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Filmmaker sends portrait of Shakespeare into space as part of Folio 400 anniversary

A still from Shakespeare in Space
A still from Shakespeare in Space Copyright Credit: Jack Jewers/Shakespeare in Space
Copyright Credit: Jack Jewers/Shakespeare in Space
By Theo Farrant
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With help from a team of engineers, filmmaker Jack Jewers sent a portrait of Shakespeare into the depths of outer space as part of the Folio 400 anniversary.

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A filmmaker has taken the Bard to the stars. 

In commemoration of Folio 400, the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare's first ever folio, celebrated today (8 November), Jack Jewers, a BAFTA-nominated filmmaker, undertook a remarkable endeavour by sending a portrait of the illustrious English playwright into outer space. 

Enclosed within the portrait was the iconic text from Shakespeare's "Lovers and Madmen" speech from "A Midsummer Night's Dream". 

The short film, titled Shakespeare in Space, features renowned actor Tom Baker, best known for his portrayal of Dr. Who, reciting Shakespeare's "Lovers and Madmen" speech.

It's just one of six short cinematic films created by Jewers, with each reimagining one of Shakespeare's most iconic speeches.

How did they send Shakespeare into space?

A still from Shakespeare in Space
A still from Shakespeare in SpaceCredit: inVerse/JackJewers

With help from a team of engineers from Sheffield-based company, Sent Into Space, the portrait was attached to a weather balloon and taken to the earth's upper atmosphere. 

“This film was the first one I conceived of but by far the most challenging to make. But in a good way. It pushed me to the limits of what I thought would be possible," explains Jewers. 

He adds: "I had this image in my head: a portrait of Shakespeare, the universal playwright, whose work I truly believe speaks to everyone, backgrounded by space, with earth’s curvature in the background. What more fitting way to celebrate the universality of our human experience, and how it has been captured for 400 years by these wonderful words, than that?" 

Is Shakespeare more relevant than ever?

A still from 'St Crispin's Day', a short film by Jack Jewers
A still from 'St Crispin's Day', a short film by Jack JewersCredit: inVerse/Jack Jewers

As well as striking visuals from space, Jewers' Folio 400 films depict the Ukrainian conflict, the European refugee crisis and recent political protests, to juxtapose the challenges of concerns of modern life with the events and experiences of 1623. 

In one of the Folio 400 short films, titled St Crispin's Day, Jewers remotely directed Ukrainian civilians in the war-torn city of Kyiv, offering a reinterpretation of Shakespeare's rousing "Band of Brothers" speech from "Henry V", recited by The Last Kingdom actress Eliza Butterworth. 

Jewers hopes his films portray the timeless and relevant nature of Shakespeare's work. 

“Everything that has been happening to us in the past few years of upheaval – mass disease, concerns about immigration, protest, conflict in Europe, a growing desire to challenge authority and speak truth to power – was also happening in 1623 when the First Folio was published," he explains.

The parallels are uncanny and Shakespeare’s words are fresher now than ever before in their ability to speak powerfully to our own contemporary lives.
Jack Jewers

"Now, as then, society is deeply divided. The parallels are uncanny and Shakespeare’s words are fresher now than ever before in their ability to speak powerfully to our own contemporary lives," Jewers adds. 

These films will make their debut on 8 November at an event hosted at St. Martin in the Fields in London as part of the Folio 400 anniversary celebrations.

Video editor • Theo Farrant

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