10 Sep 2014

Leading Hollywood stars offer new insights into Shakespeare’s great plays in upcoming OU / Sky Arts series

The Open University (OU) has joined forces with leading arts television channel Sky Arts to bring viewers ‘My Shakespeare’ – a new and accessible route into the wonderful world of The Great Bard.

Hosted by leading Hollywood actors including Morgan Freeman, Kim Cattrall and Hugh Bonneville, ‘My Shakespeare’ is a series of six one-hour programmes uncovering new perspectives on the plays through interviews with actors, historians and directors. Presenting the series will be: Hugh Bonneville (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Kim Cattrall (Anthony & Cleopatra), Joseph Fiennes (Romeo & Juliet), Morgan Freeman (The Taming of The Shrew), David Harewood (Othello) and Christopher Plummer (King Lear). The programmes will also uncover some of the extraordinarily rich video and film archives from 20th and 21st century productions of some of Shakespeare’s most well-loved plays.

The series will reveal where Shakespeare got his stories from and how he transformed them into the plays that we know and love today. Looking at a wide range of his plays, viewers will get to see how his talent revealed itself over time and discover what it is that makes these plays – now 400 years old – universally acknowledged as some of the greatest masterpieces of World Theatre.

Dr Edmund King, research associate at the OU’s English Department, was the programme’s academic consultant and said:

“My Shakespeare brings together a stellar cast of some of the world’s leading actors – all drawn together by their shared love of the works of Shakespeare. Viewers of the series, whether seasoned fans or those encountering Shakespeare’s works for the first time, will be given a unique insight into his plays, enabling them to explore both their literal meaning as well as more complex interpretations of Shakespeare’s language.

“The series shows how provocative and ground-breaking Shakespeare’s plays were when they were first performed, and how enduring and relevant Shakespeare continues to be in the 21st century.”

Shakespeare’s ability to challenge his audiences to think about complex problems and the human condition will be explored in detail across the series. Some of the many issues and insights the series will explore include:
- our preconceptions and prejudices about the equality of the sexes in the first ever “screwball comedy” – The Taming of the Shrew;
- how a tale about the danger of teenage disobedience was transformed into a story of the greatest romantic hero and heroine ever created – Romeo & Juliet;
- how Shakespeare predicted the nightmares of later centuries in his tale of racism, love and psychopathy – Othello;
- how A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a truly original story of a magical forest and a transgressive love that mixes sex and the supernatural;
- our preconceptions about Ancient History in a story of middle aged passion and the collapse of Empire – Anthony & Cleopatra;
- and finally, we will be devastated by a cynical and yet moving tragedy of an old man’s love and death in a godless universe – King Lear.

Find out more about Shakespeare with OpenLearn – the home of free learning from The Open University. Try a free online course, read about the life of one of the greatest playwrights, watch performances of some of his most famous work and reveal your inner wordsmith by rewriting Shakespeare’s best bits for the 21st century. For further information please visit:

My Shakespeare begins on Sky Arts 1 HD on Monday 22 September 2014 at 21:00. For further information please visit:

An OU/Sky Arts/Thirteen Productions LLC co-production
Series produced by Richard Denton for Blakeway Productions
Broadcast Commissioner for The Open University: Caroline Ogilvie
Commissioning editor for Sky: Chris Wilson

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