Live drama first for Radio 4's Today

Ulysses cast Niamh Cusack, Henry Goodman and Andrew Scott will feature in Radio 4's Ulysses

News programme Today will start off a day devoted to the dramatisation of James Joyce's book Ulysses by broadcasting a live scene.

Actor Henry Goodman will be in the Today studio performing a scene where the character Leopold Bloom prepares breakfast while talking to his cat. The 50-second segment is the start of five-and-a-half hours dramatising the book in seven parts throughout Saturday 16 June on Radio 4.

The station's schedule hasn't been changed in this way since eight hours were cleared for a reading of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on Boxing Day 2000.

It is unlikely to happen again soon either as Radio 4's Controller Gwyneth Willams says this celebration of the 90th anniversary of Ulysses is a one-off.

'Radio is part of people's daily life, so I'm very respectful. I take the schedule very seriously and I wouldn't just mess around with it,' she says.

Creative heart

Given the book is based on the happenings of one day, Radio 4's commissioning editor of drama Jeremy Howe says it seemed 'stonkingly obvious' to broadcast the story all in one day.

Howe says that he isn't expecting listeners chained to the radio. He explains the nature of the storyline, which he summarises as two people walking in Dublin, meeting twice and both losing their keys, means that listeners can dip in and out of the episodes.

The novel centres around 16 June 1904 and each year a tradition called Bloomsday re-enacts the events of the day. Along with the drama, throughout the day Mark Lawson, presenter of Radio 4's arts programme Front Row, will be presenting from those locations in Dublin. He'll be asking commentators why it is seen by some as the most influential novel in the English language.

The way the story develops has lent itself to the day long performance according to the producer of the dramatisation, Jeremy Mortimer. He says the sex scenes come later in the book. This means that the scenes Mortimer describes as 'graphic' are kept in the Radio 4 production as they will be broadcast later in the evening.

Although this is a one-off, Williams has pledged to focus her attention to arts and culture coverage on Radio 4 for the next year, as an antidote to the current affairs focus recently.

'I'm determined to really harness the power of our creative heart this year' she says.

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