Lez Cooke
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Regional drama from stage to screen
Television adaptations by Peter Cheeseman’s Victoria Theatre company
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"The Victoria Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent, under the artistic direction of Peter Cheeseman, was one of the UK’s leading regional theatre companies from the early 1960s to the late 1990s. Committed to theatre in-the-round, dramatising local issues in a series of documentary dramas and adaptations of literary works by local author Arnold Bennett, the Victoria Theatre was firmly anchored in the local communities of the North Staffordshire region of the English Midlands. Between 1967 and 1974, this regional commitment was evident in the production of four plays for television, all by television companies based in the Midlands. This chapter explores these adaptations from short stories by Bennett and from his novel Anna of the Five Towns (ATV, 1971), as well as Fight for Shelton Bar (BBC2, 1974), a half-hour drama made for BBC English Regions Drama’s Second City Firsts series and adapted from a longer stage version of one of the company’s local documentaries about the struggle to prevent the closure of the steelworks in Stoke-on-Trent. The chapter draws on personal interviews with members of the Victoria Theatre to consider aesthetic and practical issues involved in transposing theatre plays produced in-the-round to the television studio for recording on multiple cameras or, in the case of Fight for Shelton Bar, on a single camera using long takes. This analysis is placed in the context of regional drama production in the 1960s and 1970s and of changes in the structure of British television in the 1980s and 1990s which had a profound effect on the production of regional television drama. "

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Screen plays

Theatre plays on British television

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