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The television plays

This study analyses Samuel Beckett's television plays in relation to the history and theory of television, arguing that they are in dialogue with innovative television traditions connected to Modernism in television, film, radio, theatre, literature and the visual arts. Using original research from BBC archives and manuscript sources, it provides new perspectives on the relationships between Beckett's television dramas and the wider television culture of Britain and Europe. The book also compares and contrasts the plays for television with Beckett's Film and broadcasts of his theatre work including the Beckett on Film season. Chapters deal with the production process of the plays, the broadcasting contexts in which they were screened, institutions and authorship, the plays' relationships with comparable programmes and films, and reaction to Beckett's screen work by audiences and critics.

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Jonathan Bignell

This introductory chapter discusses Samuel Beckett and his works that were adapted for British television and radio. It considers the question of whether Beckett's television plays are single ‘literary’ dramas or part of a larger series. It also identifies some critical traditions in Television Studies. The final section of the chapter presents an overview of the following chapters.

in Beckett on screen
Abstract only
Jonathan Bignell

This chapter discusses the formation of and the critical response to a canon of British television drama in terms of a conflict between aesthetic modernism and critical realism. It notes that some of the critics' responses to Beckett's work in the 1970s reflected the critical debate of the time over the politics of naturalistic versus avant-garde form. It determines that Beckett's television plays are placed within a complex dialectic of critical discourses around the aesthetics and politics of television drama, and part of this debate is about the address to the television audience. Finally, this chapter tries to link critical work on Beckett's television plays with discursive models of how television audiences were imagined by critics, television institutions and authors.

in Beckett on screen
Abstract only
Jonathan Bignell

This chapter takes a look at the most sustained work on the intertextual relationships between Beckett's television drama and other work by him and by others. It examines the association between authored television drama with discourses of ‘quality’, and discusses some matters of visual design, music and literary reference in television plays. It discusses the relationship between uses of visual space in Beckett's television plays and Film and his theatrical works. It also addresses some questions of performance related to ‘theatricality’ and the prevalent motif identified by Beckett critics of increasing formal simplicity or minimalism in his theatre.

in Beckett on screen
Jonathan Bignell

This chapter discusses the broadcasting contexts where Beckett's television plays were made and shown. It examines some archival sources, which places the scheduling and promotional contexts of the plays in comparison with and in contrast to other television drama forms. It shows that Beckett's dramas for British television were screened in arts programming slots on BBC2, instead of the customary scheduling positions and drama series of the time. It also mentions BBC radio, which was committed to broadcasting original experimental drama in the Third Programme (now known as Radio 3), including Beckett's radio plays. This chapter also shows that his plays work both with and against television cultures, and draw attention to their distinctiveness.

in Beckett on screen
Company SJ’s staging of Beckett’s Company
Anna McMullan

hand in hand with his mother, the little boy asks about how far away the sky seems, indicated on stage by the appearance of a maternal hand (that of Flo McSweeney), which suddenly shook off that of the performer, following the mother's ‘cutting retort’ in the text (Beckett, 2009a : 6). This moment recalled Beckett's television play Nacht und Träume , where a hand appears from the top of the televisual frame, with no visible body, and clasps that of the figure in the dream. The production therefore referenced Beckett's prose, dramatic and televisual work in its

in Beckett’s afterlives
From the literary corpus to the transmedia archive
David Houston Jones

of Beckett, recalling his glee at a test viewing of the colour print of Quad on a black-and-white monitor, an effect which he described as ‘marvellous, it's 100,000 years later’ (qtd in Brater, 1990 : 109). Exercise , moreover, constitutes a dramatic amplification of the combinatorial dilemma of Quad , ‘the art or science of exhausting the possible, through inclusive disjunctions’ (Deleuze, 1995 : 5), as Gilles Deleuze puts it in his preface to the French edition of Beckett's television plays (Beckett, 1992 ). Where Quad stipulates four players, ‘as alike

in Beckett’s afterlives