The Donmar Warehouse’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy was broadcast on BBC Four and on BBC iPlayer
The Trilogy, staged by Donmar Warehouse to great acclaim, featured an entirely female cast, with actors playing the roles of prisoners attending a drama group, performing in three of Shakespeare’s most famous plays – Julius Caesar, Henry IV and The Tempest.
Julius Caesar was selected for the 2017 Edinburgh International Film Festival and was screened at selected cinemas across the UK. The production appeared on BBC Four on Sunday 17 June and then the entire Trilogy was available on iPlayer for six months.
The piece depicts the catastrophic consequences of a political leader’s extension of powers beyond the remit of the constitution. As Brutus (Harriet Walter) wrestles with his moral conscience over the assassination of Julius Caesar (Jackie Clune), Mark Antony (Jade Anouka) manipulates the crowd through subtle and incendiary rhetoric to frenzied mob violence.
Phyllida Lloyd takes her tense, arresting production of Shakespeare’s famous discourse on power, loyalty, and tragic idealism into a gripping version for screen.
All three plays in the Shakespeare Trilogy were filmed with support from The Space and were available to watch on BBC iPlayer (June 2017 – December 2017).
The gender-neutral casting made the theatrical Shakespeare Trilogy a trailblazer in its field, prior to the first production in 2012 nothing like this had been attempted before with Shakespeare. The Trilogy and its casting broke boundaries of ethnicity and age, in a genre where both diverse and female actors are often side-lined. Critics felt the prison setting made you ‘see the three plays afresh‘ (Guardian), and the Trilogy at King’s Cross was hailed as ‘an insightful triumph of pared-down theatre’, questioning whether it may signal ‘the end of the line for the old macho order’ (Telegraph).
All of the prison characters in the play are inspired by real-life women who have experienced the criminal justice system. Harriet Walter’s prison character is influenced by Judith Clark, with whom she spoke extensively during production. These unique films carry a strong message about the rehabilitative potential of art, and drive a timely message about casting, and roles for women in both film and theatre.
Watch clips Julius Caesar
Watch clips Henry IV
Watch clips The Tempest