One of the greatest English authors of the 19th Century, George Eliot is renowned for her realistic storytelling and insight into the human psyche. This BBC Radio collection presents dramatisations of her five most famous novels, as well as an exploration of her life through her fictional characters.
Passionately idealistic Dorothea Brooke longs to set right the wrongs perpetrated upon the poor by her own class.
Starring Caroline Martin, Tom Goodman-Hill, Robert Glenister and Roger Allam.
‘Wild Atlantic salmon are a vital part of our marine ecosystem, the canaries of our rivers and oceans. Their future as a species is now at near tipping point and yet very few people are aware of this impending crisis. That needs to change quickly, and awareness is key.’
Famous faces have donated their precious time to record extracts from the magnificent story of Salar the Salmon by Henry Williamson, narrated by James Murray, in order to let you know how this iconic species needs your help.
Salar the Salmon’s migration through the rivers of Devon – surviving porpoises, seals, nets, fishermen, otters, poachers and weirs – is one of nature’s great journeys. Intense, brilliantly imagined, the salmon’s perilous return leaves us with a vivid, unsentimental picture of how both people and wildlife rely on a river and its estuary.
Seven BBC radio full-cast productions of Noël Coward’s classic plays – plus bonus material including a profile of Coward and extracts from his diaries.
Renowned for his wit, style and sophistication, Noël Coward was one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century. His plays, set in the glittering world of high society in which he lived, are much admired and have remained in the popular theatre repertoire to this day.
This is the second book of the Worldquake series, following Dragon’s Green (2017).
Effie Truelove has learned to travel through magical books to the Otherworld. Maximillian Underwood, Effie’s classmate, is more interested in the dark and forbidden Underworld. When Effie and Maximilian both mysteriously vanish, their friends Raven, Lexy and Wolf don’t know where to turn for help. Raven is a witch, and her horse, Echo, has revealed that Effie is in deep danger and time is running out.
To make things worse, Raven’s mother, the author Laurel Wilde, is caught up in a plot with the ruthless billionaire Albion Freake, who will stop at nothing to become invincible. Where are Effie and Maximilian? Are their disappearances connected? And can Albion Freake’s deadly plan be stopped?
Effie Truelove believes in magic, as does her grandfather Griffin (although he refuses to do any magic, let alone teach Effie how to use it). After a mysterious incident leaves Griffin close to death, Effie is given an unusual silver ring and told she must look after her grandfather’s library of rare and powerful books. But then the books fall into the hands of shady scholar Leonard Levar, and Effie is propelled into the most dangerous adventure of her life. Now, Effie and her friends—nerdy Maximilian, rugby-mad Wolf, helpful Lexy, and eccentric Raven—must discover their true powers if they are to get the books back. And Effie alone will have to travel to the Otherworld, where she will uncover the true meaning of the strange old book called Dragon’s Green…
The project aimed to present a 21st century audio and visual rendition of the 19th century classic, creating an entirely new audience, as well as reflecting on the fact that Moby-Dick continues to inspire artists, musicians, scientists and writers alike.
It has been a phenomenal success, attracting media attention and readers from across the world. The audiobook is available for free on the website. Roger Allam reads chapter 134: The Chase – Second Day.
The narrator, Ishmael, seeks work on the ship of captain Ahab to hunt for whales. However, the captain is only after one animal: Moby Dick, the white sperm whale that bit off his leg.
Moby Dick is a must read, of course. Or let people read it to you: these 136 chapters are read in 136 different voices. This recording is unlike any other audiobook – every reader adds his or her own accent, pace and charm. It helps the listener to identify with the narrator, leaving the impression that the story could happen to anyone.
This first book in the Clifton Chronicles, planned to be a series of five volumes, follows Harry Clifton from birth in 1920 to his university days. Harry’s father is a Bristol dockworker who died in mysterious circumstances, but Harry singing talent gives him the opportunity to attend a better school and change his destiny.
Our mini review
There are two important things to note about this audiobook. First, the narration is shared between Roger Allam and Emilia Fox. However, Allam narrates more than 80% of the book. If you’re listening for his voice, it’s well worth it.
Second, the story ends with a cliffhanger. The second and third books have been published at the time of this review, but the audio versions are not narrated by Allam.
So you should be prepared for suspense at the conclusion, and you will have to decide whether to continue with another narrator. Jeffrey Archer’s books are full of events and coincidences of varying degrees of improbability. In addition to Harry, the story follows his mother, his mentor Old Jack, his best friend Giles Barrington and the wealthy and powerful Barrington family. Allam deploys a variety of accent and registers to portray the large cast of characters. The main characters are appealing and the historical setting is interesting. You will probably get hooked! – Justine
Michael Beard is a Nobel-prize winning scientist with a beautiful wife. But his best work is in the past, his wife is unfaithful and he can’t control his weight. His ambitions and vision of himself are greatly at odds with the facts. The book follows his struggles to bend reality to his will and avoid having to come to terms withhis shortcomings.
McEwan is a highly acclaimed, award-winning novelist, and Solar is beautifully written and very compelling. Beard is a fascinating character because he is so awful in many ways and the reader is torn between wanting him to get what he deserves and wanting him to triumph professionally, to sort out his life and to become a better person. Allam is the perfect narrator for this audiobook. Many of the roles he has played are similar to Beard: men who are charismatic and successful, to a degree, but lacking integrity and self-awareness. As usual, Allam distinguishes each character with an appropriate accent and manner of speaking. He makes a great novel into a spell-binding audiobook – Justine
This novella recounts a ship’s encounter with a severe storm.
The story begins slowly, with details of Captain MacWhirr’s early career. The best part is the vivid description of the ship at the mercy of the typhoon.
Conrad does not provide any view into the interior world of the characters. We see only what they do in the face of the storm and are left to draw our own conclusions about them. Roger Allam does not over-dramatise the text, but delivers a steady, precise, confident narration that carries the listener along smoothly – Justine
This well-known series for young children tells about the everyday ups and downs in the life of a little boy named Alfie. Four books – Alfie Gets in First, Alfie’s Feet, Alfie Gives a Handand An Evening at Alfie’s – can be purchased with a CD containing narration by Roger Allam.
Ideally a child would have a real, live person to read aloud to him or her, perhaps a parent or older sibling. But if nobody is available, then Roger Allam is certainly the next best thing. He speaks very clearly, with a gentle tone and slower than usual in order for a child to follow along easily. The audio includes sound effects such as splashing water – Justine
A fictionalized biography of mountaineer George Mallory (1886-1924), the man who said that he climbed Mount Everest “because it’s there.”
Our mini review
Paths of Glory is an old-fashioned adventure tale with an intrepid hero, his devoted wife and assorted companions, some gallant and some selfish.
As such, Mallory doesn’t truly seem like a real person, and the harrowing experience of mountain climbing in those days of poor gear does not come to life.However, on its own terms the book is entertaining, and Roger Allam’s narration is enchanting. As usual he has appropriate accents and tones for the large cast of characters – Justine
This play features one of Shakespeare’s most controversial characters, the Jewish moneylender Shylock. Antonio, a merchant whose ships are at sea, borrows from Shylock to enable his young friend Bassanio to court the wealthy and attractive Portia. When Antonio’s ships are lost, Shylock demands the forfeit: a pound of Antonio’s flesh.
This book is a modern-day retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo. Danny Cartwright is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, but with the help of loyal friends outside and new friends that he makes behind bars, he tries to win his freedom and seek justice for the guilty.
Our mini review
Jeffrey Archer is not known for stylish writing, complex characters or thought-provoking insights into the human condition. His books are fast paced, featuring virtuous heroes and despicable villains. His interpretation of the classic tale relies on a profoundly implausible coincidence (that has no parallel in the original work). If you can manage to suspend your disbelief, the story is entertaining.
Allam’s narration is excellent. His delightful voice delivers the story clearly and at a steady, satisfying pace. The book includes characters of all ages and from all walks of life, from London mechanics to English aristocrats to Scottish lawyers and even a wealthy Texan. Allam supplies an appropriate accent and vocal mannerism for each one. If you’re an Allam fan who is up for an old-fashioned story, you will enjoy A Prisoner of Birth – Justine
Bombs are exploding in the streets of London, but life seems to have planted more subtle booby-traps for Miles Flint. Miles is a spy. His job is to watch and to listen, then to report back to his superiors – nothing more. The job, affording glimpses into the most private lives of his victims, appeals to Miles. He doesn’t lust after promotion, and he doesn’t want action. He wants, just for once, not to botch a case.
Having lost one suspect, with horrific consequences, Miles becomes too involved with another, a young Irishwoman. His marriage seems ready to crumble. So does his home. But Miles is given one last chance for redemption: a trip to Belfast, which quickly becomes a flight of terror, murder, and shocking discoveries. Can the voyeur survive in a world of violent action?
Telling his followers he is leaving the city on affairs of state, the Duke of Vienna appoints the puritanical Angelo to govern in his absence. Will Angelo prove as virtuous as he seems once power is in his hands? Roaming the city disguised as a friar, the duke looks on as Angelo’s lust for the virtuous Isabella sweeps him into the corruption he has so sternly condemned in others. The duke’s manipulation at last produces a happy ending for this dark comedy, with its brilliant exploration of the themes of justice and mercy.
Love and wit conquer all in Shakespeare’s sparkling comedy of self-delusion and disguise. Padua holds many suitors for the hand of fair Bianca, but Bianca may not be married until her spinster sister, Kate, is wed. Could any man be rash enough to take on Kate? The witty adventurer Petruchio undertakes the task. While he sets about transforming Kate from foul-tempered termagant to loving wife, young Lucentio and his clever servant, Tranio, plot to win Bianca.
The First Folio is one of the great wonders of the literary world.
Published in 1623, seven years after the death of its author, it was the first printed edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays. Without this achievement, we would have lost half of his dramatic work.
Folio 400 is dedicated in gratitude to the 400th birthday of this foundational book on the 8th November 2023.
The printing of the First Folio was a hugely ambitious project: the book’s success, both as a commercial enterprise and as a literary work, was never guaranteed. The determination of Shakespeare’s acting colleagues, the business sense of investors, and the marshalling of suitable skills and materials all played their part. Discover the key steps on the journey to collect and publish Shakespeare’s plays in the First Folio…
Listen to speeches from all the plays while you read with ease the words as they appear in the First Folio.
A series of podcasts about pre-schoolers’ (and their parents’) TV favourites, Sarah and Duck.
While the podcasts retell the same story as the TV episodes, they stand completely on their own. As there no animation, it is up to the narrator’s to help the children imagine the story.
This makes the podcasts very interactive, with the narrator not only assisting the two friends but also addressing the young listeners directly. The stories conclude with a few questions to test how well Sarah, Duck, and the children have been listening.
The podcasts are not often broadcasted, but are available for free download on CBeebies Radio until 7 days after airing.
Roger Allam – Narrator
Tasha Lawrence – Sarah
Lesley Nicol – Scarf Lady
Andy Nyman – Bag
Written by Benjamin Cook and Sarah Gomes Harris, directed by Tim O’Sullivan and Tim Fehrenbach (animation). Animations by Karrot Entertainment (lead animators Alastair Park and Rachel Thorn).
Roger Allam said:
“It’s curious that apart from the baroque ranting, Sarah & Duck is very similar to The Thick Of It – great characters, excellent writing and lots of humour!” (source)
Awards and nominations
Sarah & Duck won the BAFTA for best Best Pre-School Animation in 2014. The presentation can be watched on YouTube here.
As the title indicates, the work follows the stations of the cross: 15 of them, since the Catholic Church recently accepted the empty tomb and Christ’s resurrection, rather than His entombment, as the legitimate final stage.
Here, Christ’s victory over death enables Lukaszewski to end on a triumphant coda that carries a primal power recalling Orff’s Carmina Burana and Penderecki’s St Luke Passion.
Lukaszewski describes the work as a ‘mega-rondo’. Each station is introduced by orchestral ‘strokes’ (one for the first, two for the second, etc) and begins with the chorus announcing the event associated with the station followed by an adoramus.
A spoken link leads to dialogue from the soloists, a choral lamentation and an orchestral interlude moving us on to the next station.
Roger Allam – Narrator
Iestyne Davies – Countertenor
Allan Clayton – Tenor
Andrew Foster-Williams – Baritone
Music performed by the Britten Sinfonia, conducted by Stephen Layton
“The purity of sound achieved by Polyphony’s sopranos and countertenor Iestyn Davies is notable, so too is Roger Allam’s sonorous narration.” (BBC Music Magazine )
“Almost too emotionally overwhelming (…) Roger Allam is a stirring narrator, and all three soloists – Iestyn Davies as countertenor, Alan Clayton as tenor, and Andrew Foster-Williams singing baritone – are dramatically and vocally outstanding.” (BBC Music)
“Roger Allam’s imposingly-spoken narrative passages are haunting, and each of the three vocal soloists makes a strong contribution.” (Classical Source)
“The choice of Roger Allam as the speaker is inspired. His pronunciation is vividly clear and he confidently communicates a mysterious often spine chilling foreboding to his narrative. ” (Michael Cookson)
In a garden, full of beautiful flowers in glorious bloom, Oberon, the Elf king, lies asleep…
Oberon, or ‘The Elf King’s Oath’ is a 3-act romantic opera in English with spoken dialogue and music by Carl Maria von Weber.
The libretto by James Robinson Planche was based on a German poem, Oberon, by Christoph Martin Wieland, which itself was based on the epic romance Huon de Bordeaux, a French medieval tale, as well as William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
For this performance, sung in its authentic English, the conductor John Eliot Gardiner substituted the dialogue with a spoken narrative written by himself, and read by Roger Allam.
Roger Allam – Narrator
Hillevi Martinpelto – Reiza (soprano)
Steve Davislim – Oberon (tenor)
Jonas Kaufmann – Sir Huon of Bordeaux, Duke of Guienne (tenor)
Marina Comparato – Fatima (mezzo)
William Dazeley – Sherasmin (baritone)
Frances Bourne – Puck (mezzo-soprano)
Katherine Fuge – first mermaid (soprano)
Charlotte Mobbs – second mermaid (soprano)
Soloists accompanied by the Monteverdi Choir and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. Conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
Recorded at the Colosseum, Watford, England, 15-19 March 2002.
Four years after being a success in New York, the musical comedy City of Angels opened in West End. There are only two official recordings of this musical available: the first one is the original Broadway cast, the second one is the original London cast, in which Roger Allam played one of the protagonists. The recording contains all the musical numbers and includes full orchestra.
Smooth and catchy, bluesy and jazzy, and with great vocals. If there are a few gaps in the story, it remains easy to follow thanks to short snippets of dialogue in between the songs. As it was recorded in a studio, the quality is perfect – to dance on, as background music, or just to close your eyes and picture yourself roaming dark alleys and smokey bars in the late 1940s…
Roger Allam – Stone
Martin Smith – Stine
Susannah Fellows – Alaura Kingsley
Henry Goodman – Buddy Fidler
Fiona Hendley – Bobbi
Neil Rutherford – Mallory Kingsley
Writer: Larry Gelbart
Music by: Cy Coleman
Lyrics by: David Zippel
Director: Michael Blakemore
Musical director: Richard Balcombe
Produced for record by: Cy Coleman and Chris Walker
Recorded at: CTS Studios, London, June 1993
Awards and nominations
City of Angels won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical. Roger Allam was nominated for Best Actor in a Musical.
This is not the full symphonic version people are used to today, but it remains a firm favourite and “the original” for many.
In fact, the Les Misérables we know today is an adaptation of a French musical from 1980. Though moderately successful in Paris, this first musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s epic novel was closed after just three months as the booking contract expired. That, it seemed for the time, was the end of that.
Fast forward three years, and successful musical producer Cameron Mackintosh has just received a copy of the French concept album of ‘Les Mis’ from director Peter Farago. Impressed by what he heard, Farago had wanted for Mackintosh to produce an English-language version of the show. Initially reluctant, Mackintosh eventually agreed- a dscision he would certainly not regret.
Mackintosh, in conjunction with the Royal Shakespeare Company, assembled a production team to adapt the French musical for a British audience. After two years in development, the English-language version opened in London on the 8th October 1985, by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Centre, then the London home of the RSC.
Despite decidedly lukewarm reviews, the musical was a huge hit with audiences, and so it has remained, going from strength to strength. To date, Les Misérables has been translated into 22 different languages and productions have played in 42 countries and over 319 cities all over the world. In 2015, the musical will enter its 30th year; it is the longest running musical in history and doesn’t look like it will be stopping any time soon.
Roger Allam – Inspector Javert
Colm Wilkinson – Jean Valjean
Fantine – Patti LuPone
Rebecca Caine – Cosette
Alun Armstrong – Thénardier
Susan Jane Tanner – Madame Thénardier
Michael Ball – Marius
David Burt – Enjolras
Eponine – Frances Ruffelle
Grantaire – Clive Carter
Ian Tucker / Oliver Spencer / Liza Hayden – Gavroche