Theatre in your head - this is what audiobook drama is about. We have become
such a visual society, so dependent upon explosive images in primary colours
that we forget only too easily the subtlety of language, of expression.
After recording ten Shakespeare plays and the Sonnets I have no doubt that the audiobook
experience is more important than ever. It is exciting to watch Kenneth
Branagh's film of Hamlet; those who saw Paul Scofield's King Lear on stage
will never forget it. But there is something deeply engaging about hearing
these two perform the roles on audiobook - for YOUR ears and YOUR imagination only.
Suddenly, the words - and the internal emotional state they reflect - become
paramount, more centre-stage. When King Lear comforts Cordelia ('We two alone will sing
like birds i'th'cage') he also speaks directly to us, individually. He does not have to
project across an auditorium through a proscenium arch.
And can we detect, in the occasional inflection of King Richard III, the
shadow of a man trapped in behaviour by circumstances - as much victim as
This is theatre of the mind, and is so often closer to reality than a visual
performance. And the wonder of Shakespeare's words - the images, the iambic
rhythm, the acrobatic dance of concept and purpose - makes audiobook theatre
an ideal medium.
I have had the privilege of seeing some of our greatest actors record
Shakespeare in the studio. This can be a disadvantage, because I can also
remember the paraphernalia of recording: the microphones, the sound effects,
the scripts, the re-takes and kings and queens in jeans.
But not when the CD starts - out of battle comes Macbeth, out of a party
comes Richard and into court comes Lear. And the play begins.