Noise, narration and nose-pegs: adapting Shakespeare for radio

Andrea Smith

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


‘Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them’. Shakespeare’s Chorus in Henry V asks us to use our imagination when watching the play. But in modern adaptations of his works, the audience often does not have to try too hard to ‘see’, with film and television taking a literal approach, replacing words with images. However, on radio, that impetus to ‘Look with thine ears’ (King Lear) is paramount. Hundreds of versions of his plays have been produced on British radio alone, and yet it is a tradition of Shakespearean performance that has been virtually inaudible to academics. Rather than restricting creativity, the lack of the visual on radio has led producers to increasingly creative solutions. So how do you convey the sword fight at the end of Hamlet, or make it clear to your ‘gentle hearers’ (Henry VIII) that two characters are twins? How much is already in the text and how much needs to be added? From the very first radio Shakespeare production in 1923, producers have used a range of techniques – some more experimental than others. This paper uses audio and written evidence to investigate a range of those ideas and how successful they have been.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 19 Sep 2020
EventBritgrad - Online
Duration: 14 Sep 202020 Sep 2020



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