What I'm Watching: Bill

Did anyone else hear that the Horrible Histories lot had made a film, or have I just been living under a rock? Turns out it even had a cinema release. Who knew? Anyway, I've now watched it - and I'm glad I did. Bill tells the story of Shakespeare's lost years in typical Horrible Histories fashion, and it lived up to my expectations - which were pretty high, considering the type of film this is.

If you haven't heard of Horrible Histories, it's basically a comedy sketch show (based on the books by Terry Deary) that teaches kids all about history - particularly the 'horrible' bits. There's usually a song at the end of each episode - like this one about the Georges. (My cousin's kids can now sing all the Kings and Queens of England, from William the Conqueror onwards. It's impressive.)

In primary school, I used to collect the magazines. We got a weekly subscription and although I lost interest after ten instalments, and we cancelled it, they kept sending them. Until there were sixty. And then they sent us a letter saying "because you liked our magazines so much, we're going to send you some more!" (They're all in the attic now, might be worth something actually...) So anyway, when the series was introduced, years later, I tuned in to the first episode. The show's success speaks for itself - it's genuinely funny as well as educational, and the cast are all really talented and look like they're having a whale of a time. It's spawned a good few series', a stage-show and has even gained an adult following. And now they've let them make a film.

I'm guessing Bill didn't do too well at the box office, since most people have never heard of it, but I enjoyed it. Starring the usual cast, including Matthew Baynton as the hapless 'Bill' Shakespeare, Martha Howe-Douglas as his wife and Ben Willbond as Phillip II of Spain, there are also cameos from Helen McRory and Damien Lewis. I'm assuming their kids are fans? The story follows the young Shakespeare, who's kicked out of his band (he's the lute player, for 'Mortal Coil') and so decides to leave Stratford and instead follow his dream to be a writer. He ends up selling fruit in the market-place with Christopher Marlowe and then becomes embroiled in a Catholic plot to kill the queen.

 As you can tell, this isn't meant to be serious history - it's probably more Monty-Python for kids. But it's fun, there are plenty of references for the Shakespeare geeks among us and the jokes work on an adult level too. Especially if you like your puns. Maybe it's a tiny bit too long, but I didn't get bored. There's even a big plot twist that I didn't see coming (although, I never guess these things.)

Bill is a great little family comedy and a treat for Horrible Histories fans. If you're looking for something light that will make you laugh, I'd recommend. It's silly, but I thought it was great.


  1. That's so cool! I love Horrible Histories. I'll have to look for this... though I'm not certain how hard it would be to find in the U.S. :D

    1. Ah, hadn't thought of that, might be tricky! Worth a watch if you can find it though :)

  2. Oh, I adored Horrible Histories!!! I loved their songs the best, I think. Like the one about Richard III and the 4 Georges' Born 2 Rule :) Really so many great moments.

    1. The George's song will always be the best!


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