British Museum blog

Filming Shakespeare’s magic

Bill Douglas Centre, University of Exeter


Professor Tony Howard, University of Warwick

Caliban in The Tempest. Courtesy of the Don Boyd Archive at the Bill Douglas Centre, University of Exeter

When I was invited to think about curating a film programme to accompany the British Museum’s exhibition Shakespeare: staging the world, my first thought was to connect with the idea of the Cultural Olympiad, and to focus on Olympic years. In 1948, when London last hosted the Games, Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles respectively directed Hamlet and Macbeth; they’re two radically different films, one a self-conscious classic involving Britain’s finest actors, designers and musicians, the other a ‘charcoal sketch’ filmed in a fortnight but nonetheless one of the most visually brilliant of all Shakespearean films. Together, they invented a genre.

There were attractions to the idea of tracing the parallel progress of the Olympics and Shakespearean film from London to Rome to Tokyo and beyond. But it was soon obvious that our programme should actually relate to the exhibition itself, and to its content. The exhibition is called Shakespeare: staging the world – how has cinema re-imagined the worlds that Shakespeare staged?

So there are three parts to the film programme: ‘Shakespeare’s Rome’, ‘Shakespeare’s England’, and ‘Shakespeare’s Magic’.

With both ‘Rome’ and ‘England’ we have presented two films. First an early landmark in the development of Shakespeare’s adaptation for the screen, then a more recent work, able to build on the groundwork and eager to experiment with ideas of history, politics, and the ways we all encounter them – via the media.

We began with the 1953 MGM Julius Caesar starring Marlon Brando, and we’ll follow it with Ralph Fiennes’ brilliant updating of Coriolanus into the Balkans War and our era of 24-hour television news. Then comes Olivier’s beautiful Henry V and Richard Loncraine and Ian McKellen’s Richard III, set in an Alternative History version of 1930s London, where King Edward married an American divorcee and lived in St. Pancras Station while his brother George…I’d best stop there: spoilers.

The season began with a packed house for Julius Caesar and a post-screening discussion that carried on into the street. We’ll conclude with a study day on Saturday 17 November. We’ll ask how directors have accepted the challenge of visualising the supernatural in Macbeth and The Tempest.

In the morning we’ll focus on ‘Macbeth on Six Continents’, exploring versions from Hollywood (Welles gets in after all), Ladywood, Madagascar and…sorry. No. Spoilers.

And that afternoon we shall celebrate Derek Jarman’s astonishing counter-cultural Tempest, which he filmed in Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire during the 1979 Winter of Discontent.

We shall, I’m thrilled to say, be joined by Don Boyd, The Tempest’s producer (who himself went on to direct Richard Harris as King Lear) and David Meyer, Jarman’s Ferdinand (who previously played Hamlet on screen opposite Helen Mirren). Actually, to be precise, Don directed a modernised Lear set in Liverpool gangland, and David and his twin brother Tony played Hamlet simultaneously opposite Helen Mirren as Ophelia and the Queen.

Shakespeare on screen is extraordinary. It can be something very rich and strange.

The study day Filming Shakespeare’s magic: Macbeth on six continents and Prospero in England is at the British Museum on Saturday 17 November.
Book tickets now >

See all Shakespeare events >

Shakespeare: staging the world is open from 19 July to 25 November 2012.

The exhibition is supported by BP.
Part of the World Shakespeare Festival and London 2012 Festival.

Tweet using #ShakespeareExhibition and @britishmuseum

If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

Filed under: Exhibitions, Shakespeare: staging the world

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 12,405 other followers

Categories

Follow @britishmuseum on Twitter

British Museum on Instagram

For #AprilFools today, here are some interesting (and true!) stories about the Museum. 
Did you know there was a merman (actually part monkey, part fish!) on display in the Enlightenment Gallery (Room 1)? This ‘merman’ was donated by HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught (1883–1938), grandson of Queen Victoria, and was said to have been 'caught' in Japan during the 18th century. It was given to Prince Arthur by an individual named Arisue Seijiro. 
The British Museum’s ‘merman’ is displayed in the Enlightenment Gallery as an example of the kind of ‘curiosity' that was found in early collections before the more encyclopaedic and reasoned approach to collecting that evolved through the 1700s. In this context it helps to show how museums changed during the 18th century from cabinets of curiosity to the type of museums we are more familiar with today.
#merman #mermaid For #AprilFools today, here are some interesting (and true!) stories about the Museum. 
This is Mike the cat, who assisted in keeping the Main Gate at the British Museum from Feb 1909 to Jan 1929. When he died, the former Keeper of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities, Sir E A Wallis Budge, wrote a whole pamphlet about him. His obituary was featured in both the London Evening Standard and Time magazine! Find out more about Mike the cat at britishmuseum.tumblr.com
#cat #Museum #AprilFools! April actually derives from the Latin word aperire, meaning to open (i.e. spring).
Here's #April at Kew Gardens, part of a series by Thomas Robert Way.
#spring #print #AprilFoolsDay #April is named after Aprillis, the Roman goddess of mischief The Eiffel Tower officially opened ‪#‎onthisday in 1889.
This 1928 print by French artist Jean Émile Laboureur depicts the Gardens of Trocadéro with the Eiffel Tower beyond.
#EiffelTower #Paris #print #art #history We are excited to announce that our exhibition #8mummies is now extended until 12 July 2015! Here are the 8 mummies you'll encounter in this groundbreaking exhibition #MummyMonday
#history #exhibition #mummy
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 12,405 other followers

%d bloggers like this: