RSC Winter’s Tale to get BBC TV première

Published: 12 March 2021
Reporter: Steve Orme

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Winter’s Tale
Testament and members of the Orchestra of Opera North in Orpheus in the Record Shop Credit: Anthony Robling

For the first time in its history a Royal Shakespeare Company production, The Winter’s Tale, is to get its world première on BBC Television.

BBC Arts has announced it will broadcast more plays adapted for the screen and radio as part of Lights Up, a festival of theatre involving productions that either closed or never opened to the public.

The Winter’s Tale was scheduled to run in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford before going on tour, but it was called off because of the pandemic. Directed by Erica Whyman, it will be screened on BBC Four in April 2021 and will also be available on iPlayer.

Whyman, the RSC’s deputy artistic director, said, "this company of actors and creatives started work on this production in January 2020 and stopped 12 months ago only days from getting it onto the stage.

“All the way through the pandemic, we believed that we would one day complete the work, but only recently did we understand how different it would be from what we rehearsed last year. It’s a privilege to have the chance to make this production for BBC audiences."

Jonty Claypole, director of BBC Arts, added, "a few months ago we asked theatres and producers across the UK to come up with ideas for a virtual theatre festival to be staged in lockdown.

“The result is Lights Up: 18 new productions for television, radio and online. They bring together household names with ground-breaking new talent. They’re joyful, moving, funny, poetic and, in many cases, probing and provocative plays.

“Each theatre and producer responded to the challenge in their own way, pushing the boundaries of what theatre can be when there’s no audience in the room. Lights Up celebrates the creativity and resilience of UK theatre in a time of adversity."

Other commissioned plays include Yasmin Joseph’s debut play J'Ouvert, produced by Sonia Friedman Productions and filmed at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End; rapper and playwright Testament’s Orpheus in the Record Shop which fuses spoken word and beatboxing with classical music played live by members of the Orchestra of Opera North; Giles Terera and Samuel West in The Meaning Of Zong, a collaboration between Bristol Old Vic and Jonx Poductions for BBC Radio 3; Simon Russell Beale in Folk, a new play by Nell Leyshon originally commissioned by Hampstead Theatre, on Radio 3; Nick Dear's Dedication, a Nuffield Theatre, Southampton presentation marking the closed venue’s contribution to regional theatre, on Radio 4; and Welcome To Iran by playwright and artistic director of Theatre Royal Stratford East Nadia Fall, which draws on real-life interviews and testimonials as well as imagined characters to construct a “tender and witty snapshot of culture and life in modern Iran”, on Radio 3.

Lights Up will continue throughout March and April.