Today marks the start of the BBC’s cross-network Shakespeare Unlocked season, part of the Corporation’s contribution to the 2012 Olympiad.
From Sunday, Radio 3 will devote its weekly Drama on 3 slot to new radio adaptations of three classic Shakespeare plays. The sequence starts with Twelfth Night, one of the Bard’s classic romantic comedies. It has a little bit of everything here: unrequited love triangles, drunken comedic characters, wilful pricking of pompous characters, sequences of jokes based on the double meanings of words and phrases, and of course a cross-dressing character (which, as all actors would have been male in Shakespeare’s age, can only leave us guessing at the physical work needed for a man to play a woman who is passing herself off as a man).
The cast is incredibly strong — David Tennant (Malvolio) and Rosie Cavalliero (Maria) grab all the headlines, but Ron Cook’s Sir Toby Belch is glorious. And while the big names dominate the part of the story that sees uppity servant Malvolio tricked into believing that he is loved by his mistress, the main plot’s more romantic undertones are beautifully served by Naomi Frederick as Viola/Cesario, Paul Ready’s Orsino and Vanessa Kirby’s Olivia.
(Incidentally, if you get the chance, listen to the play with a copy of the script in your hand. It’s enlightening just how much of Act I in particular gets rejigged, making sure to introduce each character by name wherever possible until the listener can comfortably identify each character.)
The same company tackles Romeo and Juliet on Sunday 27, with The Tempest following on May 3, and a repeat of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Sunday, May 13.
Meanwhile, on Radio 4, in Shakespeare’s Restless World Neil McGregor revives the format that was so successful for A History of the World in 100 Objects, looking at 20 museum artefacts that expose Elizabethan life in Shakespeare’s age, and in turn suggest how some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines reflected the age. From how theatregoers behaved (rowdy and always eating apparently — nothing changes) to looking at the fears surrounding Elizabeth I’s lack of an heir and the implications for future of the monarchy, the programmes offer an intriguing portrait. And just as his previous series did, McGregor helps to demonstrate that museums around the country are more than just archaeological finds in glass cases — they are living repositories of knowledge, and exploration, of the past.
The full list of radio programmes in the Shakespeare Unlocked season is:
- Drama on 3: Twelfth Night Sunday, April 22, 8.30pm
- In Tune: Shakespeare and Love Monday, April 23 - Friday, April 27, 4.30pm
- The Essay: Shakespeare and Love Monday, April 23 - Friday, April 27, 10.45pm
- Drama on 3: Romeo and Juliet Sunday, April 29, 8.30pm
- Night Waves: The Tempest Thursday, May 3, 10pm
- Drama on 3: The Tempest Sunday, May 6, 8.30pm
- Drama on 3: A Midsummer Night’s Dream Sunday, May 13, 8.30pm
- The Essay: Shakespeare Around The Globe Monday, May 14 - Friday, May 18, 10.45pm
- My Shakespeare Monday, May 14 - Sunday, May 20 (throughout the day)
- Shakespeare’s Restless World weekdays at 1.45pm (repeated at 7.45pm) starting Monday, April 16
- William Shakespeare’s Playlist Saturday, April 21, 10.30am
- The Reunion: Shakespeare’s Globe Sunday, April 22, 11.15am
- My Shakespeare Saturday May 12-Friday May 25 (throughout the day)
Radio 4 Extra
(repeats for each programme are not listed)
- The Reduced Shakespeare Company: Hamlet Wednesday, April 18, 11pm
- Shakespeare: Thereby Hangs A Tale — A Celebration of the Swan of Avon Saturday, April 21, 9.00am
- The Jacobean Box Tuesday, April 24, 10.00am
- The Reduced Shakespeare Company: The Comedies Wednesday, April 25, 11.00pm
- Another Shakespeare Thursday, April 26, 11.15am