BBC1 announce ambitious drama package with new shows Dickensian, Fall of a City and an adaption of A Midsummer Night's Dream

Prepare for a 'very new commission [on BBC1] to break the mould'

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The Independent Culture

Russell T Davies, the director who revived Doctor Who, has cast Maxine Peake as Titania, Matt Lucas as Bottom and Elaine Paige as Mistress Quince in his adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the centre piece of BBC1’s upcoming Shakespeare season.

The play, which will be filmed in Wales and shown early next year, is part of a series of drama commissions which BBC1 controller Charlotte Moore said would “take the audiences to places they haven’t been before”. The channel released pictures of its 20-part series Dickensian, in which director Tony Jordan brings together characters from numerous Dickens novels.

BBC1 will also show a multi-part drama based on the epic story of the Siege of Troy. Created by Royal Shakespeare Company director David Farr, Troy – Fall of a City will be “unlike anything we’ve ever seen on BBC1 before”, said Ms Moore.

Ms Peake’s casting in A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows a well-received cross-dressing performance in the lead role of Hamlet at Manchester Royal Exchange last year. Davies has chosen Richard Wilson to play Starveling and Bernard Cribbins is cast as Snout. Hiran Abeysekera, who recently played Peter Pan on a wire at Regent’s Park Open Theatre in London, takes the role of the sprite Puck.

Maxine Peake as Hamlet at the Royal Exchange Theatre (Jonathan Keenan)

Davies said: “This is such an exciting range of actors from stage and screen, from wild comedy to high drama, and some making their first ever appearance on camera – the Dream is coming to life like never before.”

Hanif Kureishi has been commissioned to make a 90-minute adaptation of ER Braithwaite’s autobiographical novel To Sir with Love, on the experience of a Guyanese engineer demobbed by the RAF and starting life in post-war Britain.

To mark next year’s 60th anniversary of Hancock’s Half Hour becoming the first sitcom on BBC television, BBC1 has invited a series of top comedy writers to “revisit” BBC sitcom classics.

Mrs Bumble (Caroline Quentin) from Oliver Twist and Mrs Gamp (Pauline Collins) from Martin Chuzzlewit (credit: BBC/Adrian Rogers)

Launching the channel’s Autumn and Winter schedule on the vast set of Dickensian, which includes a 90-metre cobbled street , seven back alleys and 27 two-storey buildings including versions of The Old Curiosity Shop and The Three Cripples pub from Oliver Twist Ms Moore said she wanted “very new commission [on BBC1] to break the mould”. The series will feature Pauline Collins as Mrs Gamp from Martin Chuzzlewit, Caroline Quentin as Mrs Bumble from Oliver Twist and Stephen Rea as Inspector Bucket from Bleak House.