Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Shakespeare on TV

The Telegraph asked me to write a Comment about the news that the BBC plans to show 6 Shakespeare plays, including one live performance, as part of the Shakespeare Festival that will be the centre of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. I've always had my doubts about Shakespeare on TV - preferring it on radio in lots of ways - and I don't have good memories of the 1970s BBC versions. The National Theatre broadcast-to-cinema experiment has been fantastic, but the point I make in the Comment is that a cinema audience is a community, a group with a sense of occasion, whereas a television audience is fragmented and distracted. But let's live in hope.


  1. Hmm. I'm inclined to disagree. Most theatrical productions of Shakespeare are less than they might be, but one is not in a position to turn them off, so to speak. Although i am not a big fan of Jonathan Miller, his 1975 TV Lear, with Michael Hordern will probably stick with me until I lose my marbles. I've seen a few Lears in the theatre - Porter, Olivier (TV), Hopkins, Cox, McKellan, Postlethwaite, and Hordern's is the face I see and the voice I hear when i read the play. I was an impressionable 17 at the time, it is true, but it gave me a love of the play, so gawd bless the BBC for that. Wynn Wheldon

  2. The saving grace of a poor TV Shakespeare is, indeed, that it is soon turned off and therefore doesn't put off a newcomer for life as a poor theatre production might. But a good – or arresting one – can hook them in or at least open the door. I have very vivid memories of a moment of Vanessa Redgrave's Rosalind and a very nasty assault during some part of the Wars of the Roses, both from around 7 or 8 years of age. Nothing has touched Michael Bogdanov's documentary "Shakespeare on the Estate", though, for revelatory passion.