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Greek plays: Iphigenia at Aulis (BBC, 1990)

Following on from my recent posts on Don Taylor’s 1986 The Theban Plays trilogy for the BBC, I turn my focus to his very last work for television in 1990, which was another Greek tragedy – Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis – and which, as it happens, appears to be the last full production of Greek drama on British television. In this post I draw on Taylor’s aim to achieve what we may call ‘mass media theatre’, through techniques such as multi-camera continuous shooting, to analyse the intentions that lay behind his productions and to ascertain whether he was successful within the parameters he set himself. I would also like to offer some thoughts about the ways in which this production made good use of televisual devices to create effects which would simply not be possible in the theatre. This post concludes my chronological journey through the best documented productions in my Greeks on Screen case study. (Good timing, too, Screen Plays will shortly announce the ‘Classics on TV: Greek Tragedy on the Small Screen’ season of screenings at BFI Southbank in June 2012, together with an associated symposium at the University of Westminster on 22 June … save the date and watch this space!) Continue reading

Julius Caesar (BBC, 1938) … and eight others

In my previous post I outlined the preparations for the new Illuminations/Royal Shakespeare Company film of Julius Caesar for BBC Television. Over the next three weeks or so, as we are filming on location, I intend to write about the earlier British television versions of Shakespeare’s play – and to review each of the extant ones. This post focusses on the first full-length production, which was mounted in modern dress by producer Dallas Bower in the summer of 1938. But with the assistance of the BUFVC’s invaluable Shakespeare: An International Database of Shakespeare on Film, Television and Radio I want also to detail the chronology of the play’s appearance on British television from 1937 onwards. Continue reading

Julius Caesar (Illuminations/RSC/BBC, 2012)

My interest in the history of stage plays on television is, in part, closely linked with my work as a producer – which is what I do when I am not working on the Screen Plays research project. With my company Illuminations and with numerous valued colleagues, since 1998 I have made four adaptations of Shakespeare stage productions for television (Richard II, Hamlet and two Macbeths). And now I am just about to embark on a fifth Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, produced like two of the earlier ones with the Royal Shakespeare Company and destined to be seen on BBCFour in the summer. Continue reading

Greek plays: Antigone, part 3 of The Theban Plays (BBC, 1986)

This is the last of three posts on The Theban Plays, a trilogy of Sophocles’ tragedies Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone, directed by Don Taylor, which was broadcast on BBC2 over three evenings of one week in September 1986 (and all three are available on YouTube). Antigone is by some degree the most successful production of the three, with strong performances throughout and a thoughtfully designed set which works dynamically with the director’s interpretation of the play. Continue reading

Emitron camera at Alexandra Palace