Britannia is the much discussed and much trumpeted new Sky Atlantic drama. It’s also the first co-production between Sky and Amazon. It’s written by Jez Butterworth, who seems to have theater and screenwriting experience in spades, but not much on the CV for telly. Not like our collective expectations are set too high, but it’s been bandied about that Sky are in desperate need of something substantial in the swords and bloodlust category as the wait for Game of Thrones will be glacial. But the people who have seen it already are split into two camps – either it’s brilliantly bat-shit or terribly confusing. Well, which is it then?
Set in 43 AD this is about the Roman conquest of Britain. This is the second time around, as Julius Cesar went home with his tail between his legs in 54 BC, and boy, despite the man being long dead, do we hear a lot about that. We meet General Aulus Plautius, played by David Morrissey, not worrying in the slightest about his accent or where in the Roman Empire he hails from. To misquote Doctor Who, a lot of countries have a north. Aye up legionnaires!
It’s been a loooong week. But yay, the weekend is finally here and it’s nearly Saturday night. Going out? Gonna party hard? Getting so drunk you mistake your shoe for you phone? Nope, not me. I’m staying in and celebrating – it’s a strange sort of birthday party. And I’d be very surprised if the birthday boy turned up.
The BBC and Royal Shakespeare Company are getting together to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth with his dramatic best bits and song, dance and comedy celebrating his legacy. It’s a star studded event featuring such big names as Benedict Cumberbatch, Judi Dench, Joseph Fiennes, Ian McKellan, Tim Minchin, Helen Mirren, the cast of Horrible Histories, English National Opera and Birmingham Royal Ballet (to name but a few) hosted by David Tennant and Catherine Tate. A little something there for everyone, wouldn’t you say?
Why the exclamation point? I don’t know. But if anyone deserves a little dramatic emphasis and poetic licence I think it’s probably the Bard himself. This event had been plugged for ages as a live event in Stratford (with a complicated ballot for tickets) and a live cinematic event, with cinemas across the country getting involved and charging a pretty penny for the experience, so I’m delighted to find out it’s on BBC2 tonight at 8:30pm. Culture on the cheap! I’m a happy little groundling.
I am not a regular viewer of Artsnight or Newsnight. I guess I’ve always thought it was a bit pretentious for my tastes, on the other side of the culture divide to me. Sure I like a bit of Shakespeare, I wander round art galleries every now and then, and I’ve been to see the ballet once, but I’m happiest at the low end of the culture scale. High culture is for people who learned Latin at school and not for the likes of me.
Obviously this is ridiculous, and a series of stereotypes that need to be overturned, but it’s a rich vein for comedy. The co-presenter of Nina Conti’s Artsnight was keen to play with this whenever anything troubled her finely-tuned bullshit meter “I know this is Artsnight Nina, but there’s no need to sound like such a pretentious wanker”. Good advice, especially coming from a glove puppet monkey.