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The Screen Plays Database … now LIVE!

We are delighted to announce that the first phase of Screen Plays: The Theatre Plays on British Television Database is now available on the website of the British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC). This resource is one of the major outputs of the AHRC-funded research project Screen Plays: Theatre Plays on British Television which ran from 2011 to 2015. Continue reading

Endgame

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

Programming ‘The Edwardians’, part 2

This post continues my discussion (with myself, mostly, but thanks as ever to Billy Smart) about next year’s BFI Southbank season of television productions of plays written between 1890 and the First World War. Programming ‘The Edwardians’, part 1 outlined many of the extant productions that might be considered, and I want here to narrow that down before we start an intensive period of viewing over the next month. In broad brush terms initially, it is surely essential that we have one play each by Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and Harley Granville Barker. John Galsworthy’s Strife, of which recordings of three productions exist, is also pretty much a shoe-in. Continue reading

Programming ‘The Edwardians’, part 1

In the past two years my colleague Amanda Wrigley and I have curated two ‘Classics on TV’ seasons of screenings at BFI Southbank, Greek tragedy on the small screen (June 2012) and Jacobean tragedy on the small screen (March-April 2013). I am delighted to say that Screen Plays has been asked to programme a third such season, which is to be The Edwardians at some point next spring. As before, the season will comprise six screenings including a panel discussion, and we hope also to organise a complementary half-day symposium at the University of Westminster. The final selection of the season has to be made over Christmas with the booklet copy ready by the end of January. I am just now in the final stages of thinking about which television productions to show, and why, and I thought it might be interesting to post about the process. I would also really welcome any suggestions or reactions to the choices I muse about here. Continue reading

Bookshelf: Starlight Days: The Memoirs of Cecil Madden (2007), edited by Jennifer Lewis

I recently contributed a post about the two television presentations in 1956 of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger. The play was premiered in May that year by the English Stage Company at the Royal Court, and on 16 October BBC Television transmitted a sixteen-minute excerpt as an outside broadcast. Just over a month later, Granada mounted a studio adaptation of the full play. Since then I have discovered an account of the BBC production in the memoirs of the executive who organised it, Cecil Madden. Madden died in 1987 but his grand-daughter Jennifer Lewis edited his recollections and these were published privately as Starlight Days in 2007. The book as a whole is a rich source of gossip and insight about television between 1936 and the late 1950s, and several pages are devoted to the BBC showing of Look Back in Anger Continue reading

End of part one

Were it not for unforeseen circumstances, today would have marked the halfway point of the Screen Plays research project. We are at the end of the eighteenth month of what was originally a three-year project. But thrillingly my colleague on the project Dr Amanda Wrigley is pregnant with twins, who are due in the middle of February, and so the project will be extended into early 2015. To mark this moment, I thought it might be interesting to detail which of the 150 previous posts have proved to be the most popular with readers. Continue reading

Bookshelf: The Wars of the Roses (1970) by John Barton with Peter Hall

In my earlier post about Michael Barry’s memoir From the Palace to the Grove which details his life in television from 1938 to 1952 I lamented that he did not twin this revealing volume with a personal account of his later career. That prompted me to pull from my shelf a handsome volume that, in part, is a commemoration of one of Barry’s greatest small-screen triumphs. The Wars of the Roses by John Barton with Peter Hall (and some assistance from William Shakespeare) was published by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1970. That date is rather odd since it is the script of an adaptation of four of Shakespeare’s History plays that was first seen in Stratford-upon-Avon in August 1963 and then shown in three parts on BBC Television on 8, 15 and 22 April 1965. Continue reading

Bookshelf: From the Palace to the Grove (1992) by Michael Barry

It has been a while since we contributed a volume to the Screen Plays virtual bookshelf, although previous reviews can be found here, here, here, here and here. I want to remedy the lack with a brief response to a fascinating memoir written in 1987 by Michael Barry who was BBC Head of Drama from 1952 to 1961. There is an excellent summary of his career at the British Television Drama website, including an outline of why he left the corporation in 1961 after disagreements over the direction of his department. From the Palace to the Grove, however, chronicles his years in television before he took up the executive position and covers his work as a producer from 1938 to 1951. Continue reading

A note about relying on Radio Times

Although most of our recent blog posts have been about particular productions of stage plays on television, and although we most definitely intend to continue contributing these, we also want to use the blog to reflect on the ways in which we are conducting our research. This post comes from my recognition this week that the central source from which Amanda and I are working, the weekly BBC publication Radio Times, is perhaps not quite as reliable, especially in the earliest years of television, as we might once have thought. Continue reading

Our 100th post: the 2011 top 10

As a way of saying goodbye to the old year, I thought it might be interesting to detail which of our previous 99 posts have attracted the most attention. This can be measured quite precisely in terms of the views for each individual post, and so the list that follows features the ten posts that received the most views between 1 June and 31 December this year. Amanda’s revelatory post on the Open University’s largely unknown Macbeth from 1977 was by some measure the most popular offering, and after that it was Amanda’s excellent series about Greek plays on television that were most appreciated. Continue reading