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Henrik Ibsen

This tag is associated with 13 posts

Theatre Night: Ghosts (BBC, 1987)

In previews at present are two London productions of Henrik Ibsen’s 1881 drama Ghosts. At the Almeida Richard Eyre is directing his own adaptation, while at The Rose Theatre in Kingston Stephen Unwin is also adapting and directing. For such a gloomy and, when it was first written, controversial tale of, seemingly, the sins of the father being visited upon the son, the play has proved surprisingly popular for television. There have been six full productions, the most recent of which was directed by Elijah Moshinsky and broadcast on 14 June 1987 in the short-lived BBC series of classic drama, Theatre Night. This production is the subject of today’s post. Continue reading

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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

World Theatre: Brand (BBC, 1959)

Henrik Ibsen’s Brand (1866) is rare amongst television adaptations of stage plays in that it was a drama never originally intended for theatrical production, but as an epic verse drama set out in dialogue as a script to be read. The play contains a scene of a storm at sea and concludes with an avalanche, both seemingly beyond the limitations of nineteenth century staging, and if performed uncut (as on its first staging in Stockholm in 1885), would run for a demanding six and a half hours. Continue reading

Sunday Night Theatre: The Lady from the Sea (BBC, 1953)

Reviewing for The Listener a 1953 BBC television production of Ibsen’s poetic play The Lady from the Sea, Philip Hope-Wallace wrote that the dramatist ‘has recently been hailed as the perfect television playwright.’ I wish I could track down his reference, not least because it might help us understand why quite so many Ibsen dramas were produced for the small screen during the 1950s (eighteen by my current count). Hope-Wallace was writing about the earliest to survive – producer Harold Clayton’s richly interesting studio presentation that is distinguished by a compelling performance from Irene Worth. This production is the focus of my last substantive post of 2011 Continue reading

100 television stage plays: [9] 1991-2000

By the 1990s, televised stage plays were increasingly rare on all of television’s terrestrial channels. At the BBC the form was now largely confined to the impressive Performance strand, the ITV companies now had next-to-no interest, and Channel 4 arts and drama offerings were looking elsewhere. The reasons for this decline are complex, and will be a key part of the broader story that our research aims to explore. But for the present, this outline of one hundred significant television stage plays, offering a first tentative map of the history of the form, has far fewer options from which to choose for this final decade of the century. 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

100 television stage plays: [4] BBC, 1955-1964

Having reviewed ITV’s stage plays in the commercial service’s first decade, this post looks at the BBC productions during the same years. These are the final years when stage plays were integrated with the remainder of the drama output. Following the appointment of Sydney Newman as head of television drama in late 1962, stage plays were increasingly seen as most appropriate for prestigious ‘heritage’ productions, an attitude that was institutionalised in the Play of the Month strand from 1965 onwards. But at the end of the 1950s and in the first years of the 1960s stage plays remained central to the mainstream series, most notably Sunday Night Theatre, as well as featuring in more specialist groupings like World 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

International Theatre: The Wild Duck (John Clements / Saville Theatre / A-R for ITV, 1957)

Having now seen eight out of the ten programmes from the BFI’s immensely welcome unLOCked screenings, I am happy to hail the 1957 ITV production of The Wild Duck as the most significant discovery of the season. The Wild Duck is a 35mm feature film of a theatre production shot on a sound stage at Shepperton Studios. In part as a consequence of such an unconventional production process, this ‘filmed play’ has an entirely distinctive visual style and a rare dramatic effectiveness. Continue reading

Ibsen on Independent Television

Ibsen on television will be one of my research projects as Screen Plays develops, but while there is an accessible list of BBC Ibsen dramas (although this is no sense complete), nothing comparable exists online for the ITV plays. So today’s blog post offers just that. Continue reading

Emitron camera at Alexandra Palace