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In or out?

One of the key resources that we intend that Screen Plays will produce is a database of information about all of the plays produced on British television since 1930. As is appropriate at the start of a project we have been discussing our criteria for what we will include — and what will be left out. With most productions this is relatively straightforward: plays by Ibsen and Chekhov ‘in’, original television dramas by Potter and Plater ‘out’. But we have one area of difficulty: musical theatre. Continue reading

The Sunday Night Play: The Rivals (BBC, 1962)

Three years after BBC producer Hal Burton staged Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, he mounted a production of the playwright’s other great comedy, The Rivals. First presented in 1775, when Sheridan was just twenty-four, it is a contrived tale of love, mistaken identity and the mangling of the English language. Continue reading

An Age of Kings: ‘between the red rose and the white’

My journey continues through the 1960 BBC series of Shakespeare’s History plays, An Age of Kings. Uniquely among the eight plays, Henry VI, Part One occupies only a single episode of An Age of Kings (titled The Red Rose and the White), and so was drastically cut. I want to reflect on those cuts, on the performances in particular of the two actresses who dominate this part, and also on what the series might have meant to the BBC nearly fifty years ago. Continue reading

Summer Comedy Hour: Charley’s Aunt (BBC, 1965)

The BFI had programmed a showing tonight of a 1960 production of Charley’s Aunt, but when the digital file turned up from Washington just over a week ago, it was discovered that the title was in fact a later production of Thomas’ farce, recorded in 1965 and with Richard Briers in the title role. But it too was ‘missing believed lost’ and now that it has been restored to us it is revealed as both great fun and a rather fascinating hybrid of studio theatre play and sitcom. Continue reading

Shakespeare and co.

One of the main outcomes of the Screen Plays research project in intended to be a freely accessible online database of all British television productions since 1930 of plays written for the theatre. Our main model for this resource – and in many ways the inspiration for the project — is Shakespeare: An International Database … Continue reading

An Age of Kings: ‘we happy few’

You’ll recall that we are working our way through the plays at a rate of one a week, viewing the episodes of An Age of Kings on the DVD release of the series that currently is only available as a Region 1 set in the United States. You hardly need me to confirm that Henry V is a great play, and in the series the production easily eclipses the two parts of Henry IV. Continue reading

Back for the future: NT Live’s The Cherry Orchard

I was delighted to be invited last night to watch the live transmission from the Olivier Theatre on London’s South Bank of Howard Davies’ staging of The Cherry Orchard. While the drama itself left me unmoved, I was fascinated to see NT Live’s six HD cameras in action. The operation reminded me of nothing so much as classical studio drama, much of it working comprising plays originally written for the theatre, of the kind that dominated the broadcast schedules in the 1950s and early 1960s. Continue reading

Emitron camera at Alexandra Palace