Dame Emma Thompson, Emilia Clarke and Margaret Atwood are set to perform on BBC arts show Front Row Late, Dame Mary Beard has revealed.
The historian and presenter, who hosts the programme, said in an About The BBC blog that it is “important to offer people access to exhibitions and performances” during the lockdown.
She added that she would “challenge anyone not to be simultaneously moved and cheered by Emma Thompson’s reading of a poem by John Donne”, which will air in the programme’s first episode of the new series.
She added that a reading of a Rudyard Kipling poem by Game Of Thrones star Clarke “prompts us all to ask if, how and why Kipling’s poetry can still work for us in our 21st century crises, despite its ‘baggage’ of imperialism”.
She also said that The Handmaid’s Tale author Atwood and her sister Ruth would perform a puppet version of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque Of The Red, which is a horror story about a pandemic.
An empty bottle and hand sanitiser “take starring roles”, she said, adding: “It’s as funny and engaging as it sounds.”
Dame Mary added that “the point of the arts is not just to soothe, though they can be very good at soothing”.
She said: “It is also to help us think harder.
“And that is why they are so essential at times like this, when we need all the intellectual resources we can possibly muster to make sense of the crisis we are in, and to frame the very different world that is bound to follow.”
The presenter said that she had “spent much of the past two weeks getting the hang of a lot of new and unfamiliar kit” so that she could film the programme from her home.
Front Row Late airs at 11.30pm on Thursday on BBC Two.