John Wyver

John Wyver has written 148 posts for SCREEN PLAYS

BBC television’s first drama: Murder in the Cathedral (1936)

I have been pleased to discover recently that we can add a new “first” to the early productions of theatre plays for television. According to a short report in the Manchester Guardian the BBC television service mounted scenes from T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral on 19 October 1936. A test broadcast some three weeks before official transmissions began, this production should, I think, be recognised as BBC television’s first identifiable drama. Not only that, it was apparently also the first studio broadcast in which scenery was used. Continue reading

Moving on

As our revised introduction over on the right of this page suggests, we are starting the process of converting this blog to a site that acts as more of a resource for the continuing study of theatre plays on British television. The formal (and funded) part of our project has come to an end, but there … Continue reading


We are now in the final weeks of Screen Plays as a formal research project, and while we feel that we have achieved much of what we set out to do, inevitably there is still a lot to do. Perhaps you have noticed that our posts here have become rarer than hen’s teeth, and that has a great deal to do with the time that Dr Amanda Wrigley and I have been spending on populating our database. But we thought it might be useful to come back to the blog to provide an update of what we have been doing – and what we still have to complete. Continue reading

World Theatre: Strange Interlude (BBC, 1958)

Strange Interlude is being screened as the second in the Classics on TV: Great American Playwrights season at BFI Southbank in January 2015. Read more and book your ticket for the screening at 2.45pm on Sunday 11 January 2015 at BFI Southbank. The World Theatre series of plays that ran on BBC Television in the first three months of 1958 contains what must be the most adventurous – some might say eccentric, or even obscure – choice of theatre plays that the medium has ever embraced. Strange Interlude was the climax to the season, broadcast in two ninety-minute-plus episodes on the consecutive Sunday evenings of 23 and 30 March 1958. Continue reading

The Wednesday Play: In Camera (BBC, 1964)

Seeing Philip Saville’s remarkable adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1944 play Huis Clos at BFI Southbank has, prompted me to pen at least a short note in response. The drama was screened as part of the current season celebrating 50 years of The Wednesday Play, although as a production based on a classic of the European theatre, it was hardly a typical offering from the strand. In fact, as an opening title sequence revealed, it was commissioned by producer Peter Luke for his Festival series, but when this was cancelled by incoming executive Sidney Newman, In Camera ended up as one of the first broadcasts in the new series dedicated to dramas of the contemporary world. Continue reading

The Edwardians: Performance: The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd (BBC, 1995)

The final presentation in the BFI Southbank Screen Plays season ‘Classics on TV: Edwardian Drama on the Small Screen’ is tonight’s screening of a 1995 production of D. H. Lawrence’s play The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd. It might be thought eccentric to include this in a selection of Edwardian plays. Yet given our interpretation of the Edwardian era as stretching until the start of the First World War, and also given a desire not to restrict the choices simply to society tales and examples of the ‘New Drama’, then there is a strong case for the inclusion of Lawrence’s largely naturalistic play. Continue reading

‘Edwardian Drama on the small screen’: notes from the symposium

On Friday afternoon Dr Amanda Wrigley and I hosted a small symposium at BFI Southbank to complement our screening season ‘Edwardian Drama on the Small Screen’. We were delighted with the stimulating discussion and we are very grateful to both our speakers and to those who contributed with questions and responses. This post is a brief note about the event with one or two reflections on what I took away from it. Continue reading

The Edwardians: Strife (BBC, 1988)

John Galsworthy’s Strife in a 1988 BBC television production directed by Michael Darlow was the fifth presentation in the Screen Plays BFI Southbank season ‘Classics on TV: Edwardian Drama on the Small Screen’. First performed in March 1909, Strife concerns the clash towards the end of an unofficial strike between management and workers at a tin-plate works. But as many critics have pointed out, the play is less about politics than about the human clash between Roberts, the leader of the men (played in this 1988 television production by Timothy West) and Anthony, the Board Chairman (Peter Vaughan). Continue reading

Back to Methuselah by Bernard Shaw (BBC, 5 parts, 1952)

George Bernard Shaw’s dramas were frequently produced by television from 1937 onwards, but perhaps the most extraordinary presentation of his work was the five-part cycle of Back to Methuselah shown in the summer of 1952. The medium of course was a very different world sixty-plus years ago (not least in all drama being live, with no recordings made), but even I find it truly remarkable that BBC Television should have devoted five consecutive Tuesday evenings to a seemingly unstageable work about which even Shaw himself acknowledged, ‘I was too damned discursive’. Continue reading

The Edwardians: Play of the Month: Waste (BBC, 1977)

The centenary in 1977 of Harley Granville Barker’s birth was marked by a revival of the playwright’s The Madras House, directed by William Gaskill for the National Theatre, and by Don Taylor’s remarkable BBC television presentation of Waste. The two productions demonstrated how finely-crafted are Barker’s major dramas, how powerful a playwright he is, and how pertinent and relevant is his social analysis. As the next presentation in the Screen Plays BFI Southbank season ‘Classics on the Small Screen: Edwardian Drama on Television’, Waste is screened on Tuesday 20 May 2014. The production has never been released on DVD and this is a rare chance to catch a truly powerful studio production. Continue reading

Emitron camera at Alexandra Palace