The Road To The National Theatre

Episodes

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01A House For Shakespeare20131006

As the National Theatre approaches its 50th anniversary, James Naughtie traces the long road to its foundation, and explores whether the struggles and delays in fact resulted in a more versatile and creative establishment than elsewhere in Europe.

Episode One: A House for Shakespeare

France has had a national theatre since 1680, Greece since 1880. The National Theatre in London is a youngster by comparison, with plans to celebrate its 50th birthday in October 2013.

For the homeland of Shakespeare, this may seem anomalous, but as James Naughtie investigates the reasons why the founding of a National Theatre took so long, he comes to the conclusion that the delays resulted in an unusually versatile, creative and popular cultural institution.

In Episode One, James Naughtie traces the story from 1848, when the radical publisher Effingham Wilson publishes a pamphlet called A House for Shakespeare, to the years of the First World War when hopes for a fitting celebration of the tricentenary of Shakespeare's death were at first dashed and then met in an unexpected way.

He speaks with Nicholas Hytner, Richard Eyre, Michael Frayn, Michael Billington and Jacky Bratton, as well as listening to the voices of Laurence Olivier, Sybil Thordyke and other theatrical luminaries in the BBC Archives, tracing a story in which the arts, history, politics and national identity share the stage.

Readings: Simon Russell Beale

Producer: Beaty Rubens.

01The National Theatre At 5020131006

As the National Theatre approaches its 50th anniversary, James Naughtie traces the long road to its foundation, and explores whether the struggles and delays in fact resulted in a more versatile and creative establishment than elsewhere in Europe.

Episode One: A House for Shakespeare

France has had a national theatre since 1680, Greece since 1880. The National Theatre in London is a youngster by comparison, with plans to celebrate its 50th birthday in October 2013.

For the homeland of Shakespeare, this may seem anomalous, but as James Naughtie investigates the reasons why the founding of a National Theatre took so long, he comes to the conclusion that the delays resulted in an unusually versatile, creative and popular cultural institution.

In Episode One, James Naughtie traces the story from 1848, when the radical publisher Effingham Wilson publishes a pamphlet called A House for Shakespeare, to the years of the First World War when hopes for a fitting celebration of the tricentenary of Shakespeare's death were at first dashed and then met in an unexpected way.

He speaks with Nicholas Hytner, Richard Eyre, Michael Frayn, Michael Billington and Jacky Bratton, as well as listening to the voices of Laurence Olivier, Sybil Thordyke and other theatrical luminaries in the BBC Archives, tracing a story in which the arts, history, politics and national identity share the stage.

Readings: Simon Russell Beale

Producer: Beaty Rubens.

02 LASTThe National Theatre At 5020131013

For its 50th anniversary, James Naughtie investigates why the UK took so long to found a National Theatre and whether the struggles and delay resulted in a more creative and versatile organisation.

Episode Two: Whose National Theatre?

James Naughtie takes up the story from the end of the First World War, but his particular focus is on how the introduction of a National Health Service and National Insurance after the Second World War shifted cultural attitudes.

He looks into the legacy of the Festival of Britain and the ways in which this eased the way for a National Theatre company and, eventually, its iconic building on the South Bank.

He considers why, when this building was at last opened in 1976, its publicity poster boldly declared "The New National Theatre is Yours".

James Naughtie speaks with Nicholas Hytner, Richard Eyre, Michael Frayn and Michael Billington as well as listening to the voices of Laurence Olivier, Sybil Thorndike, Lillian Bayliss and other theatrical luminaries in the BBC Archives, tracing a story in which the arts, history, politics and national identity share the stage.

Reader: Simon Russell Beale

Producer: Beaty Rubens.

02 LASTWhose National Theatre?20131013

For its 50th anniversary, James Naughtie investigates why the UK took so long to found a National Theatre and whether the struggles and delay resulted in a more creative and versatile organisation.

Episode Two: Whose National Theatre?

James Naughtie takes up the story from the end of the First World War, but his particular focus is on how the introduction of a National Health Service and National Insurance after the Second World War shifted cultural attitudes.

He looks into the legacy of the Festival of Britain and the ways in which this eased the way for a National Theatre company and, eventually, its iconic building on the South Bank.

He considers why, when this building was at last opened in 1976, its publicity poster boldly declared "The New National Theatre is Yours".

James Naughtie speaks with Nicholas Hytner, Richard Eyre, Michael Frayn and Michael Billington as well as listening to the voices of Laurence Olivier, Sybil Thorndike, Lillian Bayliss and other theatrical luminaries in the BBC Archives, tracing a story in which the arts, history, politics and national identity share the stage.

Reader: Simon Russell Beale

Producer: Beaty Rubens.