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The Shakespeare Sessions Podcast

English, Arts, 1 season, 25 episodes, 1 day, 3 hours, 16 minutes
Is he the world’s greatest playwright? Make up your own mind with these original, innovative productions & casts that would sell out the West End in minutes. Lend them your ears.
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Who is Falstaff?

Toby Jones on playing the boisterous and fun-loving knight Falstaff. Toby Jones stars as Falstaff in our full-length version of Henry IV Part 1, which you can find in your podcast feed.
4/26/20202 minutes, 15 seconds
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Full Length Play: Henry IV Part 1

Rebellion is brewing in Britain. King Henry must reunite his country but how when even his own family is divided? As Henry's rule is threatened his son Hal appears unconcerned, wasting his time in the company of the comically corrupt Falstaff and common thieves, apparently more interested in play than the politics of state. Yet what kind of leadership is needed to unite the country might well be found in the taverns of Eastcheap as within the Palace of Westminster. King Henry ..... Iain Glen Falstaff ..... Toby Jones Hal ..... Luke Thompson Hotspur ..... Tom Glynn-Carney Worcester .....Mark Bonnar Lady Percy .....Natalie Simpson Glendower ..... Steffan Rhodri Lady Mortimer ..... Bettrys Jones Westmoreland ..... Roger Ringrose Northumberland/Douglas ..... John Dougall Bardolph/ Sir Walter Blunt ..... John Lightbody Peto/Sherriff/Vernon ..... Sargon Yelda John/Mortimer ..... Chris Lew Kum Hoi Poins/Messenger ..... Hasan Dixon Mistress Quickly ..... Elizabeth Counsell Written by William Shakespeare Music composed by John Nicholls. Adapted and directed by Sally Avens.
4/26/20201 hour, 57 minutes, 59 seconds
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Full Length Play: Othello

Khalid Abdalla, Matthew Needham and Cassie Layton star in Shakespeare's tragedy. This version is staged in an imagined near future, in which a power-hungry Turkish president attempts an attack on Cyprus. The western forces rush to Cyprus' defence, under the command of the fearless General Othello. But can an Arab-born, Christian convert ever be truly accepted by the people he serves? Adapted and directed for radio by Emma Harding You can listen to Dr Islam Issa giving us a quick rundown of events in the 1600s that influenced the character of Othello, in your podcast feed. And don't forget to check out Looking for the Moor, also in your podcast feed, which sees Hugh Quarshie explore Othello and ask if the play is racist. Cast Othello.....Khalid Abdalla Iago.....Matthew Needham Desdemona.....Cassie Layton Cassio.....Max Bennett Brabantio.....Neil McCaul Roderigo.....Clive Hayward Duke of Venice.....Jessica Turner Montano.....Peter Polycarpou Emilia.....Bettrys Jones Lodovico.....Ian Conningham Bianca.....Heather Craney All other parts played by Sargon Yelda and Hasan Dixon
4/21/20202 hours, 1 minute, 48 seconds
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Othello: What it means to be a Moor

Dr Islam Issa, Senior Lecturer at Birmingham City University, gives us a rundown of events in the 1600s that influenced the character of Othello. You can listen to our full-length version of Othello, set in an imagined near future, in your podcast feed.
4/21/20204 minutes, 7 seconds
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Full Length Play: The Two Noble Kinsmen

The Two Noble Kinsmen is one of Shakespeare's least-performed plays, and widely considered to be his last. Generally accepted to be co-written with John Fletcher, this Jacobean tragicomedy has its roots in Chaucer's The Knight's Tale. This audio version shares the same cast with The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Shakespeare's first play) which you can listen to in the Shakespeare Sessions feed. This striking audio realisation is recorded entirely on location to give the sense of a strolling company, making the most of the countryside. Listen to both plays, and trace the bard's progression across 40 years. The Plot On the day planned for his wedding to Hippolyta, Duke Theseus of Athens is petitioned by three queens to go to war against King Creon of Thebes, who has deprived their dead husbands of proper burial rites. In Thebes, the 'two noble kinsmen', Palamon and Arcite, realize that their own hatred of Creon's tyranny must be put aside while their native city is in danger, but in spite of their valour in battle it is Theseus who is victorious. Imprisoned in Athens, the cousins catch sight of Hippolyta's sister, Emilia, and both fall instantly in love with her. Arcite is set free, but disguises himself rather than return to Thebes, while Palamon escapes with the help of the Jailer's Daughter, who loves him. Meeting each other, the kinsmen agree that mortal combat between them must decide the issue, but they are discovered by Theseus who is persuaded to revoke his sentence of death and instead decrees that a tournament shall decide which cousin is to be married to the indecisive Emilia and which is to lose his head. The Jailer's Daughter has been driven mad by unrequited love, but accepts her former suitor when he pretends to be Palamon. Before the tournament Arcite makes a lengthy invocation to Mars, while Palamon prays to Venus and Emilia to Diana – for victory to go to the one who loves her best. Although Arcite triumphs, he is thrown from his horse before the death sentence on Palamon can be carried out, and with his last breath bequeaths Emilia to his friend. JAILER'S DAUGHTER ..... Lyndsey Marshal EMILIA ..... Kate Phillips PALAMON ..... Blake Ritson ARCITE ..... Nikesh Patel THESEUS ..... Ray Fearon HIPPOLYTA ..... Emma Fielding JAILER ..... Hugh Ross PIRITHIOUS ..... Daniel Ryan WOOER ..... Oliver Chris QUEEN 1 ..... Susan Salmon QUEEN 2 ..... Sara Markland QUEEN 3/DOCTOR ..... Jane Whittenshaw COUNTRYMAN 1/FRIEND ..... Sam Dale ARTESIUS/COUNTRYMAN 2 ..... Carl Prekopp COUNTRYMAN 3/BROTHER ..... Pip Donaghy Adapted for Radio by Sara Davies Directed by Celia de Wolff A Pier Production for BBC Radio 3 Music composed and performed by Tom Glenister and sung by Emma Mackey and Tom Glenister
5/23/20191 hour, 52 minutes, 32 seconds
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Full Length Play: The Two Gentlemen of Verona

The Two Gentlemen of Verona is considered to be one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays and is paired next week with a production of The Two Noble Kinsmen which was his last play and widely considered to have been written with the up and coming writer John Fletcher. Director Celia De Wolff was keen to present the two plays together as they share common themes of men and women falling for the same lover, cunning disguises and betrayal within friendships. She has recorded both productions entirely on location in the Sussex Countryside with the same band of actors giving a sense that they are being presented by a group of strolling players. The Plot Two young men, Valentine and Proteus, make their way from Verona to Milan. Valentine's father is sending him to take a position in the Duke of Milan's court, and Proteus accompanies him reluctantly, not wanting to leave his beloved Julia. While in Milan, Valentine falls for the Duke's daughter, Silvia.. Silvia is betrothed to Thurio, a wealthy courtier, although Silvia prefers Valentine. The two decide to elope, and Valentine confides in Proteus; Proteus, however, has fallen in love himself with Silvia. In order to get Valentine out of the way, Proteus tells the Duke of Valentine’s feelings and he is banished and Silvia is sent to a jail, and Proteus becomes the Duke’s confidante in matters concerning Thurio and Silvia. Valentine joins a band of outlaws and is elected their leader. Julia disguised as a boy page enters Milan in search of Proteus, who is trying unsuccessfully to woo Silvia on the sly. Silvia, on the other hand, still longs for Valentine, and cares nothing for Proteus or Thurio. Julia, ironically now in service as a page to Proteus, becomes an intermediary between Proteus and Silvia. Silvia finally tires of the situation and escapes Milan in search of Valentine. As fate would have it, Silvia is captured by Valentine's band of outlaws. The Duke soon learns of Silvia's escape, and he, Proteus, and Thurio all set off to rescue her. Proteus finds Silvia before the outlaws can bring her to Valentine. Valentine encounters them as Proteus makes the case for his love to Silvia; the two confront and eventually make peace with each other. In a gesture of reconciliation, Valentine even offers Silvia to Proteus, which causes Julia (who is still disguised as the page) to faint and Proteus recognizes her, much to his shame. The Duke and Thurio arrive but Thurio backs off his claim to Silvia when challenged by Valentine. As the play ends, Valentine gets Silvia with the Duke's approval, Proteus and Julia are reconciled, and the Duke grants a pardon to the band of outlaws. JULIA ..... Lyndsey Marshal SILVIA ..... Kate Phillips PROTEUS ..... Blake Ritson VALENTINE ..... Nikesh Patel SPEED ..... Ray Fearon LUCETTA ..... Emma Fielding DUKE ..... Hugh Ross PANTHINO .....Daniel Ryan THURIO ..... Oliver Chris HOST ..... Sara Markland LAUNCE ..... Sam Dale EGLAMOUR ..... Carl Prekopp ANTONIO ..... Pip Donaghy Written by William Shakespeare Adapted for Radio by Sara Davies Sound design by David Thomas Directed by Celia de Wolff A Pier Production for BBC Radio 3, recorded on location in the Sussex Countryside.
5/16/20191 hour, 42 minutes, 6 seconds
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Coriolanus: A tragic hero

A whistle-stop tour through Ancient Rome with writer and broadcaster Natalie Haynes.
5/9/20194 minutes, 1 second
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Full Length Play: Coriolanus

Shakespeare's penetrating portrayal of political turmoil in a society at war with itself. The Plot There's widespread famine in Rome, which is causing tension between the common people and the patricians (the aristocrats). The people particularly hate Caius Martius, the arrogant son of Volumnia, and the feeling is mutual. The citizens think the patricians are hoarding corn for themselves. They rise up, and are given two people's representatives (tribunes) who will sit in the Senate. The unrest is halted by war with neighbouring Volscians. In the battle of Corioli, Caius Martius leads the army to victory and is honoured with the name Coriolanus. When they get back to Rome, the patricians insist Coriolanus gains the consulship (the highest elected office). To do this, he has to make a public display of humility in front of the citizens, which he attempts, but is unable to mask his contempt for them. The citizens banish Coriolanus from Rome. In revenge, Coriolanus joins with his former enemies, the Volscians, and they march on Rome. It is only through the intervention of Coriolanus's wife, mother and son that he halts the attack. Peace returns, but Coriolanus is killed by the Volscians. Coriolanus . . . Trystan Gravelle Volumnia . . . Diana Rigg Menenius . . . James Fleet Cominius . . . Paul Hilton Sicinius . . . Tony Turner Brutus . . . Joel MacCormack Lartius . . . David Hounslow Aufidius . . . Ray Fearon Virgilia . . . Clare Corbett Valeria . . . Susan Jameson Gentlewoman . . . Franchi Webb with Michael Bertenshaw, Kenny Blyth, Joseph Ayre and Christopher Harper Directed by Marc Beeby Originally aired on BBC Radio 3.
5/9/20192 hours, 27 minutes, 12 seconds
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Full Length Play: Julius Caesar

The original political thriller that re-imagines Brutus's betrayal of Caesar. Caesar - Tim Pigott-Smith Brutus, - Robert Glenister Cassius - Sam Troughton Mark Antony - Jamie Parker Casca - Philip Fox Portia - Fenella Woolgar Octavius - Wilf Scolding Calpurnia - Jessica Turner Lucius - Adam Thomas Wright Other parts were played by Sam Dale Neet Mohan David Acton Stephen Critchlow David Hounslow Chris Pavlo Mark Edel Hunt Produced by Marc Beeby
7/30/20182 hours, 9 minutes, 32 seconds
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Exit Burbage

Imagine where we'd be without Shakespeare's plays. It's difficult to contemplate now. But it was thanks to another man that many of them were brought to life. Today, Richard Burbage is a not a household name. But he should be. He's the man for whom many of the great Shakespearean roles were created. One of the founding members of the Lord Chamberlain's Men, playing at the newly built Globe in 1599, he's one of the foundations upon which British theatre was built. Andrew Dickson talks to leading actors, rummages among the archives and dissects some of the greatest parts in acting to discover Burbage's crucial role - and realises that without Richard Burbage, there could be no Shakespeare. Producer: Penny Murphy
7/23/201844 minutes, 31 seconds
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Shakespeare: For And Against

Playwright Mark Ravenhill challenges our adulation of the Bard and asks: Is Shakespeare's genius beyond question? Casting a sceptical eye over centuries of bardolatry, Ravenhill calls for a new approach to the plays. Exploring the intellectual tradition that has seen important figures from Voltaire to Tolstoy to Wittgenstein challenge Shakespeare's supremacy, Ravenhill searches for today's dissenting voices. Tracing the transformation of a working playwright into a national poet, global brand and secular god, Ravenhill asks if it's still possible to enjoy Shakespeare without being overwhelmed by the cultural and commercial baggage of 'brand Shakespeare'. Meeting Royal Shakespeare Company Artistic Director Gregory Doran, theatre director Phyllida Lloyd and actors Simon Russell Beale and Fiona Shaw, Ravenhill explores what Shakespeare's plays mean to theatre-makers today and asks if Shakespeare is a problem for a contemporary theatre which seeks to give an equal representation of women's experience of the world. Joining RSC actors in a primary school for a performance of Taming Of The Shrew, Ravenhill wonders if a play of such dark and complex sexual politics is really suitable material for ten-year-olds. Scholar Ania Loomba describes India's changing relationship with Shakespeare, while Professor Gary Taylor talks about the ambivalence of large parts of America toward the Bard. Other interviewees include: playwrights Edward Bond and Howard Barker, RSC Deputy Artistic Director Erica Whyman, Shakespeare academics Ewan Fernie, Dr Martin Wiggins, Michael Dobson and Dr Erin Sullivan of the University of Birmingham Shakespeare Institute. With readings by Amanda Drew and Paul Ritter. Producer: Matt Willis
7/16/201844 minutes, 29 seconds
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My Own Shakespeare: Gareth Malone and Margaret Drabble

Gareth Malone and Margaret Drabble on strength and nature
7/11/20185 minutes, 38 seconds
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Full Length Play: The Winter's Tale

Eve Best, Danny Sapani and Shaun Dooley star in the magical product of the Bard's later years. Treading new dramatic ground The Winter's Tale embraces tragedy, poetry, folklore, magic realism, music, comedy and the infamous stage direction "exit pursued by a bear". Leontes ..... Danny Sapani Hermione ..... Eve Best Polixenes ..... Shaun Dooley Camillo ..... Karl Johnson Paulina ..... Susan Jameson Shepherd ..... Paul Copley Perdita ..... Faye Castelow Autolycus ..... Tim Van Eyken Florizel ..... Will Howard Mamillius ..... Charlie Brand Archidamus ..... Sean Baker Antigonus ..... Brian Protheroe Clown ..... Sam Rix Emilia ..... Scarlett Brookes Cleomenes ..... Richard Pepple Dion ..... Nick Underwood First Lady ..... Adie Allen Mopsa ..... Nicola Ferguson First Lord ..... James Lailey Mariner ..... Sargon Yelda Officer ..... Ewan Bailey Music composed by Tim Van Eyken, Singer Lisa Knapp Director: David Hunter
7/9/20182 hours, 30 minutes, 48 seconds
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My Own Shakespeare: Zoe Wanamaker and Jim Al-Khalili

Zoe Wanamaker on the world of play and Jim Al-Khalili on staying rational.
7/4/20186 minutes, 15 seconds
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Looking For The Moor

Hugh Quarshie on Othello’s blackness. Is the character coherent? Is the play racist? Hugh Quarshie is a Ghanaian-born British actor. He is a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and played Othello in Iqbal Khan's production on the main stage of the RSC in the summer of 2015. But not without some soul searching. He's not convinced that Shakespeare actually knew any black people and wonders if the persona of Othello is simply derived from literary and theatrical convention. He also suspects that if Shakespeare had little or no awareness of black people, his characterisation of Othello could be regarded as lazy; if he did, then his approach borders on bigotry and the role should be seen as a stereotype about which black actors should think twice. It's a provocative starting point. Producer: Roger Elsgood Originally an Art and Adventure production for BBC Radio 3.
7/2/201845 minutes, 5 seconds
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My Own Shakespeare: David Hare and Martha Kearney

David Hare and Martha Kearney on deviant psychology and fancy dress
6/27/20185 minutes, 31 seconds
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Full Length Play: A Midsummer Night's Dream

The play revolves around the adventures of four young lovers, a group of amateur actors and their interactions with the fairies who inhabit a moonlit forest. The story takes place in Midsummer and is a complex farce featuring Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius. Their romantic intrigues are confused and complicated still further by entering the forest where Oberon King of the fairies and his queen Titania, preside. Puck (or Robin Goodfellow) is a major character who is full of mischief and tricks. Other visitors to the enchanted forest include Bottom, the Weaver and his friends Snug, Snout, Quince and Flute, the amateur dramatists who want to rehearse their terrible but hilarious version of the play Pyramus and Thisbe. Recorded on location in 22 acres of Sussex woodland, this production has an all-star cast. Director: Celia de Wolff Music by Stephanie Nunn Titania ..... Lesley Sharp Oberon ..... Toby Stephens Peter Quince ..... Robert Pugh Nick Bottom ..... Roger Allam Puck ..... Freddie Fox Theseus ..... Nicholas Farrell Hippolyta ..... Emma Fielding Lysander ..... Joseph Timms Demetrius ..... Ferdinand Kingsley Hermia ..... Emerald O'Hanrahan Helena ..... Anna Madeley Egeus / Starveling ..... David Collings Philostrate / Snug ..... Nicholas Boulton Fairy ..... Sara Markland Francis Flute ..... Sam Alexander Tom Snout ..... Sam Dale Peaseblossom ..... Jessica Sian Cobweb ..... Jay Carter Moth ..... Tressa Brooks Mustardseed ..... Stuart Walker.
6/25/20182 hours, 59 seconds
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My Own Shakespeare: Jools Holland and Kwame Kwei-Armah

Jools Holland on Falstaff & Kwame Kwei-Armah on falling in love with someone’s story
6/20/20185 minutes, 28 seconds
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First Folio Road Trip

From London to Kent, Oxford, the Scottish borders, Suffolk, Nottinghamshire and across the channel to France, Emma Smith takes a road trip to learn more about how Shakespeare's First Folio helped create the Shakespeare we know and love today. We take it for granted now that Shakespeare is our national poet, and his First Folio almost a religious relic, but it wasn't always so. Emma follows the story of seven of the 750 original copies of the First Folio to learn how Shakespeare's work spread across Britain and Europe, and how his reputation expanded in the hundred odd years between its publication in 1623 and the erection of his statue in Westminster Abbey in 1741. She learns about Sir Edward Dering, a shopaholic young nobleman from Kent, the first documented purchaser of a First Folio, which he bought along with a scarlet suits, a pot of marmalade and a present for his baby son. She hears about two real-life star-crossed lovers, Thomas and Isabella Hervey, from Ickworth in Suffolk, and examines the signatures they wrote in every copy of their shared library, including a First Folio. She shares a hollow laugh with the current librarian of the Bodleian Library, which acquired a First Folio and then sold it. She travels to St Omer in Northern France to see the most recently rediscovered copy and learn about the English Catholic schoolboys who may have performed extracts from it there. Having viewed a range of First Folios (see related links for examples on display across the UK) Emma considers the spread outwards of Shakespeare's reputation and inwards, deep into our lives. Emma Smith is Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College Oxford and the author of a new book on the First Folio. Producer: Beaty Rubens.
6/18/201844 minutes, 21 seconds
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My Own Shakespeare: Stephen Fry and Hilary Mantel

Stephen Fry and Hilary Mantel bring us the Shakespearean speeches closest to their hearts
6/13/20185 minutes, 55 seconds
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Full Length Play: King Lear

Lear is a very old king with a problem: three daughters and no sons. In dividing the kingdom between his children, Lear's reasoning is admirable: he wants to hand over the kingdom to his daughters so that "future strife / May be prevented now." But in doing so he sets in train a chain of events that lead to madness, self-discovery and the disintegration of the kingdom. King Lear ..... Ian McDiarmid Kent ..... Michael Nardone Goneril ..... Madeleine Worrall Regan ..... Frances Grey Cordelia ..... Joanna Vanderham Gloucester ..... Bill Paterson Edgar ..... Finn den Hertog Edmund ..... Paul Higgins The Fool ..... Brian Vernel Albany ..... Steven Robertson Cornwall ..... Steven Cree Oswald ..... Owen Whitelaw Burgundy/Doctor ..... Sean Murray King of France ..... Simon Harrison Old Man/Gentleman ..... Ewan Bailey Music performed by Polly Phillips (bassoon) and Georgina McGrath (double bass) Music and Sound Design by Gary C Newman Produced and directed by Gaynor Macfarlane.
6/11/20182 hours, 31 minutes, 16 seconds
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My Own Shakespeare: Benjamin Zephaniah and Rowan Williams

Benjamin Zephaniah and Rowan Williams share their favourite Shakespearean moments
6/6/20185 minutes, 16 seconds
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Full Length Play: The Merchant of Venice

Andrew Scott, Ray Fearon, Hayley Atwell and Colin Morgan star in Shakespeare's ever-topical story of over-confident traders, a debt-ridden country dependent on credit, and a society suspicious of religious difference. This modern version is set in the City of London in the 2008 financial crisis. It's introduced by the BBC's Business Editor, Simon Jack. Adapted and directed by Emma Harding Antonio.....Ray Fearon Bassanio.....Colin Morgan Portia.....Hayley Atwell Shylock.....Andrew Scott Salarino.....Ryan Whittle Salanio.....Neerja Naik Gratiano.....Ryan Early Lorenzo.....Chris Lew Kum Hoi Jessica.....Lauren Cornelius Launcelot Gobbo.....Luke Bailey Nerissa.....Kerry Gooderson Morocco.....Stefan Adegbola Arragon.....Javier Marzan The Duke.....Neil McCaul Tubal.....Clive Hayward Balthasar.....Rupert Holliday-Evans Musical setting of 'Where is fancy bred? composed by Emma Harding, performed by Kerry Gooderson and Peter Ringrose.
6/6/20181 hour, 59 minutes, 57 seconds
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Full Length Play: Measure for Measure

"Women? Help Heaven! men their creation mar In profiting by them." Shakespeare's last and perhaps strangest comedy - a play about religion, surveillance, coercion, sex and power. The Duke ..... Paul Higgins Isabella ..... Nicola Ferguson Angelo ..... Robert Jack Escalus ..... Maureen Beattie Lucio and Froth ..... Finn den Hertog The Provost ..... Michael Nardone Mariana ..... Maggie Serivce Claudio / Friar Peter ..... Owen Whitelaw Pompey ..... Sandy Grierson Mistress Overdone and Francisca ..... Georgie Glen Juliet ..... Olivia Morgan Elbow / Abhorson / Friar Thomas ..... Kevin Mains Introduced by Professor Julie Sanders Sound design and music by Gary C Newman Directed by Gaynor Macfarlane.
6/6/20182 hours, 4 minutes, 44 seconds
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The Art of Storytelling

Prof. Emma Smith takes a closer look at Shakespeare's skills as a storyteller and how his plots, where the outcome is often signposted from the beginning, still hold audiences enthralled.
6/6/201814 minutes, 48 seconds