Gorging on Shakespeare in 2012

This year, 2012, is probably the biggest year for William Shakespeare in England since his death. Two of the UK’s biggest cultural institutions, the BBC and the Royal Shakespeare Company, have teamed up with the World Shakespeare Festival to provide a huge Shakespeare tapestry covering the country in the media and on stages in Stratford, London, Newcastle, Birmingham, Wales and Scotland.

I wrote about the Festival in September and the events are now well underway. Thousands of artists from around the world are taking part in almost 70 productions, plus supporting events and exhibitions.

The RSC’s main contribution to the festival is a production of Julius Caesar, set in the world of African politics and directed by the Gregory Doran, the RSC’s artistic director designate. It opens on 28th May, for one week, then moves on to other venues before opening in London in August, during the height of the tourist season, so all you American visitors should make sure that you take it in.

From time to time the BBC films a stage version of one of the RSC’s productions. Although they are films of stage performances those responsible use all the most modern techniques available to the medium of television. They have just completed the filming of Julius Caesar, which you’ll be able to see towards the end of June on the BBC through a digital tv service provider.

The producer, John Wyver, kept a diary of the filming. It makes fascinating reading and those who are interested in the minutia of what such an undertaking involves should read his blog.  I can’t wait to see the result!

As for the BBC, they are going all out this year. Their contribution to the 2012 Shakespeare jamboree is a celebration across TV, radio and the internet of the life and work of Shakespeare. During this month I have found it impossible to avoid something about Shakespeare whenever I have turned on my radio or TV set. Not that I wish to avoid Shakespeare, of course. If one wanted to follow it all it would be a full time job, though. The British Museum is also part of it with their wonderful series of short essays by Neil Macgregor, the Director of the Museum, in which he looks at the world through the eyes of Shakespeare’s audience by exploring objects from that turbulent period. The BBC’s Shakespeare Unlocked programme can only be described as a feast. There is so much that it would be impossible to digest it if one wanted to see it all as it’s broadcast.

We are indeed fortunate, in these days of watch-on-demand television, that we can go to the BBC website and browse for the programmes we want and watch them online at one’s own pace. I shall be watching them for months to come.

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