Making Early Modern drama with a mattress and a microphone

Andrea Smith

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Covid-19 has had a massive impact on all areas of performance. Theatre has been hardest hit, having to suspend productions or adapt and radically change work to fit within the new circumstances. Meanwhile, it might seem that a medium such as radio has been able to continue with little difficulty. Certainly, the BBC has managed to maintain a steady stream of broadcasts of Early Modern plays, despite having to halt production like everyone else with the first lockdown in 2020.
However, unlike most theatres, the BBC was able to call on its long history of broadcasting Early Modern drama and retrieve productions from the archive. It also had a couple of Shakespeare plays in hand, which had yet to be aired. And thanks to modern technology, as well as the odd mattress and duvet, radio drama was also able to find new ways to produce its work while its actors remained at home. This meant listeners have still had their fix of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, ranging from a ‘radical reinvention’ of a Ben Jonson play recorded remotely, through to a Thomas Middleton play that had sat in the BBC archive for nearly four decades. Early Modern drama was almost always available via BBC Sounds, with eight productions broadcast over the last two years.
In addition, other organisations have ventured into the realms of audio, notably The Public Theater and WYNC in New York, who co-produced Richard II in 2020 and a bilingual Romeo y Julieta a year later.
This paper will look at what’s been broadcast, how new productions were created, and whether the impact of Covid is likely to have a lasting effect on the way Early Modern drama is presented in audio form.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2022
EventAll The World's A Stage - University of Liverpool/online
Duration: 23 Apr 202224 Apr 2022


ConferenceAll The World's A Stage

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