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Richard Hewett

70 2 Refining studio realism By the early 1960s, television was more established in both reach and form, yet despite significant technological shifts its production processes remained largely unchanged. Actor experience had increased, yet an analysis of studio realism during this period as the result solely of actors’ increased familiarity with the medium is complicated by external factors; primarily, the advent in British television and film of social realism. Though frequently linked with a particular ‘type’ or sub-​genre of television drama, e.g. the work

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
Richard Hewett

25 1 Scaling down in early studio realism In the early 1950s, theatre still provided a starting point for the majority of actors working for the BBC, and the processes of live television drama in some ways resembled those of the stage. Movements were carefully planned and lines learnt through repetition in rehearsal rooms before transferring to the studio on the day of broadcast; the performance, once begun, could not be interrupted if an actor ‘dried’ or even died,1 replicating and arguably amplifying the pressures of stage work. However, to assume that this

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

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
Abstract only
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

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
Richard Hewett

. While in the 1990s film had superseded videotape, HD video was fast becoming the recording medium of choice, and location had finally usurped the studio as the prime site of drama performance. This elimination of its various conditioning factors sounded the death knell for studio realism, yet effects were felt only gradually, with various external factors also at play. While the elimination of rehearsals placed the onus of performance preparation more squarely upon actors, the increased use of Stanislavski’s theories in British drama schools, combined with specific

in The changing spaces of television acting
Experimentation and Armchair Theatre
Helen Wheatley

, it is argued that while realism is key to understanding the experimental drama produced at ABC, the notion needs to be broadened to encompass subjective or psychological realism, as well as social realism. Subsequently, it is concluded that, in the context of British television in the 1950s and 1960s, experimental drama was marked by its experiments with ‘the real’. Studio realism and the ‘kitchen-sink’ Experimentation in this period of British television drama’s history was often concerned with the search for medium-specific form, an exploration of what would

in Experimental British television
Tom Ryall

battleship. The Coward picture had started in documentary fashion with the shipbuilding sequence but We Dive at Dawn begins with a sequence set in the submarine with the men discussing their forthcoming shore leave.23 Following this, however, the film incorporates some location shooting as the vessel returns to base. Shots of a real submarine on the Scottish location of Holy Loch intercut skilfully with studio shots of the conning tower set the tone of authenticity clearly sought for the film.24 It also features detailed studio realism – the reconstruction of the full

in Anthony Asquith