Title

Colour-conscious Casting and Multicultural Britain in the BBC Henry V (2012): Historicizing Adaptation in an Age of Digital Placelessness

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

8-1-2017

Abstract

With its substantial record of film and televisual productions, Henry V serves as a case study for reading adaptation historically. The advent of digital distribution and streaming have complicated, however, the ways in which the historical context of an adaptation may be accessed and examined. A recent adaptation, the 2012 Henry V directed by Thea Sharrock and aired as part of the BBC’s The Hollow Crown broadcast, demands a methodological expansion to account for digital placelessness. Produced within the framework of the Cultural Olympiad that coincided with both the London Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee, the Hollow Crown Henry V provokes questions about the status of multicultural Britain in the third millennium. The film does so in ways that invoke both the dynamics of ethnic identity endemic to its country of production origin—the United Kingdom—as well as to motifs present in the visual lexicon of its wider international market—especially the United States. The casting of Paterson Joseph as the Duke of York manifests fissures in these local and international histories. That the Duke of York is played by the only actor of colour in the film burdens the role with new pressures of representation and interacts in troubling ways with the policies of multiculturalism in the United Kingdom as well as the trope of the Magical Negro in Hollywood filmmaking. Pursuing these twinned contexts facilitates a reconsideration of how a historical methodology determines its points of reference and pursues the ethical in adaptative artworks.

Journal Title

Adaptation

Volume

10

Issue

2

First Page

176

Last Page

191

DOI

10.1093/adaptation/apx013

First Department

English

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