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Hamlet at Elsinore (BBC / Danmarks Radio, 1964), part 1

One of the most significant of all television Shakespeare productions on television was produced nearly fifty years ago as a contribution to the quatercentenary celebrations of the playwright’s birth. The idea for a television version of Hamlet recorded on location at the castle where the events are set originally came from Danmarks Radio. The project became one of the earliest major European co-productions and was pioneering in its exclusive use of outside broadcast cameras to record a drama. It also resulted in a distinguished adaptation that is engaging, insightful and often thrilling. Continue reading


Women Beware Women (BBC / The Open University, 1980)

In my previous post I wrote about the 1965 adaptation of Thomas Middleton’s early modern drama Women Beware Women. The only other British television production of the play to date is one made by The Open University in 1980, and it is this that I want to discuss here. My colleague Amanda Wrigley has posted on several occasions about adaptations of theatre plays made for The Open University as part of the A307: Drama course, including ‘Greek plays: Oedipus the King‘, ‘A307 Drama: Macbeth‘ and ‘A307 Drama: The Balcony … banned!’. But the 1980 Women Beware Women was produced in another context, as part of the course A203: Seventeenth Century England: A Changing Culture, 1618-1689. And an opening title to the recording is explicit about the intent of the inclusion of Middleton’s drama; it reads, ‘An insight into seventeenth century society’. Continue reading

Blood and Thunder: Women Beware Women (Granada for ITV, 1965)

Our second BFI Southbank season begins on Monday 25 March with a screening of Granada’s 1965 adaptation of Women Beware Women. This will be followed by a discussion with Dame Diana Rigg (who plays Bianca in the production) and Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company Gregory Doran (a few tickets are still available). Following on from Amanda Wrigley’s selection of Greek tragedy on the small screen last June, the six programmes feature Jacobean tragedy made for television (although strictly speaking Hamlet at Elsinore is after a play written in the final years of Elizabeth I). Over the next month or so (the season runs until 29 April) I will be writing about each of the productions and also hoping to prompt thoughts and responses from those who attend the screenings. Continue reading

Late-Night Line-Up: The Marowitz Hamlet (BBC, 1969)

By way of an hors d’oeuvre to the forthcoming Screen Plays season Classics on TV: Jacobean Tragedy on the Small Screen at BFI Southbank, this post is devoted to a controversial 1960s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The drama known as The Marowitz Hamlet, a ‘condensed’ version of which was filmed by the BBC in 1969, has a radically re-worked and fractured text, startlingly stylised playing, a white box for a set and the small cast in modern dress with heavy make-up. Hamlet here is challenging and experimental, and despite being only available in a faded 16mm copy, of considerable interest. Continue reading

Catching up

As you may have noticed, we have not been quite as active on the blog as before. In part this is because my colleague Amanda Wrigley has started her maternity leave – and indeed has given birth to Matilda and Dylan. Many congratulations to Amanda and her husband Dez! (Not that this will mean that we will be denied Amanda’s invaluable writings here in the coming months.) Meanwhile, this post is a way of catching up with our forthcoming season as well as a couple of recent blog posts elsewhere which may be of interest. Continue reading

Emitron camera at Alexandra Palace