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David Tennant and Sir Ian McKellen head up BBC’s online Shakespeare celebrations

The BBC has assembled a thrice-bless’d cast of stars for Shakespeare Day Live, an upcoming celebration marking the 400th year since the Bard’s passing. 

As well as performances from former Doctor Who David Tennant and ex-wizard and X-Man Sir Ian McKellen, Shakespeare Lives will see contributions from Dame Judi Dench, Dame Carol Ann Duffy, Adrian Lester, Germaine Greer, Ralph Fiennes, Simon Russell Beale, Lauren Cuthbertson and Edward Watson. 

Shakespeare Day Live will include Tennant’s feted turn as Richard II, which the BBC has bagged as an iPlayer exclusive. This, along with the Shakespeare Lives festival, marks the beginning of what the Beeb is calling a more ‘Open BBC for the Internet age’, which will see iPlayer hosting content produced by third party programme makers, including Richard II, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company. 

The BBC’s director-general Tony Hall said: “Alongside a fantastic line-up on radio and television, we’re hosting a digital festival, shaped with partners, to bring their creativity to millions here and the world over. And, for the first time, the BBC will be showcasing the great talent we have in our leading cultural institutions on BBC iPlayer.” 

Other features lined up for Shakespeare Day Live include content from the Royal Opera House, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Hay Festival and the BFI and Shakespeare’s Globe, both of which have their own subscription streaming services. This could pave the way for free and paid content from the vaults of the BFI Player and Globe Player to eventually make their way to the iPlayer in future. 

Shakespeare Day Live kicks off on April 23, while highlights of events from the British Council’s six month-long festival will be made available on BBC iPlayer, the first time programmes from not-for-profit arts organisations will have been brought to audiences through the BBC.


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