number: WOR091

Link to DVD in Illuminations film shop
Link to RSC shop


  1. Paul says:

    Any hope of an American format release?

  2. Hi,
    I have the same question as above – when can we expect the NA format release? It is in demand by Universities offering Shakespeare courses.
    Thank you

    • Louise Machin says:

      I’m sorry but there are no plans to release a North American version because the BBC would not grant us the rights. However, because the disc is region 0 it will play in any DVD player. If the TV set is fairly new, it should play both PAL and NTSC DVDs. Or if you’re playing through a computer, it should be fine.

  3. Alex Neeley says:

    If the BBC ever grants you the rights to release it in the U.S. and Canada, could you please let us all know?

  4. Tom Allen says:

    Hi Alex,

    Thanks for your email. I tried to reply to it but it bounced back. I’ve sent another email from my Hotmail account, which may or may not have ended up in your spam folder. Thanks.

    Kind regards,


  5. Helle Patterson says:

    This is an absolutely riveting set of DVDs. I saw The Wars of the Roses on BBC in 1965, and have remembered it for all these years. To re-watch it and to be able to keep it for the future is a joy I didn’t ever think I would have.
    To all the people living in the US, I say buy yourselves an all-region DVD player, which is what I have. You can find them online.

    • Louise Machin says:

      Thank you for your wonderful comments, Helle. So glad you enjoyed the trip down memory lane! You might also be interested in our release, An Age of Kings, which is the BBC’s compelling 15-episode production from 1960 of Shakespeare’s eight History plays. This DVD box set also has a 24pp booklet of background information and critical writing.
      Do please note that The Wars of the Roses is region-free encoded which means it will play in any DVD player around the world. It is a PAL format, so you need to ensure your television set can play both PAL and NTSC formats… it’s nothing to do with the DVD player.

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