21 Jun 2012

The Open University and BBC launch new Julius Caesar film and featurettes

The Open University and the BBC are co-producing a new film of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar along with six 10 minute behind-the-scenes featurettes based on The Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) current production of the play. The film, made by production company Illuminations, will screen on BBC Four on Sunday 24th June, 8pm as part of the BBC’s Shakespeare Unlocked season. The featurettes – a collaboration between Illuminations and The Open University for OpenLearn, The Open University’s free learning site – will explore the film, its makers, and the thinking behind it.

Dr Edmund King, from The Open University’s English Department, describes how the film incorporates a ‘guerrilla-style production, which uses handheld cameras, gritty locations and documentary-style footage to create a sense of history in the making’. Dr King, a Shakespeare scholar and book historian, has extensively advised on the short films, helping to decide what material they include and what questions they address about the play, the RSC production, and their contexts. The featurettes explore aspects of the production in more detail, focusing on six individual themes: Julius Caesar and the current moment, Julius Caesar from stage to screen, Julius Caesar and gender, Julius Caesar and the people, Acting Julius Caesar and Julius Caesar as an ‘African’ play.

With echoes of the recent overthrow of dictators during the ‘Arab Spring’, the production of this fast-moving political thriller explores the implications of political assassination and the unpredictability of its aftermath. Shot mostly on location, the television version, which has been separately conceived for the screen, incorporates key scenes filmed at the actual stage performances at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. As both productions share the same director and cast, the relationship is fluid. No television version of a play has been made in this way before.

The film accompanies the RSC’s stage production of Julius Caesar which opened in Stratford-upon-on-Avon on 28th May where it runs until 7 July. It will tour to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, followed by a run in the West End at the Noel Coward Theatre from 8 August to 15 September and a subsequent nationwide tour. The play forms part of the World Shakespeare Festival produced by the RSC, which sees more than 70 productions of Shakespeare staged in Britain this year. Directed by Gregory Doran, the RSC’s new Artistic Director Designate, and starring veteran actors Jeffery Kissoon as Caesar, Paterson Joseph as Brutus, Cyril Nri as Cassius and Ray Fearon as Mark Antony, the modern dress production is set in post-independence Africa and features the full RSC all-black cast.

The Open University’s Dr King said: “The Open University is thrilled to be involved in such an innovative and creative reimagining of Julius Caesar. The 2012 World Shakespeare Festival will feature the biggest concentration of Shakespeare performances ever seen in Britain, and is a wonderful way of showcasing Shakespeare’s contribution to world culture.”

Notes to Editors

The Open University
The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.7 million students and has more than 264,000 current students, including 18,000 overseas.
The OU has been one of the top three UK universities for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey every year since the survey began in 2005.
Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.
The OU's vast open content portfolio includes free study units on OpenLearn, which has had more than 21 million visits, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded over 50 million downloads. The OU's 41 year partnership with the BBC has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes.
The featurettes will be available here:

Dr Edmund King
Edmund King is a postdoctoral research associate in the OU's English Department. He wrote his PhD thesis on Shakespeare editing and publishing in the eighteenth century, and has written scholarly articles on the early histories of Shakespeare’s texts. His next essay, on Shakespeare and John Fletcher’s ‘los’ play, will appear later this year in an essay collection edited by Gary Taylor and David Carnegie, The Quest for Cardenio: Shakespeare, Fletcher, Cervantes, and the Lost Play (Oxford University Press, September 2012).

Royal Shakespeare Company

BBC – Shakespeare Unlocked

The World Shakespeare Festival
The World Shakespeare Festival (WSF) is a celebration of Shakespeare as the world’s playwright, produced by the RSC, in an unprecedented collaboration with leading arts organisations. It runs from April-November and forms part of London 2012 Festival, a culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, bringing leading artists from all over the world together in a UK-wide festival. See
The World Shakespeare Festival is supported by BP, as Founding Presenting Partner, and the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor and Arts Council England.
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