Play on! 12 of the best Shakespeare productions to stream

Twelfth Night

The National Theatre at Home’s weekly streams continue with Simon Godwin’s stylish production of the wistful comedy, smartly designed by Soutra Gilmour. Tamsin Greig is a superb Malvolia, from her first frown through to her chilling exit, and there is a female Feste, too, played by the wickedly funny Doon Mackichan.
On YouTube on 23 April.


You have to hold on for the “to be or not to be” in Sarah Frankcom’s modern-dress, fresh-as-paint staging but it’s worth the wait. Maxine Peake is an electric Hamlet at Manchester’s Royal Exchange, with the late John Shrapnel’s bullying Claudius one of several excellent supporting performances.
On Digital Theatre and Amazon Prime.

Shakespeare Trilogy

Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female, prison-set trilogy comprising Julius Caesar, Henry IV and The Tempest was one of the Shakespearean achievements of the decade. To think the idea was scoffed at – with one male director mocking the first instalment as “Julius Beaver”. Harriet Walter is magnetic, along with compelling performances by ex-offenders.
On Marquee TV.

The Comedy of Errors

Shakespeare’s early comedy of mistaken identity is an overloaded farce – there are even two sets of twins. Corinne Jaber directs Afghanistan’s Roy-e-Sabs company, with the action relocated to their home city of Kabul, for this rambunctious version at the international Globe to Globe festival in 2012 at Shakespeare’s Globe.
On GlobePlayer.

Antony and Cleopatra

Josette Simon was handmaiden to Helen Mirren’s Cleopatra in her first season with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She returned to the company after an absence of 17 years as the arresting, unpredictable queen herself, in an Iqbal Khan production that includes a nautical battle staged with toy boats.
On Marquee TV.

Love’s Labour’s Lost

Deafinitely Theatre have started a series of monthly streams with their 2012 version of the early comedy about youthful romance, with its royal decree of social distancing keeping women a mile away from court. Paula Garfield’s production of the pun-tastic play is performed in British Sign Language and spoken English.
On YouTube.

Henry V

Aaron Sidwell plays a rallying but rattled leader in Hal Chambers’ punchy 2019 staging, amid the scaffolding of Emily Leonard’s set at the tiny Barn theatre in Cirencester. It’s available for free online but the Barn is appealing for donations as the loss of ticket revenue has been “a hammer blow to us”.
On YouTube.

Richard II

David Tennant is set to return to theatre in October in a West End revival of Good, CP Taylor’s play about nazism. But you can see him ruling the stage, tresses flowing, in this RSC production of Shakespeare’s first history play, told with many heroic couplets and some of his most beautiful lines including the “sceptered isle” speech.
On Marquee TV.


Lucian Msamati became the first black actor to play Iago at the RSC in a 2015 production which has Hugh Quarshie in the tortured lead role and is packed with brilliant supporting performances, including Joanna Vanderham as Desdemona and Ayesha Dharker as Emilia, whose haunting willow song is made more resonant by Ciaran Bagnall’s sunken-pool set.
On BBC iPlayer from 23 April.

The Winter’s Tale

Cheek by Jowl’s minimal, modern-dress version of Shakespeare’s tricky late play, directed by Declan Donnellan, was performed around the world and filmed at London’s Barbican in 2017. Nick Ormerod’s handsome design includes an elegantly grisly exit pursued by bear.
On YouTube.

King Lear

Don Warrington finds a magnetic balance of tyranny and tragedy in the central role in a stunning in-the-round production at the Royal Exchange, staged by Talawa’s artistic director, Michael Buffong. Unfolding in cold and harsh landscapes designed by Signe Beckmann, this is an intimate version of the epic, sweeping you into the king’s madness.
On Amazon Prime.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Hey nonny, nonny! If you’re at home with kids then this CBeebies Dream, filmed at Liverpool’s Everyman, is a fun introduction to Shakespeare, told with riotous comedy, ridiculously catchy songs and offstage commentary by the Bard himself. Justin Fletcher (who else?!) gets a kick out of playing Bottom.
On BBC iPlayer.