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.
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.
26/04/2020 • 2 minutes 15 seconds
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 Willi
26/04/2020 • 1 hour 57 minutes 59 seconds
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.
Duke of Venice.....Jessica Turner
21/04/2020 • 2 hours 1 minute 48 seconds
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.
21/04/2020 • 4 minutes 7 seconds
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.
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
23/05/2019 • 1 hour 52 minutes 32 seconds
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.
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 c
16/05/2019 • 1 hour 42 minutes 6 seconds
Coriolanus: A tragic hero
A whistle-stop tour through Ancient Rome with writer and broadcaster Natalie Haynes.
09/05/2019 • 4 minutes 1 second
Full Length Play: Coriolanus
Shakespeare's penetrating portrayal of political turmoil in a society at war with itself.
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 form
09/05/2019 • 2 hours 27 minutes 12 seconds
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
Mark Edel Hunt
Produced by Marc Beeby
30/07/2018 • 2 hours 9 minutes 32 seconds
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
23/07/2018 • 44 minutes 31 seconds
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
16/07/2018 • 44 minutes 29 seconds
My Own Shakespeare: Gareth Malone and Margaret Drabble
Gareth Malone and Margaret Drabble on strength and nature
11/07/2018 • 5 minutes 38 seconds
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
09/07/2018 • 2 hours 30 minutes 48 seconds
My Own Shakespeare: Zoe Wanamaker and Jim Al-Khalili
Zoe Wanamaker on the world of play and Jim Al-Khalili on staying rational.
04/07/2018 • 6 minutes 15 seconds
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.
02/07/2018 • 45 minutes 5 seconds
My Own Shakespeare: David Hare and Martha Kearney
David Hare and Martha Kearney on deviant psychology and fancy dress
27/06/2018 • 5 minutes 31 seconds
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
25/06/2018 • 2 hours 59 seconds
My Own Shakespeare: Jools Holland and Kwame Kwei-Armah
Jools Holland on Falstaff & Kwame Kwei-Armah on falling in love with someone’s story
20/06/2018 • 5 minutes 28 seconds
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 Su
18/06/2018 • 44 minutes 21 seconds
My Own Shakespeare: Stephen Fry and Hilary Mantel
Stephen Fry and Hilary Mantel bring us the Shakespearean speeches closest to their hearts
13/06/2018 • 5 minutes 55 seconds
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.
11/06/2018 • 2 hours 31 minutes 16 seconds
My Own Shakespeare: Benjamin Zephaniah and Rowan Williams
Benjamin Zephaniah and Rowan Williams share their favourite Shakespearean moments
06/06/2018 • 5 minutes 16 seconds
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
Lorenzo.....Chris Lew Kum Hoi
Launcelot Gobbo.....Luke Bailey
The Duke.....Neil McCaul
Musical setting of 'Where is fancy bred? composed by Emma Harding, performed by Kerry Gooderson and Peter Ringrose.
06/06/2018 • 1 hour 59 minutes 57 seconds
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.
06/06/2018 • 2 hours 4 minutes 44 seconds
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.