BBC Shakespeare 2012

I don’t normally copy out an entire news item from another site, but this is too exciting not to share.  Some of my favorite actors (highlighted here in green) are going to be in some of my favorite Shakespeare plays on BBC 2.

Cast Confirmed for BBC 2’s Cycle of Shakespeare Films

The BBC has announced that the definitive cast list for the BBC Two Shakespeare films encompassing Richard II, Henry IV (Parts I and II) and Henry V has been confirmed.

Featuring Shakespearean actors, all four films have been commissioned by BBC Two for their Shakespeare season in 2012 as part of the BBC’s contribution to the London 2012 Festival and the Cultural Olympiad. The films were commissioned by BBC Drama Commissioning controller Ben Stephenson and BBC Two controller Janice Hadlow.

The historical plays are set in the medieval period. As principal photography begins on Henry V, the previously announced Kings – Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston – will be joined by an ensemble cast.

Whishaw said, “Playing Richard II has been a hugely rewarding experience. Working on this beautiful play with Rupert Goold and an amazing cast has been one of the most magical and memorable experiences of my career.”

Irons added, “I am most grateful to have this opportunity of returning to Shakespeare, to film under the experienced eye of Richard Eyre, alongside such exciting actors.”

In the first film of the cycle, Ben Whishaw will play King Richard II with Rory Kinnear as his challenger, Bolingbroke. John of Gaunt will be played by Patrick Stewart (The RSC’s Merchant of Venice), with David Suchet (Poirot) as The Duke of York and David Morrissey (South Riding) as Northumberland. Tom Hughes will play Aumerle and Mowbray will be played by James Purefoy. Clemence Poésy (Harry Potter) will play the role of Queen Isabella and Lindsay Duncan (Alice in Wonderland) will play The Duchess of York. Other confirmed cast members include Lucian Msamati and David Bradley.

Completing the confirmed cast of Richard II are Isabella Laughland, Daniel Boyd, Finbar Lynch, Richard Bremmer, Harry Hadden Paton, Ferdinand Kingsley, Samuel Roukin, Tom Goodman-Hill, Adrian Schiller, Peter De Jersey, Simon Trinder and Rhodri Miles.

The second and third films will see Jeremy Irons playing Henry IV, supported by Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal. Simon Russell Beale (Spooks) will play Falstaff and Julie Walters (Mamma Mia, Mo) will play Mistress Quickly. Hotspur will be played by Joe Armstrong (Robin Hood) and Michelle Dockery is to play Lady Percy alongside Maxine Peake as Doll Tearsheet. Lady Northumberland will be played by Niamh Cusack with Alun Armstrong as Northumberland. Reece Shearsmith will play the role of Davy, Tom Georgeson will play Bardolph, Pistol will be played by Paul Ritter and Douglas Henshall (South Riding) will play Mowbray. Iain Glen will play Warwick and Geoffrey Palmer will play Lord Chief Justice.

Completing the confirmed cast of Henry IV are Henry Faber, James Laurenson, David Hayman, Robert Pugh, Alex Clatworthy, Stephen McCole, David Dawson, Ian Conningham and Nick Jones.

Tom Hiddleston will play Henry V in the final film. John Hurt will play The Chorus and Julie Walters will play Mistress Quickly.

*  *  *  *  *  *

I love Henry IV Part 1, and I’m also very fond of Henry V.  It will be amazing to see this cycle of plays done with the same cast members.  I got to see Henry IV, Parts I and II done in a single day with the same cast, in a 2001 RSC production with William Houston as Prince Hal.  It was one of my biggest theatre highs.

I don’t know long it will take for these BBC programs to make it to the U.S.  Christopher Columbus traveled to the New World faster than some of these imports, but I’ll be watching and waiting.

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