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Getting going: research resources and approaches

In this post my goal is to outline the research resources and approaches I’m employing in my case study ‘Greeks on screen’. Such transparency at an early stage of the research process may easily show up embarrassing omissions and intellectual bias. On the other hand, what follows may be of some use to those interested in starting to research television productions of stage plays and, to this end, additions and further suggestions from readers would be warmly welcome! Continue reading

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Introducing Fred O’Donovan

One of the most interesting aspects of our research is starting to get a sense of some of the key creative figures in the story of stage plays on television. This is particularly the case with producers and directors from the earliest years of television, before and after World War Two. And among these a particularly intriguing figure, but at present also an elusive one, is Fred O’Donovan. Continue reading

Twentieth Century Theatre: The Insect Play (BBC, 1960)

How even to start writing about the 1960 BBC studio production of Karel and Josef Capek’s The Insect Play? This was shown last night at BFI Southbank — and, yes, it really is as bad as these stills might suggest. Judged against even the most sympathetic evaluative standards of today, it is indeed laughably dreadful. Continue reading

Greeks on screen

One of my first research areas is going to be the production of Greek plays on British television from the 1950s, when the first Greek play appears to have been televised. The first well documented broadcast is a 1958 BBC World Theatre production of Women of Troy. I’ll say much more about Women of Troy in one of my next blog posts. Today my aim is to offer a taster of the range of productions of Greek drama on British television across the half century from the 1950s. Continue reading

An essential resource: BFI Screenonline

One of the truly invaluable online resources for film and television researchers is BFI Screenonline, an extensive collection of short essays and more about British media history. The ‘more’ includes film extracts and documents that are only accessible from a registered UK-based educational institution, but the essays on people, films and broader topics are freely available. Continue reading

Play of the week: The School for Scandal (BBC, 1959)

I have begun an experiment to watch with readers of this blog a studio adaptation of a classic play, and specifically Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The School for Scandal. I propose to add to this blog entry across the week as I consider the ten parts of the 1959 BBC adaptation that are posted on YouTube. I hope that you might be persuaded to watch some or all of this with me — and to contribute your own thoughts and ideas in the comments below. Continue reading

More treasures from the Library of Congress

Only last week archivists at the Library of Congress identified one further British television drama of which no copy exists on this side of the Atlantic. Not all the details are known, but the play is Volpone and the recording dates from around 1960. So it seems highly likely that this is the 1959 BBC recording with the legendary Sir Donald Wolfit. Continue reading

On the boards: television from the theatre

At the London Coliseum last night the final presentation this season of Terry Gilliam’s spectacular staging of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust was recorded by eight cameras for BBC Four. ‘Stage capture’ of this kind has a long tradition with the first theatre event presented on television being a live broadcast of J B Priestley’s play When We are Married on the evening of Wednesday 18 November 1938. Continue reading

Twentieth Century Theatre: Colombe (BBC, 1960)

BFI Southbank last night opened the season of television plays from the remarkable discovery of recordings at the Library of Congress of which no copies existed this side of the Atlantic. The first presentation was Jean Anouilh’s Colombe, produced by Naomi Capon in 1960 with Dorothy Tutin, Sean Connery and Francoise Rosay. This was revealed as an engaging if problematic drama that became more intriguing as it unfolded. Continue reading

Will before the war

Unlike almost every other aspect of our subject, Shakespeare productions for British television have been extensively analysed and immaculately documented. As we do not want to duplicate this work, we expect that our focus for much of the time will be on dramatists other than the Bard — but this does not mean that we will ignore him, as is demonstrated by this post about BBC Shakespeare 1936-39. Continue reading

Emitron camera at Alexandra Palace
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