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Richard Hewett

165 4 The age of location realism By the time Doctor Who and Survivors were re-​made in the mid to late ​2000s, the television drama landscape had been transformed in virtually every respect. The rehearsal room/​studio recording template was now the sole domain of situation comedy, and while certain soaps still utilised multi-​camera recording, it was no longer accompanied by a prior preparation period. Although constructed sets still played a role, they were to be found on soundstages rather than in the comparatively cramped confines of Television Centre

in The changing spaces of television acting
Richard Hewett

117 3 The genesis of location realism 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, and there were already elements in play that would ultimately come to threaten its primacy as the dominant mode of acting in British television drama. The decade saw the emergence of various factors that would influence actors’ work at the Corporation, beginning with the BBC’s further investment in its existing rehearsal and recording model via the opening in 1970 of

in The changing spaces of television acting
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.

Abstract only
Richard Hewett

linguistic shift were already in place. The increased use of Outside Broadcasting techniques in the 1970s and 1980s began to break down the conditions that had contributed to the development of studio realism, resulting in a further scaling down of vocal projection, and a reduction in physical movement for its own sake. However, this emerging style took time to become established; casts and crews in the 1970s were constrained both technically and by lack of experience, and the development of this nascent form of location realism was stymied by the fact that the shift to

in The changing spaces of television acting
Richard Hewett

g s p ac es o f t e l e vis io n  act i ng is more typical of modern location realism. This apparent conflict derives from the fact that the sequence described above was not in fact taken from the 1953 original of The Quatermass Experiment, but the live re-​mount first broadcast on 2 April 2005 as part of BBC Four’s ‘Television on Trial’ season (Figure 5.1). The Corporation’s first live drama in two decades, this production was a deliberate attempt to evoke the conditions of the earlier serial (Fell 2005), and is useful here both for summarising the key

in The changing spaces of television acting
Abstract only
Richard Hewett

television acting (the cause) and the resulting screen performance (the effect). To this end, the terms ‘studio realism’ and ‘location realism’ have been developed here specifically to examine this shift. While these cannot be regarded as absolutes –​audience reception of what is an acceptably ‘realist’ television performance can also be a determining factor –​they represent an important first step towards a historical engagement with television acting. 3 Any use of the term ‘realism’ is potentially perilous, understandings being informed by time, place and medium; what

in The changing spaces of television acting