‘Shakespeare’ BBC docu-drama series celebrates 400th anniversary

The BBC has announced details of a new series about William Shakespeare.

Marking the 400-year anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio, the docu-drama box set will shine a “fresh light on the incredible life story of our greatest writer.”

The series comes from 72 Films, who’ve made acclaimed factual series like Rise of the Nazis and Elizabeth’s Secret Agents, as well as ITV’s upcoming Royal Family documentary The Real Crown: Inside the House of Windsor.

Shakespeare will see “some of Britain’s finest actors” portraying Shakespeare, his friends and associates.

We’ll also see experts and historians explaining the real-life dramas, events and upheavals that inspired Shakespeare’s work and defined the Elizabethan period.

“Told like a thriller, it will reveal how a young boy, born into a sleepy English town in the iron grip of an epidemic, finds his way to London and the midst of a cultural revolution, to become the world’s most famous and enduring playwright,” reveals the officials synopsis.

Shakespeare takes us on a vivid journey into Tudor England, bringing to life a dangerous and exciting world filled with murder, treason, political and religious intrigue, fraud, theft and beheadings, that sparked Shakespeare’s creative genius.”

The three-part series will be accompanied by broadcasts of “a star-studded selection” of William Shakespeare’s plays.

BBC Four will be showing classic stage performances including James McArdle and Saoirse Ronan’s The Tragedy of Macbeth from the Almeida, Billy Howle as Hamlet at the Bristol Old Vic, Henry V at Shakespeare’s Globe, the RSC’s Henry VI Part 1 with Sir Antony Sher playing Falstaff, the RSC’s Much Ado About Nothing, and Emma Rice’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream from Shakespeare’s Globe.

A collection of Shakespeare resources is also being compiled by BBC Teach for use in primary and secondary schools.

Shakespeare will air on BBC Two and streaming on BBC iPlayer later this year.

The commission was announced last week alongside a number of other new BBC shows, including a factual series from Professor Brian Cox about the Solar System, a second season of police drama Blue Lights, and the first ever TV adaptation of Lord of the Flies.

“The new commissions that I’m announcing today are quintessentially BBC, I believe they are shows that only we would make,” said BBC Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore. “We’re at our best when we follow passions, when we tell stories that haven’t been told before – and we have an immensely powerful story to tell.”

Speaking to the Broadcasting Press Guild, she explained: “But we are facing very real and tough financial challenges. It’s important to understand the context we are operating in. The BBC is not unique in this, but we are managing the financial challenges while adapting for the future so all licence fee payers get value from us whilst adjusting to an ever increasing on demand world.”

The BBC’s Shakespeare series is not connected to the upcoming drama series about his life from Happy Valley star Sarah Lancashire and Peaky Blinders writer Steven Knight.

Several of the BBC’s classic William Shakespeare adaptations are available on DVD on Amazon.