BBC Two has recently confirmed the commission of a new six-part series ‘Upstart Crow’ based on the life of William Shakespeare. The show plans to appear as a part of the BBC’s Shakespeare Festival 2016 in the bid to mark the 400th year since William Shakespeare’s passing by documenting from Shakespeare in the blossoming of his career from 1592, and presenting his creative journey to a new generation.
The BBC Two series by Ben Elton is set to be released in Spring 2016 and proceeds Elton’s previous success in bringing the Elizabethan period to life in Blackadder. The production by BBC-In-House Comedy, may indicate a bold and fresh take on conventional storytelling, through a witty rendition of William Shakespeare’s life. This may be further supported by the casting, in which Peep Show star David Mitchell is set to the role of Shakespeare and Game of Thrones actress Gemma Whelan as his daughter Susanna. These very current British actors may contribute to generating a keen interest for viewers who may be able to associate Mitchell in particular with highly comedic roles.
Creator Ben Elton stated in a recent BBC interview that he has “tried very hard to think [himself] into Shakespeare’s creative world, writing only with a small chicken feather [without] changing underpants for a year.” As indicated by both the production and the casting, BBC’s comedic set up may see a vibrant commentary that previews Shakespeare’s journey from the inspiration for his writing to his family life and personal relations, as well as his quest for social mobility.
Firstly, the series plans to uncover Shakespeare’s professional ventures such as his unlikely source for the inspiration of Romeo, from Shakespeare’s 1595 play ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Similarly, it may provide an insight into his relations with his then wife Anne, his extended family as well as his servant Bottom. Additionally and most directly related to the series title ‘Upstart Crow’, the show may seek to endeavour in exploring Shakespeare’s historical controversy with opponent Robert Greene. As documented by Theatre History , the 16th century pamphlet credited to playwright Robert Greene created controversy in its bold critique of other play writers, and is commonly accepted to be regarding Shakespeare in which the phrase ‘upstart crow’ derives from.
The series may also be set to cleverly evoke many 16th century debates surrounding class and social mobility, as the middle-class scribe William Shakespeare’s efforts to break into the upper class through his writing reflect many historical relations between writing as a commodity within Elizabethan England. Thus, it may educate viewers to understand a wider contextual background to playwriting within the 16th century.
This balanced preview of Shakespeare’s personal as well as professional life may be successful in the form of comedy as has the potential to reach new and possibly younger audiences. Likewise, the Shakespearean-modern-day English dialogue set to be used may endeavour to be more accessible to younger viewers and readers. Therefore this BBC rendition of Shakespeare’s life may transform the biography of this historical figure into a relatable adaptation to be enjoyed by all as well as educating viewers to engage in Shakespeare’s biography further, as well as take an interest in his plays.
Bringing communities together artistically, the BBC Shakespeare Festival aims to launch on 23rd April — to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday. Alongside this, the British Film Institute aims to be staging new re-interpretations of Shakespeare classic works in an effort to expand audiences and generate interest in the life of William Shakespeare. Other key partners marking this 400th anniversary also include the Royal Shakespeare Company, whom aims to be staging a live birthday celebration with plans to be hosted by David Tennant . Likewise The British Council, the Royal Opera House, Shakespeare’s Globe and Hay Festival all additionally share the ambition to get more people enjoying Shakespeare than ever before by interpreting his work in new ways across TV, radio and online.
How may Upstart Crow engage new audiences to the life of William Shakespeare?