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A307 Drama: The Balcony (BBC / The Open University, 1977) … banned!

Continuing my work on sixteen co-productions between The Open University and the BBC which were made for television transmission as part of the A307 Drama course which ran annually from 1977 to 1981, in this post I focus on one of the productions which never, in fact, made it as far as small-screen transmission. This was a shortened version of Jean Genet’s play Le Balcon, in Bernard Frechtmann’s translation and under the direction of Nick Levinson. It was Aubrey Singer, the Controller of BBC2, who – long after the production had been approved by the Controller of Educational Broadcasting Don Gratton, decided the programme could not be transmitted without the opening – set in a brothel – being substantially re-made. The Open University refused, cultural critics in the press were baffled (especially since the play had previously been shown on BBC Television in both studio and film productions) and thus the BBC effectively practised — it is believed for the first time in its relationship with the unviersity — an astonishing act of censorship. Continue reading


Conference report: Theatre Plays on British Television, 19 October 2012

On 21 February 1896 in what was then the Regent Street Polytechnic Louis Lumiére brothers showcased his Cinematographe for the first performance of a moving film to a paying audience in Britain. On Friday what today is the University of Westminster’s Regent Street building hosted an only slightly less auspicious occasion, when some thirty or so interested scholars, together with a contemporary producer or two, gathered for the Screen Plays conference Theatre Plays on British Television. Continue reading

Emitron camera at Alexandra Palace