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The Open University

This tag is associated with 11 posts

‘Greek tragedy on the small screen’ is revived in Birmingham!

Just as we have brought to a close our fourth and final season of screenings at BFI Southbank, marking the end of a wonderful four years of collaboration on the topics of Greek tragedy (2012), Jacobean tragedy (2013), Edwardian drama (2014) and American playwrights (2015), we are absolutely delighted to announce that part of our very first season is about to be revived at the Library of Birmingham under the guardianship of Dr Elena Theodorakopoulos, Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Birmingham. Continue reading

Women Beware Women (BBC / The Open University, 1980)

In my previous post I wrote about the 1965 adaptation of Thomas Middleton’s early modern drama Women Beware Women. The only other British television production of the play to date is one made by The Open University in 1980, and it is this that I want to discuss here. My colleague Amanda Wrigley has posted on several occasions about adaptations of theatre plays made for The Open University as part of the A307: Drama course, including ‘Greek plays: Oedipus the King‘, ‘A307 Drama: Macbeth‘ and ‘A307 Drama: The Balcony … banned!’. But the 1980 Women Beware Women was produced in another context, as part of the course A203: Seventeenth Century England: A Changing Culture, 1618-1689. And an opening title to the recording is explicit about the intent of the inclusion of Middleton’s drama; it reads, ‘An insight into seventeenth century society’. Continue reading

The Clouds (BBC / The Open University, 1971)

Owing to the characteristically multidisciplinary nature of the The Open University curriculum, plays had been an important part of the very first OU courses in 1971. Take the very first iteration of the Arts Foundation course (A100, which ran 1971-77), the aim of which was to introduce several thousand new students each year to university-level study across a range of subject areas, including art, civilization, culture, drama, history, literature, music, philosophy and poetry. The study resources for ‘Which was Socrates?’, two A100 units on the ancient Greek philosopher which were focused on the extant literary sources upon which a picture of the historical Socrates may be built, included a twenty-five minute television production of scenes from Aristophanes’ ancient Greek comedy Clouds (first performed in 423 BC), a play in which Socrates appears as a character. Continue reading

End of part one

Were it not for unforeseen circumstances, today would have marked the halfway point of the Screen Plays research project. We are at the end of the eighteenth month of what was originally a three-year project. But thrillingly my colleague on the project Dr Amanda Wrigley is pregnant with twins, who are due in the middle of February, and so the project will be extended into early 2015. To mark this moment, I thought it might be interesting to detail which of the 150 previous posts have proved to be the most popular with readers. Continue reading

A307 Drama: Woyzeck (BBC / The Open University, 1977)

This post continues my work on sixteen co-productions between The Open University and the BBC which were made for television transmission as part of the course materials supporting the work of distance-learning undergraduate students on the A307 Drama course which ran annually from 1977 to 1981. Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck was, alongside Genet’s The Balcony, another production which caught the unforgiving eye of Aubrey Singer, the Controller of BBC2: he objected to both the love-making scene and also the lengthy murder scene, but the production escaped without cuts by being moved from the Sunday schedule to early one Saturday morning. The producer-director John Selwyn Gilbert captures eloquently the dramas being played out both in the domestic sphere and between social classes, leading Michael Church to pronounce in The Times that this production, made and transmitted primarily for higher educational purposes, was ‘the best piece of television drama we have had for many weeks’. Continue reading

A307 Drama: The Balcony (BBC / The Open University, 1977) … banned!

Continuing my work on sixteen co-productions between The Open University and the BBC which were made for television transmission as part of the A307 Drama course which ran annually from 1977 to 1981, in this post I focus on one of the productions which never, in fact, made it as far as small-screen transmission. This was a shortened version of Jean Genet’s play Le Balcon, in Bernard Frechtmann’s translation and under the direction of Nick Levinson. It was Aubrey Singer, the Controller of BBC2, who – long after the production had been approved by the Controller of Educational Broadcasting Don Gratton, decided the programme could not be transmitted without the opening – set in a brothel – being substantially re-made. The Open University refused, cultural critics in the press were baffled (especially since the play had previously been shown on BBC Television in both studio and film productions) and thus the BBC effectively practised — it is believed for the first time in its relationship with the unviersity — an astonishing act of censorship. Continue reading

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

A307 Drama: Six Characters in Search of an Author (BBC / The Open University, 1977)

In today’s post I will focus on the television production of a condensed version of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921) which was transmitted in a series of sixteen co-productions between The Open University and the BBC. These were shown on television as part of the course materials supporting the work of distance-learning students who were enrolled on the annual A307 Drama course (1977-1981). This production of Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore, which used Frederick May’s English translation first published by Heinemann in 1954, was one of the four A307 productions directed and produced by John Selwyn Gilbert. Continue reading

Classics on TV: BFI Southbank programme, 7 June 2012

Tonight sees the first programme in the five night Screen Plays season Classics on TV: Greek Tragedy on the Small Screen at BFI Southbank. A few tickets are still available for the 6.10pm showing which features Oedipus the King (BBC/The Open University, 1977) and Play of the Month: King Oedipus (BBC, 1972); you can book via the BFI website. We would like to try an experiment and invite anyone who is at the screening to contribute their thoughts about the programmes in the Comments below. Any and all responses would be welcome, however brief – and Amanda Wrigley and I will also be offering some further thoughts. Continue reading

A307 Drama: Macbeth (BBC / The Open University, 1977)

My last post discussed a 1977 BBC Television transmission of a production of Sophocles’ tragedy Oedipus the King. This was the first in a series of sixteen co-productions with The Open University designed to support the work of distance-learning students who were enrolled on the course A307 Drama. Today I will continue my wider case study on stage plays produced on television in educational contexts by turning to the second production in this series―Macbeth, directed by Paul Kafno. Corin Redgrave took the title role, Ann Bell played Lady Macbeth, John Golightly Banquo and John Richard Beale Duncan. Continue reading

Emitron camera at Alexandra Palace