This unique collection of early film adaptations of Shakespeare works is accompanied by a new score specially commissioned from award winning young composer - Laura Rossi.
In the early years of the 20th century the film industry sought to elevate its lowbrow status by imitating the theatre. While cinemas decked themselves out like theatres filmmakers signed up stage stars and turned to the classics. Shakespeare provided the greatest challenge, especially since many of the films made before the First World War were only one or two reels long.
The films you will see on this tape are from the National Film and Television Archive Collection; they are The Tempest (1908), King Lear (1910), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1909), Twelfth Night (1910) The Merchant of Venice (1910), Richard III (1911) and the first Shakespeare film ever made - King John (1899). Although the films are sometimes damaged they give us a unique record of performance; together they show us the exuberance, invention and conviction of these early filmmakers and demonstrate the possibilities of the Shakespearean text.
"The BFI should be congratulated on this tape. It provides a rare opportunity to see these beautiful early films which are now much too fragile to project."