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From studio realism to location realism in BBC television drama
Author: Richard Hewett

Until recently, little work had been conducted on television acting per se, let alone the various coalescing factors that underpin and help shape it. This book addresses that lack, utilising a selection of science fiction case studies from the world of BBC television drama to investigate how small screen performance has altered since the days of live production. This then-and-now comparison of performing for British television drama focuses on science fiction case studies to provide a multi-perspectival examination of the historical development of acting in UK television drama. By the mid-1970s, studio realism might be expected to have reached its apotheosis, yet it was by no means all-encompassing as a style of television acting. A new approach was therefore required, with much of the performance preparation now taking place on location rather than being perfected beforehand in a separate rehearsal space: the seeds of location realism. One of the most notable contrasts between early television drama and the modern day is the shift from multi-camera studio to single camera location filming. Comparing the original versions of The Quatermass Experiment, Doctor Who and Survivors with their respective modern-day re-makes, the book unpacks the developments that have resulted from the shift from multi-camera studio to single camera location production. Examining changing acting styles from distinct eras of television production, the book makes a unique contribution to both television and performance studies, unpacking the various determinants that have combined to influence how performers work in the medium.

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From Dead of Night to The Quatermass Experiment
Peter Hutchings

, for in many respects Ealing’s film is very different from the long stream of horror films that eventually followed from the mid-1950s onwards. This 1950s wave of horror was in large part initiated by the enormous commercial success of Hammer’s SF/horror The Quatermass Experiment in 1955. In seeking to explain the transition from Dead of Night to The Quatermass Experiment , as well as the virtual absence of horror from British cinema in the intervening years, one needs to take into account both

in Hammer and beyond
Richard Hewett

Rudolph Cartier, the Austrian émigré whose 1953 production The Quatermass Experiment provides this chapter’s focus. Prime among the various determinants of television acting that can be seen at work in The Quatermass Experiment is actor experience, and scenes from the opening episode, ‘Contact has been Established’, illustrate the extent to which certain actors with a greater length (and breadth) of experience had already begun to adapt in terms of vocal projection and physical gesture, while many of their colleagues remained fixed in more stage-​derived codes. As

in The changing spaces of television acting
Richard Hewett

223 5 The return of studio realism? It is Saturday night, and on the television screen three men can be seen, crouching round a small box, listening intently in the latest scene from live drama The Quatermass Experiment. By this point in the story it has become clear that something untoward happened in the depths of space to the crew of Britain’s first manned rocket, and the on-​screen trio are now playing back a recording of the astronauts’ final moments. To the left, the trench-​coated Quatermass holds a silencing finger aloft, gesturing at moments of

in The changing spaces of television acting
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Richard Hewett

Experiment (BBC, 1953; BBC, 2005), Doctor Who (BBC, 1963–​89;12 BBC, 2005–​ ); and Survivors (BBC, 1975–​ 77; BBC, 2008–​10). Each fits the requirement of the original having evolved in a distinct production era, with the additional advantage that it was followed by a new version in the 2000s. While The Quatermass Experiment was broadcast as a live, six-​part serial, Doctor Who was initially pre-​recorded ‘as live’. Survivors began as a multi-​camera studio production with location film inserts, but from its seventh episode switched to an all Outside Broadcast (OB

in The changing spaces of television acting
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Richard Hewett

The Quatermass Experiment’s 1953 cast informs a notably diverse range of acting styles, from the emerging studio realism of Reginald Tate to the more gesturally inflected emoting of Van Boolen. The fact that some –​though by no means all –​of these performances were deemed worthy of censure by contemporary audiences and critics indicates that a studio ‘norm’ in acting terms had not, as yet, established itself, though audiences at least were beginning to develop some sense of what was acceptably ‘realistic’ from the ‘new’ medium of television. By the 1960s the

in The changing spaces of television acting
Richard Hewett

to which a greater uniformity of scale had begun to emerge in terms of vocal and gestural projection on the part of actors; a marked refinement of studio realism when compared to the performances examined in The Quatermass Experiment. The determining factors behind this change, and their resulting manifestation on screen, will now be examined via a selection of scenes from ‘An Unearthly Child’. 71 Much had altered in Britain since The Quatermass Experiment. A few months before that serial’s transmission, Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop, with its training

in The changing spaces of television acting
Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and Hammer’s The Night Creatures
Peter Hutchings

invasion of Britain. The success enjoyed by Hammer’s version of Dracula in 1958 ensured that the company would subsequently focus its attentions on its colour gothic product, and critical accounts of Hammer horror have commonly seen its mid-1950s science fiction cycle – which also included The Quatermass Experiment (Val Guest, 1955) and X – The Unknown (Leslie Norman, 1956) – as a dry-run for the gothic horror to come. Such a dismissal arguably does these films a disservice, for they have a

in Hammer and beyond
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James Chapman

cycle of halfhour telefilm costume adventure series in the late 1950s that – to a much greater degree than the critically acclaimed but now for the most part ‘lost’ live studio dramas of the time – really put British television on the international map. The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot and The Buccaneers were all sold to American networks. Yet these series have been marginalised in the television historiography of the 1950s that focuses instead on innovative live dramas such as The Quatermass Experiment and Nineteen Eighty-Four and the

in Swashbucklers
Richard Hewett

working processes. While the initial six episodes followed the same pre-​filming/​ rehearsal/​studio pattern utilised in The Quatermass Experiment and Doctor Who, from episode seven onwards this was replaced by an all-​Outside Broadcast location video model. A new approach was therefore required on the part of actors and directors alike, with much of the performance preparation now taking place on location rather than being perfected beforehand in a separate rehearsal space: the seeds of location realism. This chapter compares scenes from the opening studio episode

in The changing spaces of television acting