Play of the Month

This tag is associated with 8 posts

The Edwardians: Play of the Month: Waste (BBC, 1977)

The centenary in 1977 of Harley Granville Barker’s birth was marked by a revival of the playwright’s The Madras House, directed by William Gaskill for the National Theatre, and by Don Taylor’s remarkable BBC television presentation of Waste. The two productions demonstrated how finely-crafted are Barker’s major dramas, how powerful a playwright he is, and how pertinent and relevant is his social analysis. As the next presentation in the Screen Plays BFI Southbank season ‘Classics on the Small Screen: Edwardian Drama on Television’, Waste is screened on Tuesday 20 May 2014. The production has never been released on DVD and this is a rare chance to catch a truly powerful studio production. Continue reading

The Edwardians: Play of the Month: The Voysey Inheritance (BBC, 1979)

Thirty-five years ago, critic Michael Billington observed that ‘an amazing transformation’ had recently taken place in the reputation of the dramatist Harley Granville Barker. He had been, Billington observed, ‘rescued from near obscurity and shown to be one of the major British playwrights of the twentieth century.’ There had been a much-lauded production of The Madras House at the National Theatre two years before, in 1977. That same year the BBC demonstrated that Waste remained a startling and powerful play, and now Michael Billington could celebrate the mounting of The Voysey Inheritance in the Play of the Month strand, with Jeremy Irons in the lead. On Thursday 15 May The Voysey Inheritance is being screened at BFI Southbank as part of the Screen Plays season ‘Classics on TV: Edwardian Drama on the Small Screen’. And on the following Tuesday that 1977 presentation of Waste, directed by Don Taylor, is in the programme. The pairing is a unique opportunity to appreciate the two greatest plays by a writer whose standing is if anything even higher now than back in 1979. Continue reading

The Edwardians: Play of the Month: An Ideal Husband (BBC1, 1969)

This Thursday, 1 May, sees the start of our new season of BFI Southbank screenings, Classics on TV: Edwardian Drama on the Small Screen. We begin with a tremendous double bill of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband in a sumptuous 1969 version directed by Rudolph Cartier together with a – dare I say unmissable – rarity from 1960: a BBC schools production of J. M. Synge’s Riders to the Sea with Sybil Thorndike and Sean Connery. My colleague Amanda Wrigley is composing a post about Synge’s one-act poetic drama; this contribution is simply an introduction to the Wilde. 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

100 television stage plays: [8] 1982-1990

British television changed fundamentally with the arrival of Channel 4 on 2 November 1982. Independent production became for the first time a viable method of working with broadcasters – and the channel in these early years took seriously its statutory mandate ‘to encourage innovation and experiment in the form and content of programmes’. With ten productions from across the channels from the following eight years, this outline of one hundred significant television stage plays continues our first tentative map of the history of the form. Continue reading

100 television stage plays: [7] 1976-1981

Having split the BBC and ITV outputs in the previous four posts, here I am considering them together for the six years before the arrival of Channel 4. As before, this outline of one hundred significant television stage plays offers a first tentative map of the history of the form. Some of the productions no longer exist, and of the ones that are still in the archives, there are many that I have not (yet) seen. Continue reading

On DVD: ten plays from George Bernard Shaw

One of the few published groupings of BBC productions of stage plays is the eight-disc box set The Bernard Shaw Collection. The productions were made between 1972 and 1989, the last of them being Arms and the Man with Helena Bonham Carter and Dinsdale Landen. Over the next few weeks I intend to blog about each of the productions, but to begin with this post details the productions (with one or two critical comments) in the order in which Shaw wrote the originals. Continue reading

Small-screen Chekhov

According to Neil Taylor’s 1998 essay ‘A History of the Stage Play on BBC Television’, Chekhov was at that time the fifth most-staged playwright (after Shakespeare, Shaw, Ibsen and Priestley), but since then I can think of only a close-to-unwatchable theatre recording in the early days of BBC Four of Michael Blakemore’s production of Three Sisters, 2003, with Kristin Scott Thomas. Continue reading

Emitron camera at Alexandra Palace