From Lady Macbeth with manga animation to Romeo and Juliet with ice cream wars, we bring you a playlist of short films in which contemporary artists reimagine Shakespeare’s work and explore issues such as the representation of women, racial stereotyping, ageing and mental health.
Playlist: Watch our collection of Shakespeare Lives short films
SBTV presents Twelfth Night
Five UK artists – Maverick Sabre, Nego True, NoLay, Eyez and Mic Righteous – produce new lyrics that draw inspiration from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Shot in The Globe's gilded Sam Wanamaker theatre.
Laura Dockrill's film is a contemporary retelling of Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet, set on a British beach, where two families “both alike in common crime” wage a turf war over ice-cream. Will true love win out, over the tutti frutti?
Julius Caesar featuring Mark Stanley and Tony Osoba
Brutus (Mark Stanley) and his conspirators plot the assassination of Julius Caesar (Tony Osoba), in the third film in our series of contemporary re-imaginings of Shakespeare’s work. Director Pedro Martín-Calero adapts Act I Scene II from Julius Caesar, shot on location at the Treasury and the Foreign and Commonwealth offices. Durbar Court is the striking marble floored room where Brutus conjures his plot.
Macbeth featuring Vicky McClure
Lady Macbeth (Vicky McClure) summons up her demons in this soliloquy from Act I, Scene V. This menacing and dark film, directed by David Wilson, combines performance with manga animation.
Miranda's Letter: a story inspired by The Tempest
A tale about mother-daughter relationships, or more often the lack thereof, in Shakespeare's works. Inspired by The Tempest and filmed on the beautiful south Devon coast, the film stars Raffey Cassidy as Miranda and Anne-Marie Duff as the mother. “There has been much written recently about the lack of women directors,” says Teresa Griffiths, director of this film. “I felt strongly that I wanted to bring something to Shakespeare Lives which, in a small way, tried to address this. A story about motherhood and a young girl’s experience is, of course, not exclusively one for a female director or audience, but it springs from my own experiences.”
Come To Me: blues for As You Like It
This film takes inspiration from the songs found in As You Like It and explores the lifecycle of a romantic relationship reflected in the changing seasons. Director Prasanna Puwanarajah and musician Anjana Vasan present a musical triptych, which takes our audience on an emotional journey charting the beginning of a relationship through to its disintegration.
The Prince of Denmark: a story vaguely inspired by Hamlet
Directors Kirkland and Rafalat share their darkly comic take on one of Shakespeare's most famous plays. Set against a quintessentially British backdrop, the young Hamlet returns home to his mother Gertrude after completing university to find there's something rotten going on in “The Prince of Denmark”.
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Virtual love in the near future
Viktoria Modesta and director Sing J. Lee take explore themes of love, infatuation and distorted reality to create a near future. We meet Titania, a bionic woman whose increasing obsession with herself compels her husband Oberon to make her the subject of his latest experiment. Titania is transported to a virtual world where she engages in a courtship dance with a mysterious figure. However, as with the play, in this virtual forest, not all is as it originally appears.
Dear Mister Shakespeare
Multimedia visual artist Phoebe Boswell has written an original piece in which she questions Shakespeare on the inherent racial tensions within his writing of Othello in the 1600s, and how these tensions continue to resonate today. Dear Mister Shakespeare, starring Ashley Thomas as Othello and directed by Shola Amoo, both challenges and engages innovatively with Shakespeare’s famous depiction of “the Moor”, bringing to the fore Shakespeare’s glaring racial stereotyping of the protagonist, alongside his ability to subvert audience expectations of the same.
King Lear: Act 2 Scene 4 starring Phil Davis
Phil Davis is King Lear in BAFTA nominated director Billy Lumby's modern retelling explores ageing and mental health. We see Lear admitted to a care home under the instruction of his two daughters. As his mental health deteriorates so does the world around him, mirroring his feelings of isolation and fear. The film is a meditation on the way modern society deals with mental health issues in an increasingly ageing population.
A Winter's Tale
Adapted by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Carl Hunter from Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, the final film in our Shakespeare Lives series uses the otherworldly landscape of Crosby beach and Antony Gormley’s Another Place sculptures to create a fantastical modern version of the play. In this modern retelling, the roles are reversed and “Dad” is turned to stone and left on a beach of forgotten souls after his wife and daughter become obsessed with technology.
The British Council and GREAT commissioned these films as part of Shakespeare Lives, our global programme of activities celebrating Shakespeare throughout 2016.
Find out more:
> See the events and activities celebrating Shakespeare’s work throughout 2016
> Experience an online festival of Shakespeare as part of our Shakespeare Lives celebrations
> Direct your own Shakespeare production with Mix the Play, our new interactive programme