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George Bernard Shaw

This tag is associated with 17 posts

‘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

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: Theatre Night: The Devil’s Disciple (BBC, 1987)

Our next screening in this month’s ‘Classics on TV: Edwardian Drama on the Small Screen’ season at BFI Southbank is David Jones’ 1987 BBC production of Bernard Shaw’s play The Devil’s Disciple. Shaw described the play as a ‘melodrama’ but as played here it is a delightful comic costume drama. Continue reading

‘Classics on TV: Edwardian Drama on the Small Screen’, a BFI Southbank season + Screen Plays symposium, May 2014

Following on from our successful ‘Classics on TV’ seasons ‘Greek Tragedy on the Small Screen’ (June 2012) and ‘Jacobean Tragedy on the Small Screen’ (March-April 2013), Screen Plays is delighted once again to be working with BFI Southbank. In May ‘Edwardian Drama on the Small Screen’ will present six programmes of television productions of plays written between the 1890s and the First World War. Curated by John Wyver, the season includes notable productions of plays by Oscar Wilde, Harley Granville-Barker, George Bernard Shaw, John Galsworthy, J. M. Synge and D. H. Lawrence. 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

Androcles and the Lion (BBC, 1938, 1946, 1951)

Looking at the profusion of George Bernard Shaw productions in the medium’s early years I was particularly struck that there were three presentations of his 1913 ‘fable’ Androcles and the Lion between 1938 and 1951. Each of these – the middle one was in 1946 – appears to have been a distinct presentation, although all three were mounted by producer Desmond Davis. The play has also been given twice more, in 1960 and 1983, on both occasions in strands made for schools. Did this mean, I wondered, that if the plays of Shakespeare were excluded, this was television’s most performed play? Continue reading

Heartbreak House (BBC, 1958, 1977)

The first television production of George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House came during a golden decade for Shaw on the small screen. During the 1950s there were at least twenty-four full-length adaptations of his dramas for television, and that includes counting as just one the five-part Back to Methusaleh presented by the BBC in the early summer of 1952 (nothing of which was recorded). The only other occasion that British television has tackled the sprawling state-of-the-nation piece that is Heartbreak House was in 1977, when a Play of the Month presentation was something of a directing swansong for the long-serving producer of the strand, Cedric Messina. Continue reading

In the beginning: two traces

Last night at BFI Southbank Simon Vaughan, archivist of the Alexandra Palace Television Society, presented a fascinating programme of film material related to the earliest years of television. There are no official recordings of any broadcasts before 1947, and the practice of ‘tele-recording’ (filming the electronic image from a monitor) was not widely used until the early 1950s. (‘It Is Midnight, Dr Schweitzer’ (1953) is the first tele-recorded drama to survive.) But there are a small number of the BBC’s own documentaries and demonstration films (including Television is Here Again (1946)), and there are also some fragments of film shot at Alexandra Palace by BBC employees. Continue reading

100 television stage plays: [5] BBC, 1965-1975

In part because of the growing confidence of productions for BBC2, this is a rich decade for drama at both the BBC and ITV (offerings from which during these years will be the subject of the next blog). The start of the long-running Play of the Month series (1965-83) indicates that classical stage plays were increasingly seen in these years as occupying a separate place in the schedules, distinct from the general drama output. At the same time the BBC was committed to the presentation of classical theatre in a way that would not be the case in later decades. Writing in the Radio Times in 1975, the critic Chris Dunkley noted that the managing director of BBC television had recently said, ‘We feel that, like the theatre at large, we should be wanting if we did not ceaselessly recreate the classics — Shakespeare, Sheridan, Shaw and so on.’ Continue reading