BBC's 2012 Shakespeare Olympiad


A long-time tradition of BBC programming will be ramped up a notch in 2012 as part of the BBC’s contribution to the Cultural Olympiad and Festival. Television adaptations of the works of William Shakespeare have been announced that include both documentaries and plays. BBC viewers will be treated to the likes of Richard II, Henry IV (parts one and two) and Henry V on BBC2, as well as a new screen version of Julius Caesar on BBC4. The usual brilliant laundry list of actors and actresses will head each, including a number of Britain’s finest, many familiar to British comedy and drama fans around the globe.

  • Richard II will star Ben Wishaw as Richard, with Rory Kinnear as Bolingbroke, Patrick Stewart as John of Gaunt, and David Morrissey as Northumberland. David Suchet will appear as the Duke of York.
  • Julie Walters will play Mistress Quickly in parts one and two of Henry IV, with Jeremy Irons as Henry and Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal.
  • Henry V will star Hiddleston as Henry, with John Hurt as The Chorus and Walters again as Mistress Quickly. The cast also includes Reece Shearsmith, Michelle Dockery and Geoffrey Palmer.
  • The documentary, Shakespeare, India and Me, will be broadcast on BBC2, in which Felicity Kendal will explore India’s love affair with the playwright.

In addition to this television brilliance, BBC Radio 3 will broadcast new radio productions of Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest and Twelfth Night. Hopefully, as with recent productions of MacBeth with Patrick Stewart and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet, starring David Tennant, these will make their way to a PBS station near you in 2012.

  • Lisa C

    Hmmm . . . will some or all of the plays be made with modern sets and costumes? I’ve tried to watch those but the modern stuff gets in the way of the words . . . I was even distracted by the Chorus’ modern dress in Branagh’s film version of “Henry V.”
    I hope that KERA can also broadcast Felicity Kendal’s
    “Shakespeare, India and Me.” It would be a good complement to her autobiography “White Cargo.”

  • Patty

    I sure hope we get these films in the States! Great casts. And I’ve just been studying the Henry plays, so I’d love to see new productions of them.

    BTW, I recently rewatched the film “Shakespeare-Wallah,” which is loosely based on the lives of Felicity Kendal’s family as a traveling Shakespeare troupe in India. So she’s certainly an excellent choice to discuss Shakespeare in India.

    Bill, please nudge your pals at WGBH or whatever other PBS entity could get these shows picked up over here!

  • Norbert Timm

    Hallo,
    I am waiting for these new performances on TV. The actors seem to me first class and I hope that Mendes makes some excellent films-nevertheless a performance at the Globe remains the best in Shakespeare. And a good trip for us from Germany….
    Good luck
    Norbert Timm

  • Susanna Lazarus

    I can’t wait for Romeo and Juliet with Douglas Booth and Ed Westwick! Slightly less sure about Titus Andronicus performed in Cantonese… The Shakespeare festival is my main event to watch out for in 2012! http://deardoodle.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/what-to-expect-in-2012/

  • TheInsider

    In the ‘tennis ball’ scene. Henry is wearing a red leather jacket. Has a modern feel to it, but very much of the time in style. Everyone else was wearing period clothing.