schools productions

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The Edwardians: J. M. Synge’s Riders to the Sea (BBC, 1960)

‘Edwardian Drama on the Small Screen’, our third ‘Classics on TV’ season at BFI Southbank, opens on Thursday with a spectacular double bill. Following the sumptuous 1969 BBC production of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, directed by Rudolph Cartier, is the 28-minute production of the one-act play Riders to the Sea by the Irish playwright John Millington Synge (1871-1909). Produced by the BBC for broadcast to schools in 1960, Riders to the Sea has much to recommend it: the production was, in fact, considered to be such a powerful presentation of the drama that it was repeated some months later in an evening slot of 9.30pm with the clear intention of reaching a larger adult audience. This powerful tragedy is set in a sparse set, reflecting the harshness of the environment on the Aran Islands, with the sound of the life-taking sea-waves dominating the soundscape. Dame Sybil Thorndike plays the role of old Maurya who has lost her husband and all of her six sons to the sea, and – with the death of the last – reaches a kind of peace. Sean Connery makes an appearance as her son Bartley, and her daughters Cathleen and Nora are played by Olive McFarland and Jan Kenny respectively. But do come and see for yourself on Thursday at the BFI! Continue reading


Julius Caesar (BBC Schools, 1960)

Before I viewed this schools production of Shakespeare’s political drama, my (uninformed) sense was that such dramas made specifically for classroom viewing were under-funded and by and large unimaginative. But that is far from the case with this intelligent, pacey, handsomely shot modern dress production. Indeed, Ronald Eyre’s 1960 staging achieves a good deal more than either the BBC’s comparatively conventional studio production in togas of the previous year or the 1964 outside broadcast of the National Youth Theatre’s ‘teddy boy’ Julius Caesar. Continue reading

Emitron camera at Alexandra Palace