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‘Classics on TV: Great American Playwrights’, a BFI Southbank season

Screen Plays is thrilled to announce details of our fourth season of screenings at BFI Southbank in January 2015. Following on from our successful seasons of Greek plays, Jacobean tragedy and Edwardian plays, this season will highlight rarely-seen television productions of theatre plays by major American playwrights. Among those whose works will be shown are Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller and Clifford Odets, but the season also includes some more surprising choices as well.

cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof-02The six productions collectively demonstrate how theatre in the United States has spoken with honesty and conviction about the elusiveness of the American dream and the individual’s search for meaning amid swirling political and social changes. The season, curated by Amanda Wrigley, demonstrates how playwrights have taken on questions of personal identity, ideas of exile and rootedness, and the politics of race and gender. At the same time the screenings also highlight how British television has interpreted these plays in highly distinctive ways, often assembling impressive casts (Laurence Olivier, Eartha Kitt, John Malkovich, David Suchet and Zoe Wanamaker are among the stars on show) while also responding to the formal experiments of a figure like O’Neill  and lesser-known writers such as Charles Sebree and Greer Johnson.

Booking opens on 9 December (and 2 December for members): and 020 7928 3232. As before, we will be posting about each of the plays and encouraging those of you who come to the shows to record your thoughts and responses to the screenings on our blog. This season is one of the concluding events of the Screen Plays project – although do watch out also for an announcement of our final conference.

Details of the BFI season:

6.00pm Wednesday 7 January 2015
Mrs Patterson
. Sunday Night Theatre. BBC, 1956. Dir. Anthony Pelissier. With Neville Crabbe, Evelyn Dove, Eartha Kitt, Elisabeth Welch. 75 mins. A fascinating re-discovery, with some great songs, of a play by African-American painter-playwright Charles Sebree and Greer Johnson. Book here!
+ panel discussion
, the details of which are to be announced.

2.45pm Sunday 11 January 2015
Strange Interlude
. BBC, 1958. Dir. John Jacobs. With Diane Cilento, David Knight, William Sylvester, Noel Willman. 180 mins. An experimental and extraordinary production of Eugene O’Neill’s 1928 Pulitzer-winning family chronicle. Book here!

6.20pm Tuesday 13 January 2015
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
. Laurence Olivier Presents. Granada-ITV, 1976. Dir. Robert Moore. With Laurence Olivier, Robert Wagner, Natalie Wood. 115 mins. A sumptuous production of Tennessee Williams’ 1955 Pulitzer-winning play of a Deep South family in crisis. Book here!

7.40pm Tuesday 20 January 2015
The Crucible. BBC, 1981. Dir. Don Taylor. With Sarah Berger, Lynn Dearth, Michael N. Harbour, Denis Quilley. Director Don Taylor offers a sparse, compelling take on Arthur Miller’s 1953 play about the 17th-century Salem witchcraft trials. Book here!

6.00pm Tuesday 27 January 2015
Rocket to the Moon
. Channel 4-PBS, 1986. Dir. John Jacobs. With Connie Booth, Judy Davis, John Malkovich, Eli Wallach. 125 mins. Clifford Odets’ 1938 play is a witty, thoughtful drama of desire and despair. Book here!

6.10pm Thursday 29 January 2015
Once in a Lifetime
. BBC-WNET, 1988. Dir. Robin Midgeley. With Niall Buggy, David Suchet, Kristoffer Tabori, Zoe Wanamaker. 105 mins. George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s 1930 comedy about three down-on-their-luck vaudeville performers who try their luck in Hollywood. Book here!



2 thoughts on “‘Classics on TV: Great American Playwrights’, a BFI Southbank season

  1. That’s eclectic, and certainly includes some titles that will probably never be available to view again!

    I hope that you’re going to have an interval in Strange Interlude…

    Posted by Billy Smart | 26 November 2014, 11:36 am
    • Eclecticism is our middle name, Billy, and yes we will provide a comfort break for Strange Interlude.

      O’Neill’s drama will not be to everyone’s taste, but the adaptation is a rather extraordinary television drama and the chance to watch it in a concentrated way on a big screen really should not be missed. Mrs Patterson is well worth your time also, and we believe this will be its first showing anywhere since its original broadcast.

      Posted by John Wyver | 27 November 2014, 11:02 am

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