BBC plans biggest Shakespeare season

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THE BBC is to show the most comprehensive Shakespeare season yet seen on television. It will include drama, feature films, documentaries, workshops and animations, even a Mastermind-style quiz to find the 'Bardbrain of Britain'.

The Bard On The Box season, which runs from 16 October until mid-December, will concentrate less on the plays, and more on Shakespeare's reputation and popularity today.

One documentary, Shakespeare On The Estate, looks at whether Shakespeare's plays thrill popular audiences as much today as when they were written, or whether they are now the symbol of an elitist culture.

In the documentary Michael Bogdanov, former director of the English Shakespeare Company, goes to a council estate in Ladywood, Birmingham, and coaxes some extraordinary performances from the residents. Romeo woos Juliet on a tower block balcony, and Macbeth's witches chant in patois over a barbecue.

Robert Robinson will conduct the contest to find the Bardbrain of Britain, and Shakespeare fans from Eartha Kitt to Neil Kinnock read their favourite sonnet or soliloquy in 90-second films.

The one new production is a modern-dress version of Measure For Measure, starring Juliet Aubrey who played Dorothea in Middlemarch. There will also be several films of Shakespeare plays, including Kenneth Branagh's Henry the Fifth.

Adrian Noble, director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, will conduct a rehearsal workshop, and there will also be programmes on Elizabethan food with Prue Leith and Elizabethan gardens with David Bellamy.

The season will coincide with the Everybody's Shakespeare festival at the Barbican centre in London.