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Jacobean tragedy

This tag is associated with 6 posts

Compulsion (Size 9 productions for ITV, 2009)

It is debatable whether Compulsion should properly be described as an “adaptation” of Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s 1622 play The Changeling. There are numerous parallels between the original Jacobean drama and the film’s tale of obsession and murder in contemporary London. On the other hand, the film is credited solely to its writer Joshua St Johnston and carries no acknowledgement to its inspiration. “Loosely based on…” is perhaps the best description of the relationship between the polished and powerful modern melodrama and its source. As a consequence, Compulsion probably does not even belong in the Screen Plays canon, but I am posting about it today since it is the final presentation in the ‘Classics on TV: Jacobean tragedy on the small screen’ season at BFI Southbank. Continue reading

‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (BBC, 1980)

Roland Joffé’s film adaptation of John Ford’s play ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, produced for BBC Television, is rare in a number of ways. This is the only British television production of the Caroline tragedy, and indeed the medium’s only presentation of a drama by the playwright. Filmed by director of photography Nat Crosby, ‘Tis Pity… is one of a small number of television adaptations of classic theatre plays to be shot on 16mm film on location. And since its first transmission on 7 May 1980, it has been exceptionally hard to see, with no repeat showing, no VHS or DVD release and not even any fragments on YouTube. Tonight’s (sold out) presentation at BFI Southbank as part of the ‘Classics on TV: Jacobean Tragedy on the Small Screen’ season, organised with Screen Plays, is a rare opportunity to see it. Continue reading

Stage 2: The Duchess of Malfi (BBC, 1972)

Shooting on videotape on location at Chastleton House, James MacTaggart achieves a fluid and compelling production of John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi that is entirely credible – which is far from easy through the second-half bloodbath. Among its strengths are a vibrant performance by Eileen Atkins as the Duchess and some truly remarkable chiaroscuro camera work. Continue reading

Blood and Thunder: Women Beware Women (Granada for ITV, 1965)

Our second BFI Southbank season begins on Monday 25 March with a screening of Granada’s 1965 adaptation of Women Beware Women. This will be followed by a discussion with Dame Diana Rigg (who plays Bianca in the production) and Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company Gregory Doran (a few tickets are still available). Following on from Amanda Wrigley’s selection of Greek tragedy on the small screen last June, the six programmes feature Jacobean tragedy made for television (although strictly speaking Hamlet at Elsinore is after a play written in the final years of Elizabeth I). Over the next month or so (the season runs until 29 April) I will be writing about each of the productions and also hoping to prompt thoughts and responses from those who attend the screenings. Continue reading

Catching up

As you may have noticed, we have not been quite as active on the blog as before. In part this is because my colleague Amanda Wrigley has started her maternity leave – and indeed has given birth to Matilda and Dylan. Many congratulations to Amanda and her husband Dez! (Not that this will mean that we will be denied Amanda’s invaluable writings here in the coming months.) Meanwhile, this post is a way of catching up with our forthcoming season as well as a couple of recent blog posts elsewhere which may be of interest. Continue reading

‘Classics on TV: Jacobean tragedy on the Small Screen’, a BFI Southbank season

Screen Plays is delighted to announce a second BFI Southbank season that follows on from our successful ‘Greek tragedy on the small screen’ series last year. The new season, which runs from 25 March to 29 April, highlights television adaptations of Jacobean tragedy. Curated by John Wyver, it features productions based on plays by Thomas Middleton, William Rowley, John Ford and John Webster, as well as a rare showing of Hamlet at Elsinore (1964), a remarkable version of Shakespeare’s revenge tragedy. Continue reading