Bill (2015, Richard Bracewell)
Bill marks the first time that the principle performers from two successful television series, ‘Horrible Histories’ and ‘Yonderland’, have took the leap to the cinematic scope. Utilising their unique performances of famous figures once again, something akin to their ‘Horrible Histories’ days, the troupe perform a hilarious – be it simple – take on the lost years of Shakespeare (the period of time historians cannot account for). Taking complete liberty with what occurred during this period, the comedy team outlay a fictitious account of the young Bards life, with his rise to fame in Elizabethan England.
With failing to hold down a place within the Tudor rock band Mortal Coil, Bill Shakespeare looks to the written arts in hopes of gaining acclaim. Leaving his wife and children the young writer travels to London, where he finds the capital lacking in the arts. With Queen Elizabeth fighting a war against the Spanish, under the leadership of King Phillip, and her most trusted advisor held captive abroad, an idea is concocted to ensnare the King within England. Using a play as means to attract her rival, the queen assigns Lord Croydon as the playwright. With the conniving lord unable to write the performance, Shakespeare finds himself to be a pawn in a much larger plan.
With its complete cheesiness as its main charm, Lawrence Rickard and Ben Willbond (with support from the other members; Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Jim Howick and Martha Howe-Douglas) have produced something that plays very much like the Monty Python films of the 1980’s. With ridiculous set piece after ridiculous set piece the movie carries many over the top moments that will garner laughs from the viewer. In much the same way that their other projects are slapstick and stupid, Bill showcases an historical Britain unlike any to have graced the screen before. With moments of laugh out loud idiocracy, a man screaming to pass in an empty field as but one example, the film is funny throughout and will entertain audiences of all ages.
Taking a poetic license to the history of England, the writers of Bill have still given due respect to the source of their narrative. This balance makes Bill feel fresh and wanted.
History buffs may find the troupes claims far fetched, but it’s in this sense the film works best. Never overly convoluted on facts and accuracy the band of comedy actors seems intent to have fun, with the feeling projected from their performance carrying this throughout. Through them enjoying the film making process, the audience is able to explore and laugh the world they have created without having to work their history knowledge into proceedings. Partner this aspect with the fact that the performers portray multiple roles in different capacities, and the film really does deliver on its fun and humorous premise.
Through the various similarities that this film shares with the children history show, Bill could easily be seen as a longer episode within the confines of the series. However, with no input from that team accept the six comedians, Bill is its own creation and as such should be seen as a worthwhile production in the capacity of a stand-alone.
Plot – 3.5
Acting – 4
Direction – 3
Special Effects – 3
Retrospect – 3
Overall – 3