Thursday, October 05, 2006

BBC to produce six-part series re-telling Fairy Tales (NEWS/EDITORIAL)

The BBC is set to produce a six-part series of modern, updated fairy tales, much in the mould of the successful Shakespeare Re-Told series in 2005 and the earlier 2003 re-telling of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, reports The Stage. Jane Tranter, BBC Controller of Fiction, has told The Stage, that this project is "substantial" and comprises six films, authored by six "significant" writers. The series will be filmed in Northern Ireland and has received funding from the Northern Ireland Film and Television Council. Shooting is due to commence next Summer with transmission expected late 2007 or 2008. Hat Trick Productions (with Mark Redhead, Head of Drama) will be making the series. The Shakespeare Re-Told series was produced by the BBC in conjunction with Horsebridge Productions and the BBC's The Canterbury Tales was co-produced with Ziji Productions.

Fairy tales likely to be modernised include Snow White, Hansel and Gretel and The Ugly Duckling - all of which have a 'dark' even sinister aspect, most particularly Hansel and Gretel which could be rendered really quite disturbing in a modern setting. If this series is anything like the Shakespeare Re-Told series then we are in for a feast. One wonders too what other potential 'Re-Told' series could be devised? There is still plenty of mileage with Shakespeare - perhaps narrowing specific series by genre: The Great Tragedies, for example, or The Roman Plays. Greek myths and legends could surely get an airing ... an adapter could have splendid fun re-inventing mildly trivial modern settings as host for fiction's grandest archetypes (although some would argue these same archtypes are already threaded through so much literary and filmic outplut).

However, my favourite brand for a new Re-Told series is great Opera stories - I'm pretty tempted to draft an outline myself for re-casting Mozart's works as contemporary domestic drama! The Da Ponte librettos especially would offer up some cracking material. And Schikaneder's The Magic Flute could cause a stir too, and has indeed been re-located recently in a filmic version by Kenneth Branagh, to the dank misery of the First World War. This is indeed the essence of 'adaptation' ...

And this is of course very exciting news if recent similar ventures from the BBC are anything to go by. I particularly enjoyed the 2005 Shakespeare Re-Told series, most especially the modern re-telling of Much Ado About Nothing starring Damian Lewis and Sarah Parrish, in sparkling form, as rival newsreaders who fall in love, and The Taming of the Shrew with an unforgettable, unmissable, downright saucy Rufus Sewell as a tempestuous transvestite. Shirley Henderson was marvellous, as always, as the Shrew - a work-obsessed Tory MP. Julie Walters also put in a memorably fantastic performance as the excitable and exciting Wife of Bath in the 2003 Canterbury Tales season, strongly supported by the ever-handsome Paul Nicholls as her young lover/husband.

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