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This tag is associated with 5 posts

Conference report: Theatre Plays on British Television, 19 October 2012

On 21 February 1896 in what was then the Regent Street Polytechnic Louis Lumiére brothers showcased his Cinematographe for the first performance of a moving film to a paying audience in Britain. On Friday what today is the University of Westminster’s Regent Street building hosted an only slightly less auspicious occasion, when some thirty or so interested scholars, together with a contemporary producer or two, gathered for the Screen Plays conference Theatre Plays on British Television. Continue reading

The Comedy of Errors (Royal Shakespeare Company/ATV, 1978)

The new Network DVD release of the 1978 television presentation of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Comedy of Errors, which premiered in 1976, reveals both stage and television versions as curious – and in many ways unsatisfying – hybrids. Given that over this past weekend I have been in Stratford filming a hybrid version of the RSC’s Julius Caesar, it feels particularly timely to review the disc. Just as the production team of The Comedy of Errors did, we were filming in the RSC’s main theatre (which has been extensively remodelled since 1978), although – as also with Comedy – most of our production has been shot away from the theatre. But the thirty-four years that separate the shoots have seen fundamental changes in production technologies, and our approach to Julius Caesar is significantly different. Moreover, and this is another advantage that our Caesar enjoys over this Comedy, our stage original is not blighted by some truly dreadful modern musical songs. Continue reading

Long Day’s Journey into Night (ATV for ITV, 1973)

I am delighted that Network have just released on DVD the 1973 production of Long Day’s Journey into Night. This is a studio adaptation of a famous National Theatre production with Laurence Olivier from two years before. At the time of the stage premiere, Michael Billington wrote of Olivier’s performance in the final act that it was ‘as sustained a piece of great acting as we have seen in years.’ Thrillingly, the force and achievement of the production is captured, and in some ways even enhanced, by the shift to the small screen. Forty years on, this intelligent presentation feels modern, immediate and involving. Continue reading

100 television stage plays: [6] ITV, 1965-1975

Periodisation in these posts is, I recognise, fairly random – and nowhere more so than with this fairly arbitrary decade from ITV’s output. In these years before the comfortable broadcasting duopoly was challenged by Channel 4, Sky and the slew of other services that followed, the regional companies continued to produce high quality single dramas, many of which still were derived from originals written for the theatre. Continue reading

100 television stage plays: [3] ITV, 1955-1964

With this third instalment we reach the start of commercial television, and I have chosen to focus on ten ITV productions in the service’s first decade. Associated-Rediffusion, ATV and Granada all made numerous dramas for the network, initially relying on plays previously produced in the theatre but increasingly – and especially once the executive Sydney Newman arrived – commissioning original contemporary scripts. To anyone with only a sense of ITV’s output across, say, the last decade, the list below may look extraordinarily bold and challenging. Continue reading