David Tennant is to star in a live celebration of William Shakespeare’s life and work organised by the BBC and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Shakespeare Live! starring the former Doctor Who star will be broadcast during the weekend of Shakespeare’s birthday from 22-24 April this year, and will mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.
Tennant will host the gala on April 23, set to feature performances from Dame Judi Dench, Al Murray, Tim Minchin and Joseph Fiennes, who played the playwright in the hit film Shakespeare in Love.
“It’s a variety bill, really. Obviously the plays are a huge part of that. We will have some of the greatest classical actors around. But we have the other cultural arms he inspired, opera, ballet, hip hop.”
Tennant played the lead role in the RSC’s Richard II to widespread acclaim, and starred in the televised version of the RSC’s Hamlet in 2009.
He told an audience at today;s launch that he first fell in love with Shakespeare when he was “blown away” by a performance of As You Like It, and was especially drawn to the clown character. “I thought Touchstone was the coolest man,” he said.
“Through drama and ever since then Shakespeare has been a huge part of my life. It’s cat-nip for actors.”
The event, which also features performances from the English National Opera and Birmingham Royal Ballet, is part of a raft of BBC programming this year in honour of Britain’s greatest ever writer.
These include Russell T Davies’ version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the second batch of The Hollow Crown history plays, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
Executive produced by Sam Mendes, the BBC2 adaptations also star Judi Dench, Keeley Hawes, Sophie Okonedo, Hugh Bonneville, Michael Gambon and Tom Sturridge. They cover Henry VI Parts 1, 2 and 3 (condensed into two parts) and Richard III starring Cumberbatch.
Davies’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream stars Matt Lucas, Maxine Peake, John Hannah, Elaine Page, Richard Wilson and Bernard Cribbins and will air on BBC1.
Other shows include Shakespeare comedy Upstart Crow, written by Ben Elton and starring David Mitchell as the playwright. The title comes from a disparaging reference to the bard from his better bred – but as a writer more inferori – rival Robert Greene.
Cunk on Shakespeare, featuring Philomena Cunk – who regularly delivers her Moments of Wonder on Charlie Brooker’s satire show Weekly Wipe – will also offer her own unique (and highly stupid) take on his life and work.
The season was formally unveiled by BBC director-general Tony Hall this Thursday 21st January at the BBC’s Radio Theatre.
“Shakespeare’s in our DNA,” he said. “For 90 years, we’ve been broadcasting his works to successive generations, but we’ve never done anything as daring, as adventurous, as we’re doing now.
“This year, we’re bringing to life my vision of what the BBC’s about – using all our services to make Shakespeare irresistible to everybody. And joining with some of our country’s greatest institutions to bring their creativity to millions here and across the globe.”
Gregory Doran, Artistic Director of the RSC, added, “Shakespeare is for everyone so we want as many people as possible to have a chance to experience his work this year. We are thrilled to collaborate with the BBC in a fantastic initiative to bring Shakespeare’s legacy to audiences all over the UK, including work direct from the RSC’s theatres in his home town.”