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Theatre 625: Simon and Laura (BBC, 1964)

Alan Melville is far from a household name today, but from the 1940s to the early 1970s he was a prolific writer for both stage and screen. His television credits include The Very Merry Widow (BBC, 1967-1969) and Misleading Cases (BBC, 1967-1971), and for a time he hosted the popular television discussion The Brains Trust(1951-61). ‘One of his gifts,’ his obituary in The Times noted, ‘was to be engagingly topical at short notice,’ (Anon., 27 December 1983, p. 10) and this quality was certainly on view in his 1954 comedy Simon and Laura. The target of his gentle satire was television, which following the broadcast of the Coronation the previous year was rapidly becoming a mass medium. In 1955 the play was adapted as a British film, and almost exactly a decade after its West End premiere it was presented by BBC2 in the Theatre 625 strand. Continue reading

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David Bowie in Baal (BBC, 1982)

BFI Southbank screened the hour-long BBC adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s early play Baal a month or so before Christmas. Viewing this 1982 production on that occasion I marvelled that anything so bleak, austere and radical could possibly have been screened at 9.25pm on a Tuesday evening on BBC1. Originally shown under the title David Bowie in Baal, the adaptation (which can be found in full on YouTube) also has a newly topical sense this week with the news that the star will in March release The Next Day, his first studio album for a decade. Continue reading

Emitron camera at Alexandra Palace