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William Shakespeare

This tag is associated with 46 posts

Scenes from Shakespeare: The Merry Wives of Windsor (BBC, 1937)

I am writing an article about British television adaptations of specific Shakespeare stagings, the most recent of which is the BBC television film of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Julius Caesar in 2012. There are just under fifty such productions which, either from the theatre or from a studio or very occasionally, with with Julius Caesar, from a location, present either substantial excerpts or a full version of a specific theatre production. For a long time I believed that the first such production was Scenes from Cymbeline (BBC, 1937) which on 29 November 1937 broadcast part of Andre van Gyseghem’s Embassy Theatre staging of the play. But now I believe that there is a credible earlier candidate for this laurel. Continue reading

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (A-R for ITV, 1964)

On Midsummer Day 1964, Shakespeare received his largest British television audience to date when over 3.8 million homes tuned in to the independent channels to see Benny Hill play Bottom in an all-star Associated-Rediffusion production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ITV’s first major in-house production of Shakespeare. This lavishly prepared and well executed production, which was directed by Joan Kemp-Welch, was transmitted to honour the 400th anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare. Continue reading

Television World Theatre: The Life of Henry the Fifth (BBC, 1957)

I am intrigued that between 1957 and 1965 BBC Television screened twelve productions of Shakespeare’s History plays. In no other nine-year period has there been as many productions of these dramas. There were the major cycles of An Age of Kings (1960) and The Wars of the Roses (1965) and as a kind of curtain-raiser at the end of 1957 the BBC produced what it billed – in accordance with the title in the First Folio – as The Life of Henry the Fifth. (This play is more usually referred to as Henry V, as I shall in what follows.) This studio production by Peter Dews with John Neville as King Henry is the focus of this post. Continue reading

Hamlet at Elsinore (BBC / Danmarks Radio, 1964), part 1

One of the most significant of all television Shakespeare productions on television was produced nearly fifty years ago as a contribution to the quatercentenary celebrations of the playwright’s birth. The idea for a television version of Hamlet recorded on location at the castle where the events are set originally came from Danmarks Radio. The project became one of the earliest major European co-productions and was pioneering in its exclusive use of outside broadcast cameras to record a drama. It also resulted in a distinguished adaptation that is engaging, insightful and often thrilling. Continue reading

Late-Night Line-Up: The Marowitz Hamlet (BBC, 1969)

By way of an hors d’oeuvre to the forthcoming Screen Plays season Classics on TV: Jacobean Tragedy on the Small Screen at BFI Southbank, this post is devoted to a controversial 1960s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The drama known as The Marowitz Hamlet, a ‘condensed’ version of which was filmed by the BBC in 1969, has a radically re-worked and fractured text, startlingly stylised playing, a white box for a set and the small cast in modern dress with heavy make-up. Hamlet here is challenging and experimental, and despite being only available in a faded 16mm copy, of considerable interest. 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

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

Bookshelf: The Wars of the Roses (1970) by John Barton with Peter Hall

In my earlier post about Michael Barry’s memoir From the Palace to the Grove which details his life in television from 1938 to 1952 I lamented that he did not twin this revealing volume with a personal account of his later career. That prompted me to pull from my shelf a handsome volume that, in part, is a commemoration of one of Barry’s greatest small-screen triumphs. The Wars of the Roses by John Barton with Peter Hall (and some assistance from William Shakespeare) was published by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1970. That date is rather odd since it is the script of an adaptation of four of Shakespeare’s History plays that was first seen in Stratford-upon-Avon in August 1963 and then shown in three parts on BBC Television on 8, 15 and 22 April 1965. 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