BFI: Classics on TV

Screen Plays is delighted to be working with the BFI over the course of the project (2011-2015) on a series of seasons of rarely seen television productions of theatre plays.

This is not only an exciting way to showcase and disseminate the research results of the research project, but the two seasons that have been held to date have been remarkably popular with audiences, with almost all screenings sold out!

Each screening so far has also been followed by a blog discussion led by those who had attended the screenings. This has proved to be an extremely valuable and enriching way of gauging contemporary reactions to these small-screen adaptations.

The first BFI season, which took place at Southbank in June 2012, took the small-screen presentation of ancient Greek tragedy from the late 1950s to 1990 as its focus. The season was curated by Amanda Wrigley who, as regular readers of this blog will know, is focusing on this topic as one of the strands of her research for the project. Click on the link above for details about the nine Greek tragedies and one quasi-satyr play which were shown in the season, and for information about the panel discussion at the BFI with actor and director Fiona Shaw and Classics scholar Professor Oliver Taplin and the associated University of Westminster symposium on Greek Tragedy on the Small Screen.

In March-April 2013, the second BFI season, curated by John Wyver, presented a programme of screenings of Jacobean Tragedy on the Small Screen. The season featured productions based on plays by Thomas Middleton, William Rowley, John Ford and John Webster, as well as a rare showing of Hamlet at Elsinore (1964), the remarkable version of Shakespeare’s revenge tragedy. The screening of Granada’s 1965 adaptation of Middleton’s Women Beware Women was followed by a discussion featuring Dame Diana Rigg, who stars in the production, and Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company Gregory Doran.

In May 2014, the third BFI season, also curated by John Wyver, focuses on the work of late 19th and early 20th-century playwrights in a season of screenings under the title Edwardian Drama on the Small Screen. The season includes notable and rarely seen television productions of plays by Oscar Wilde, Harley Granville-Barker, George Bernard Shaw, John Galsworthy, J. M. Synge and D. H. Lawrence. The penultimate screening on 23 May (of Galsworthy’s Strife) is preceded by an afternoon sympoisum in which experts will discuss various aspects of these proudctions; there will also be an interview with Robert Knights, director of The Voysey Inheritance.We are also delighted to announce that the final screening in the season – Katie Mitchell’s 1995 BBC production of D. H. Lawrence’s The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd on 27 May – will be followed by a Q&A with one of its stars Zoe Wanamaker.

The final season, confirmed for January 2015, is titled Great American Playwrights. Curated by Amanda Wrigley, this season will highlight rarely-seen television productions of theatre plays by Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller and Clifford Odets, but the season also includes some more surprising choices as well. The 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 demonstrates how playwrights have taken on questions of personal identity, ideas of exile and rootedness, and the politics of race and gender.



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