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Bill review: Bard William Shakespeare gets skewered


Making history: the cast of the anarchic Bill

Making history: the cast of the anarchic Bill

Making history: the cast of the anarchic Bill

All the world's a stage and all the men and women are delightfully demented players. The anarchic stars of Horrible Histories and Yonderland recount an untold chapter in the life of England's greatest dramatist in this unabashedly silly romp, laden with cross-dressing, smut and the occasional documented fact.

Scripted by Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond, Bill dons doublet and hose to run amok through the disease-ridden streets frequented by Oscar-winning romantic comedy Shakespeare In Love. Only here, William Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton) is a self-doubting dreamer, who squanders his talent in an Elizabethan boy band called Mortal Coil.

Rickard, Willbond and their regular small screen collaborators Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas and Jim Howick don frocks, codpieces and fake moustaches to portray the motley crew of misfits who inhabit this outlandish vision of late 16th century London.

Production designer Simon Scullion and costume designer Charlotte Morris work tiny miracles on a limited budget to conjure a pungent backdrop to all of the scheming, skulduggery and silly accents.

The lead character's arrival in the festering hellhole of London is a particular delight, as he wanders merrily around a market oblivious to thieving, murder and prostitution around him.

Humour remains just within the bounds of a PG certificate, including repeated appearances of a handheld torture device that is thrust where the sun doth not shine.

Three stars

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