Multi-camera studio drama provides some of the most popular programming on British broadcast television, judging by the figures in the weekly Broadcast magazine. As I write, the techniques are usually limited to low-budget dramas such as ‘soap operas’, though they can also be used on situation comedies where there is a live studio audience.
Having said that, every so often, at least in the UK, events are staged that feature ‘serious’ multi-camera dramas. In 2005, there was the Quatermass Experiment , which added being shot on location to the stresses of
The first collection of its kind, Chartist Drama makes available four plays written or performed by members of the Chartist movement of the 1840s. Emerging from the lively counter-culture of this protest campaign for democratic rights, these plays challenged cultural as well as political hierarchies by adapting such recognisable genres as melodrama, history plays, and tragedy for performance in radically new settings. A communal, public, and embodied art form, drama was linked for the Chartists with other kinds of political performance: the oratory of the mass platform, festival-like outdoor meetings, and the elaborate street theatre of protest marches. Plays that Chartists wrote or staged advanced new interpretations of British history and criticised aspects of the contemporary world. And Chartist drama intervened in fierce strategic arguments within the movement. Most notably, poet-activist John Watkins’s John Frost, which dramatises the gripping events of the Newport rising of 1839, in which twenty-two Chartists lost their lives, defends the rebellion and the Chartist recourse to violence as a means for the movement to achieve its aims. The volume’s appendices document over one hundred Chartist dramatic performances, staged by activists in local Chartist associations or at professional benefits at some of London’s largest working-class theatres. Gregory Vargo’s introduction and notes elucidate the previously unexplored world of Chartist dramatic culture, a context that promises to reshape what we know about early Victorian popular politics and theatre.
This essay discusses the possibility of a new reading of Charles Maturins Bertram; or, The Castle of St. Aldobrandon the basis of a hitherto ignored manuscript, ‘Epilogue’ to the drama found in the archives of publisher John Murray. The essay adds a new chapter to the tormented publishing history of this work and sheds light on the ambiguous and shifting moral and political interpretations given by both Maturin and his audience to one of the most famous Gothic dramas.
Bertolucci had worked with the cinematographer Vittorio Storaro for
nearly twenty years but for La tragedia di un uomo ridicolo in 1981 he chose
a different cinematographer, Carlo di Palma. He explained the break
from Storaro thus:
I wanted a very sharp image. Vittorio is never truly sharp. His way
of lighting comes from a school which uses very little light … This
film concerned the absolute blurring of the question of terrorism
in Italy. One didn’t understand anything. The story was very hazy.
I thought it was necessary to counterbalance that with a very
With the decline of the single play on British television during the
1970s and 1980s, authored television drama increasingly took the
form of the serial, or mini-series, a development that was mainly the
result of increasing ﬁnancial pressures as British television entered a
more ‘cost-eﬀective’ era (Gardner and Wyver, 1980). Series and serial
drama provided an opportunity to spread the costs of production, while
building and retaining audiences. The single play, on the other hand,
was not only expensive to produce, it could not guarantee
For the theatre must not be ‘realistic’
drama is no mere setting up of the camera to nature …
(George Bernard Shaw)
‘Cup-and-saucer’ Realism versus melodrama
In turning to drama it is important to recognise that concentrating on the textual aspect alone would give us only a limited insight into its relationship with literary Realism. In this chapter, therefore, as well as the texts themselves, I will look at other crucial elements such as stage design, and a technical feature often overlooked – the aside – something which
By the early 1960s series drama was the most popular form of drama on
British television. ITV had largely been responsible for this, for while
the BBC had two very popular series, Dixon of Dock Green and Maigret,
ITV dominated the ratings with a combination of imported American
series, such as Dragnet, Rawhide and Wagon Train, and homegrown
series, such as Emergency – Ward 10, No Hiding Place and Coronation
Street. Such was ITV’s popularity as the new decade dawned that BBC
programmes rarely appeared in the twenty top-rated programmes.
This book aims to provide resources for critical thinking on key aspects of television drama in Britain since 1960, including institutional, textual, cultural and audience-centred modes of study. It explores the continuing popularity of the situation comedy, and makes a convincing case for considering sitcom as a key popular genre. By offering a sense of how 'real' audiences respond to, and engage with, actual programmes in specific social situations, dominant conceptions of the social meanings of Carla Lane's Butterflies and Jimmy Perry and David Croft's Dad's Army are challenged and renegotiated. The book takes up Queer As Folk to focus on its status as an authored intervention in debates about the representation of homosexuality. It demonstrates that The Prisoner series inhabits contradictions by unpacking the complex question of the series's authorship, and the inadequacy of attributing its meanings to its creator, star performer or production team, for example. The book argues that The Demon Headmaster makes a significant contribution to the project of exploring and defining questions of ethics and justice in social organisation, in part, by claiming children's culture as a space of experimentation, resistance and subversion. It looks at the ways in which television drama embodies assumptions about its audience, and pursues this in a sophisticated way in relation to late twentieth-century television adaptations of 'the female Gothic'. The struggle between the BBC power-base in London and its satellite Departments in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales is also dealt with.
The Return of the Hibernian Repressed During
the Rise and Fall of the Celtic Tiger
Whilst debate rages in certain circles as to what constitutes an Irish Gothic tradition
and whether imposing canonical status upon it is even possible or desirable, very little
of this discussion focuses on twenty-first century writing, and certainly not upon writing
for the stage. The aims of this essay are twofold: to argue the case for a contemporary
Irish Gothic theatre school (whose primary proponents I will identify as Martin McDonagh,
Conor McPherson, Marina Carr and Mark ORowe); and to place this contemporary school in
conversation with the Irish Gothic literary corpus identified by the scholarship of Terry
Eagleton, Seamus Deane, W. J. McCormack, Jarlath Killeen, Christopher Morash, Richard
Haslam, Sinéad Mooney and David Punter. The resulting intention here is to open up a fresh
way of reading and comparing contemporary Irish playwrights,that allows us to place their
work into sharper focus when it comes to comparing them to each other as pre-eminent Irish
writers of the millennial period.
Experiments in television drama
Television drama at the moment is going nowhere fast. Informed
management believe it is so bad it can’t get worse. They are wrong.
It can and will destroy itself unless a breakthrough in form is made,
substantiated and phased into the general run of drama programmes.
Not an art set-up like the Langham group to be propitiated on the altar of
prestige, but a working philosophy which contains a new idea of form,
with new language, new punctuation and new style. Something which
can be applied to mass audience viewing. Something