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The Shakespeare Sessions

Your one-stop shop for all things Shakespeare. Catch A-List casts in brand new versions of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, plus documentaries from the brightest minds.

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Full Length Play: Julius Caesar

The original political thriller that re-imagines Brutus's betrayal of Caesar.Caesar - Tim Pigott-SmithBrutus, - Robert GlenisterCassius - Sam TroughtonMark Antony - Jamie ParkerCasca - Philip FoxPortia - Fenella WoolgarOctavius - Wilf ScoldingCalpurnia - Jessica TurnerLucius - Adam Thomas WrightOther parts were played by Sam Dale Neet Mohan David Acton Stephen Critchlow David Hounslow Chris Pavlo Mark Edel HuntProduced by Marc Beeby

2hr 9mins

30 Jul 2018

Rank #1

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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 WolffMusic by Stephanie NunnTitania ..... Lesley SharpOberon ..... Toby StephensPeter Quince ..... Robert PughNick Bottom ..... Roger AllamPuck ..... Freddie FoxTheseus ..... Nicholas FarrellHippolyta ..... Emma FieldingLysander ..... Joseph TimmsDemetrius ..... Ferdinand KingsleyHermia ..... Emerald O'HanrahanHelena ..... Anna Madeley Egeus / Starveling ..... David CollingsPhilostrate / Snug ..... Nicholas BoultonFairy ..... Sara MarklandFrancis Flute ..... Sam Alexander Tom Snout ..... Sam Dale Peaseblossom ..... Jessica Sian Cobweb ..... Jay Carter Moth ..... Tressa Brooks Mustardseed ..... Stuart Walker.


25 Jun 2018

Rank #2

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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 McDiarmidKent ..... Michael NardoneGoneril ..... Madeleine Worrall Regan ..... Frances GreyCordelia ..... Joanna VanderhamGloucester ..... Bill PatersonEdgar ..... Finn den HertogEdmund ..... Paul HigginsThe Fool ..... Brian VernelAlbany ..... Steven RobertsonCornwall ..... Steven CreeOswald ..... Owen WhitelawBurgundy/Doctor ..... Sean MurrayKing of France ..... Simon HarrisonOld Man/Gentleman ..... Ewan BaileyMusic performed by Polly Phillips (bassoon) and Georgina McGrath (double bass)Music and Sound Design by Gary C NewmanProduced and directed by Gaynor Macfarlane.

2hr 31mins

11 Jun 2018

Rank #3

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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 SapaniHermione ..... Eve BestPolixenes ..... Shaun DooleyCamillo ..... Karl JohnsonPaulina ..... Susan JamesonShepherd ..... Paul CopleyPerdita ..... Faye CastelowAutolycus ..... Tim Van EykenFlorizel ..... Will HowardMamillius ..... Charlie BrandArchidamus ..... Sean BakerAntigonus ..... Brian ProtheroeClown ..... Sam RixEmilia ..... Scarlett BrookesCleomenes ..... Richard PeppleDion ..... Nick UnderwoodFirst Lady ..... Adie AllenMopsa ..... Nicola FergusonFirst Lord ..... James LaileyMariner ..... Sargon YeldaOfficer ..... Ewan BaileyMusic composed by Tim Van Eyken, Singer Lisa KnappDirector: David Hunter

2hr 30mins

9 Jul 2018

Rank #4

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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 HardingAntonio.....Ray FearonBassanio.....Colin MorganPortia.....Hayley AtwellShylock.....Andrew ScottSalarino.....Ryan WhittleSalanio.....Neerja NaikGratiano.....Ryan EarlyLorenzo.....Chris Lew Kum HoiJessica.....Lauren CorneliusLauncelot Gobbo.....Luke BaileyNerissa.....Kerry GoodersonMorocco.....Stefan AdegbolaArragon.....Javier MarzanThe Duke.....Neil McCaulTubal.....Clive HaywardBalthasar.....Rupert Holliday-EvansMusical setting of 'Where is fancy bred? composed by Emma Harding, performed by Kerry Gooderson and Peter Ringrose.

1hr 59mins

6 Jun 2018

Rank #5

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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


23 Jul 2018

Rank #6

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Full Length Play: Measure for Measure

"Women? Help Heaven! men their creation marIn profiting by them."Shakespeare's last and perhaps strangest comedy - a play about religion, surveillance, coercion, sex and power.The Duke ..... Paul HigginsIsabella ..... Nicola FergusonAngelo ..... Robert JackEscalus ..... Maureen BeattieLucio and Froth ..... Finn den HertogThe Provost ..... Michael NardoneMariana ..... Maggie SerivceClaudio / Friar Peter ..... Owen WhitelawPompey ..... Sandy GriersonMistress Overdone and Francisca ..... Georgie GlenJuliet ..... Olivia MorganElbow / Abhorson / Friar Thomas ..... Kevin MainsIntroduced by Professor Julie SandersSound design and music by Gary C NewmanDirected by Gaynor Macfarlane.

2hr 4mins

6 Jun 2018

Rank #7

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Full Length Play: Coriolanus

Shakespeare's penetrating portrayal of political turmoil in a society at war with itself. The PlotThere'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 GravelleVolumnia . . . Diana RiggMenenius . . . James FleetCominius . . . Paul HiltonSicinius . . . Tony TurnerBrutus . . . Joel MacCormackLartius . . . David HounslowAufidius . . . Ray FearonVirgilia . . . Clare CorbettValeria . . . Susan JamesonGentlewoman . . . Franchi Webbwith Michael Bertenshaw, Kenny Blyth, Joseph Ayre and Christopher HarperDirected by Marc BeebyOriginally aired on BBC Radio 3.

2hr 27mins

9 May 2019

Rank #8

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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 PlotTwo 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 PrekoppANTONIO ..... Pip DonaghyWritten by William ShakespeareAdapted for Radio by Sara DaviesSound design by David ThomasDirected by Celia de WolffA Pier Production for BBC Radio 3, recorded on location in the Sussex Countryside.

1hr 42mins

16 May 2019

Rank #9

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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


13 Jun 2018

Rank #10