Shakespeare Unlocked with the BBC

In case it had escaped your notice, the World Shakespeare Festival’s about to kick off in theatres around the country. But even if you don’t intend to go anywhere near a theatre, the BBC is providing enough programmes in the next week or so to keep you glued to your TV and radio set. So much, in fact, that I’ve prepared a handy list so you can make absolutely sure you don’t miss a bit of it. You won’t have much time for anything else, so get down to the supermarket to stock up on everything you’re likely to need to get you through a pretty full week of Shakespeare-related programmes.

Saturday 21 April
9 am Radio 4 Extra: Shakespeare: Thereby hangs a tale: a celebration of the Swan of Avon.
10.30 am Radio 4 William Shakespeare’s Playlist. This sounds like a gentle introduction with David Owen Norris, Gregory Doran, Stanley Wells and Lucie Skeaping listening to some lullabies and jigs.
7 pm Radio 4 Extra: Repeat of Thereby hangs a tale
10.05 pm World Service. The Weekend Strand: celebration of how the bard staged the world and the world has staged the bard. Presented by Harriett Gilbert

That’s all there is for Saturday so you can relax and prepare for the rest of the week.

Sunday 22 April
11.05 am World Service. The Weekend Strand: celebration of how the bard staged the world and the world has staged the bard. Presented by Harriett Gilbert
11.15 am. Radio 4, The Reunion, interviews people who were involved in the building of the replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre including Zoe Wanamaker, daughter of Sam, whose idea the whole thing was, and Patrick Spottiswoode.
8.30 pm. Radio 3. Drama on 3: Twelfth Night with David Tennant as Malvolio, Trystan Gravelle as Sebastian, and Ron Cook as Toby Belch. This sounds much too good to miss.
10.25 pm BBC 1 for viewers in the Midlands: Macbeth, the Movie Star, and me. Documentary about actor David Harewood’s attempt to take Shakespeare back to his old school.

Monday 23 April
This is where it really gets going:
10.30 am Radio 3: To mark Shakespeare’s traditional birthday, Harriet Walter shares some musical choices.
1.45 pm  Radio 4: Shakespeare’s Restless World, episode 6. Henry V’s instruments of war.
1.45 pm BBC1: For lovers of daytime TV Doctors has a Shakespeare theme all week. Today Fall of a sparrow
2 pm  Neil MacGregor is doing a live blog relating to Shakespeare’s Restless World – go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/radio4/2012/04/shakespeare_live_blog_with_nei.html to listen or participate.
4.30 pm Radio 3: Simon Russell Beale joins Suzy Klein to read one of his favourite love sonnets each day for In Tune: Shakespeare And Love
7.45 pm Radio 4: repeat of Shakespeare’s Restless World
9 pm BBC4: The King and the Playwright. Part 1 of Documentary on Shakespeare and King James by James Shapiro.
10.45 pm Radio 3: The Essay: Shakespeare and love, by Margaret Drabble

 Tuesday 24 April
10 am Radio 4 Extra:, The Jacobean Box (repeats 3.00pm and 3.00am), Shakespearian academic, Brian Blake learns a large item awaits collection at a remote northern station, starring Stephen Moore.
10.30 am Radio 3 In the week of Shakespeare’s birthday, Harriet Walter shares some musical choices.
1.45 pm Radio 4: Shakespeare’s Restless World, episode 7. Ireland: failures in the present
1.45 pm BBC1: For lovers of daytime TV Doctors has a Shakespeare theme all week. Today: If music be the food of love.
4.30 pm Radio 3: Simon Russell Beale joins Suzy Klein to read one of his favourite love sonnets each day for In Tune: Shakespeare And Love
7.45 pm Radio 4: repeat of Shakespeare’s Restless World
10.45 pm  Radio 3: The Essay: Shakespeare and love, by Stanley Wells

Wednesday 25 April
1.45 Radio 4: Shakespeare’s Restless World, episode 8. City life, Urban strife.
1.45 pm BBC1: For lovers of daytime TV Doctors has a Shakespeare theme all week. Today: Being your slave
4.30 pm Radio 3: Simon Russell Beale joins Suzy Klein to read one of his favourite love sonnets each day for In Tune: Shakespeare And Love
7.45 Radio 4: repeat of Shakespeare’s Restless World
10.45 pm Radio 3: The Essay: Shakespeare and love, by Samuel West
11 pm. Radio 4 Extra. The Reduced Shakespeare Radio Show: the comedies

I hope you’re keeping up, because there’s still a lot to get through.

Thursday 26 April
9 am Radio 4: In Our Time. Melvyn Bragg and guests report on the 1485 Battle of Bosworth Field, immortalised in Shakespeare’s Richard III.
11.15 am, Radio 4 Extra. Another Shakespeare (repeats 9.15pm and 4.15am) is a drama inspired by the true life story of an 18th century forger of the Bard.
1.45 pm Radio 4: Shakespeare’s Restless World, episode 9: New Science, Old Magic
1.45 pm  BBC1: Doctors has a Shakespeare theme all week. Today: Genius
4.30 pm Radio 3: Simon Russell Beale joins Suzy Klein to read one of his favourite love sonnets each day for In Tune: Shakespeare And Love
7.45 pm Radio 4: repeat of Shakespeare’s Restless World
9.30pm Radio 4: Shortened repeat of In Our Time on the Battle of Bosworth
10 pm BBC2: Shakespeare-themed edition of Stephen Fry’s quiz show QI.
10.45 pm Radio 3: The Essay: Shakespeare and love, by Helen Hackett
11 pm BBC4: Repeat of The King and the Playwright. Part 1 of Documentary by James Shapiro on Shakespeare and King James

Friday 26 April
9am Radio 4. Repeat of The Reunion, interviewing people who were involved in the building of the replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
11.15 am Radio 4 Extra:  Another Shakespeare (repeats 9.15 pm and 4.15 am)
1.45 pm  Radio 4: Shakespeare’s Restless World, episode 10: Toil and Trouble, on witchcraft.
1.45 pm BBC1: Doctors has a Shakespeare theme all week. Today: The Lunatics, the lover and the Poet
4.30 pm Radio 3: Simon Russell Beale joins Suzy Klein to read one of his favourite love sonnets each day for In Tune: Shakespeare And Love 7.45 pm Radio 4: repeat of Shakespeare’s Restless World
10 pm BBC2: Shakespeare-themed edition of Stephen Fry’s quiz show QI.
10.45 pm Radio 3: The Essay: Shakespeare and love, by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Congratulations if you’ve made it this far! The schedules for the following week aren’t up yet, but as far as I know, you can rest and recover on Saturday 27 April, and on Sunday 28 April enjoy the Antiques Roadshow on BBC1 from Charlecote Park, recorded in September 2010. This should feature me, while I was head of SCLA, trying to get a bit more information about a little mystery object from the Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive with the help of one of their experts.

In the following weeks many treats are promised by the BBC, but not in quite such a concentrated form.

  • Shakespeare’s Restless World is due to keep going on Radio 4 for another 2 weeks with the final 10 objects.
  • The King and the Playwright also has two more episodes on Monday evenings.
  • Drama on 3 is broadcasting performances of Romeo and Juliet on 29 April,  and The Tempest on 6 May as well as a repeat of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on 13 May, all at 8.30pm.
  • From 12 May to 25 May stars such as Jools Holland and Gareth Malone give their perspective in My Shakespeare on Radio 3 and 4.
  • A series of documentaries are to be broadcast: Francesco da Mosto will be seeking Shakespeare’s Italian links, Felicity Kendall will be investigating India’s love affair with Shakespeare, and Simon Schama is producing Shakespeare and Us, a three-part view of Shakespeare.
  • At some point (I haven’t been able to find the date), they will be screening Off By Heart, a competition for secondary school children performing speeches from Shakespeare.
  • And in a special edition of Night Waves: The Tempest, Philip Dodd leads a discussion on the enduring attraction of The Tempest for directors, scholars and performers of this extraordinary play that bears continued interpretation – with Professor Helen Hackett and Jonathan Miller, amongst others (Thu 3 May, 10pm, Radio 3).
  • Filmed productions of a history cycle consisting of Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and Henry V are all to be screened in due course, and should be worth looking out for.
  • A filmed version of Greg Doran’s RSC stage production of Julius Caesar will be screened on BBC 4 later in 2012. 

The BBC’s Shakespeare Unlocked season offers an amazing choice of programmes for anyone wanting to get to know Shakespeare from many different, and perhaps new, points of view. As well as the link to the official site at the top of the post here’s a link to the blog about the BBC’s season. I hope everybody will be getting out to experience some Shakespeare for themselves, but the programmes are all available from the comfort of your own home, for free. I hope you enjoy them.

I’m grateful to Stuart Ian Burns and Jo Wilding for additions/corrections to this list.  Thanks, both.

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5 Responses to Shakespeare Unlocked with the BBC

  1. Richard Moore says:

    and in Truro, Cornwall, actor Richard Moore and dulcimer player, Carole Bannister preview their new entertainment, “Love’s eternal summer,” the true story of Shakespeare in love. BBC Spotlight are filming a few minutes of the show for transmission on the evening of the 23rd April.

  2. Stu says:

    Thanks very much for this list. I nearly missed Doctors.

    Just so you don’t miss them, QI’s on the Friday not Thursday. Also, In Tune: Shakespeare And Love is next week — (Mon 23 to Fri 27 April, 4.30pm, Radio 3).

    • Sylvia Morris says:

      Thanks for these corrections, which I’m adding to site! Another reader has noted that there’s something on the World Service on Sunday at 10.05pm.

      • Jo Wilding says:

        Sylvia – correction to the The World Service programme The Weekend Strand – its repeat on Sunday 22nd is at 11.05 am not 11.05pm.

        James Shapiro’s three-part documentary The King and the Playwright is also going out on BBC HD at the same time as on BBC 4.

        Neil MacGregor is doing a live blog relating to Shakespeare’s Restless World at 2pm on Monday 23rd – go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/radio4/2012/04/shakespeare_live_blog_with_nei.html to listen or participate.

        • Jo Wilding says:

          PS. Meant to say congratulations on a brilliant list – you must be cross-eyed by now!

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