2016 is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and this seems to be a big deal in the UK. There’s been a wave of Shakespeare-related British films and TV programming, including two comedies: Bill, a 2015 feature film from the performers behind Horrible Histories; and Upstart Crow, a six-episode TV series. Let’s take a look at both!
Bill: The Feature Film
You may have heard of the British TV show Horrible Histories, a children’s show that turns history into comedy for edu-tainment. Well, the cast of that show, along with another called Yonderland, came out with a feature film last year about a young William Shakespeare. It’s set during the “lost years” of Shakepeare’s youth, during which he left Stratford-upon-Avon and rose to fame as a playwright in London.
The film itself is very much in the vein of Horrible Histories, with lots of family-friendly jokes and musical numbers. It was decently entertaining, although I only really laughed once … and I can’t remember which joke amused me!
The costumes were designed by Charlotte Morris, whose only real period-esque credit as designer is Merlin (2008-10) — although she was the assistant designer for Bleak House (2005), He Knew He Was Right (2004), and The Way We Live Now (2001). It’s very much an ensemble-comedy thing, with actors playing multiple parts, which means most characters get one costume throughout the film.
Upstart Crow: The TV Series
Upstart Crow is a one-off TV series starring one-half of comedic genius duo Mitchell and Webb, David Mitchell. It goes for more of the traditional view of Shakespeare than Bill, but it’s pretty amusing nonetheless. I admit, I’ve only watched the first episode, and I wasn’t terribly inspired to watch more. That’s not to say that it wasn’t amusing, just, that it didn’t feel terribly original? It felt very Blackadder, which is a good thing, except that Blackadder did it better!
The costumes were designed by Leah Archer, who also designed for two of the Mitchell & Webb TV series, and a bunch of other things I don’t recognize but look like comedies.
Have you seen Bill or Upstart Crow? Did they make you laugh?