Seamus Heaney is a wonderful poet and a wonderful reader: listening to him is like hearing the original poet holding forth. But the reading is abridged, in what seems more like a marketing decision -- trying to fit the audiobook onto a two-CD set -- than an artistic one. "Beowulf" could certainly use some abridgement here and there, and I wouldn't mind if there were only minor omissions; but among the episodes cut is the challenge that Unferth issues to Beowulf about his swimming contest with Brecca. This isn't just empty padding: it's essential to the characters of both Unferth and Beowulf. In many ways this is the best single recording of "Beowulf" available: why couldn't there be an unabridged (or at least a less-abridged) version as well? That would get six stars out of five. No other version comes close to the mastery of language shown by this one.
Burton Raffel is the crown prince of Old and Middle English translators in my book, and his Chaucer is another masterpiece. The rhyming is more subtle than in other translations of Chaucer, but it's there; and the tales unfold with seemingly effortless clarity. This is a high-quality, multiple-reader production, and it includes all the tales (including the Tale of Melibee and the Parson's Tale). The only thing marring the production are the chapter breaks: they are geared to the CDs rather than the individual tales. If you're planning to listen straight through, that's not a problem, but I would have preferred the ability to be more selective.
It's amazing that in only a few months, Audible has gone from a skimpy selection of Chaucer to three outstanding recordings of the complete set of Tales: one from Charlton Griffin, one from Blackstone, and this one from the BBC. Any one of them provides a wonderful listening experience. This one is my favorite because of Raffel; others may suit your taste better. But for heaven's sake get ONE of them.
LA Theatre Works is a unique and rich source of live performances. Their audio productions are recorded in front of a live audience, which provides two benefits, especially in a wonderfully silly play like this: you can laugh along with other (real) people, and the actors are unlikely to drop their voices to a whisper. It's not quite the same as seeing the play on stage, but it's closer than listening to a studio production. You trade a small measure of verisimilitude in the sound for a large measure of communal laughter.
There's not much to say about the play itself. It's a puff of air, a totally ridiculous situation where the farce is embodied in a rapid exchange of one-liners rather than in pratfalls. Wilde's brilliant language sparkles throughout.
I listened to the other recordings of this play available on Audible, and while one of them in particular features a more stellar cast, they lack the energizing effect of hearing the responses of other people to the same lines that made me chuckle. Yes, it sounds "stagey" at times, but that's why I liked it!
This recording also includes an interview with the director.