This piece was substantially revised and updated in 2014.
The Wednesday Play Writer: Roger Manvell; Adapted from (novel) Roger Manvell and Heinrich Fraenkel; Producer: Peter Luke; Director: Rudolph Cartier
Broadcast in late 1964, The July Plot is an interesting example of a television play made during a formative moment in the history of British television drama.1 It was in production as the BBC’s drama strategy was being reformulated, resulting in the shake-up of the Corporation’s drama anthology output and the creation of the genre-defining The Wednesday Play (1964-70), as part of which it was ultimately transmitted. The July Plot is also an early example of drama documentary based around major events from within living memory, and a rare instance of its particular subject being tackled for a British audience. With this article, we aim to give an insight into the play’s production and an overview of its effect upon its audience.
The July Plot dramatises the conspiracy by Count von Stauffenberg and other high-ranking German officers to assassinate Hitler at his ‘Wolf’s Lair’ headquarters in 1944. It explains why the attempt failed, and depicts the fates of the main conspirators. The script was by Roger Manvell, based on the book he had co-written with Heinrich Fraenkel. It was produced by Peter Luke and directed by Rudolph Cartier, many of whose other works are covered on this site. Read more...(2826 words, 2 images)
This piece was substantially revised and updated in 2014.
Studio 4 Adapted and translated by: Rudolph Cartier; From: Erwin Sylvanus (play); Director: Rudolph Cartier
Doctor Korczak and the Children is one of the most unusual and compelling television plays of the 1960s.1 Its subject is tragic and fascinating, while the production itself is interesting in its own right for a myriad of reasons. The extremity of its rejection of naturalistic television drama conventions is startling and it remains an almost unique surviving example of a period of such experimentation at the BBC at the beginning of 1960s. It also illustrates how the reach of a stage text can be expanded to whole new audiences with sympathetic translation into the new medium. This article aims to give an overview of this extraordinary production and its reception by its audience. Read more...(2896 words, 3 images)
This piece was substantially revised in December 2014.
Festival Writer: Rudolph Cartier; Adapted and translated from: Theodore Plievier (novel), Claus Hubalek (play from novel); Director: Rudolph Cartier
The early 1960s was a transitional period for BBC television drama. New techniques, notably a move away from live transmissions in favour of pre-recording, enabled more ambitious and polished productions. Subject matter was changing too, with specially written television plays and series overcoming the BBC’s previous reliance on material drawn from the theatre or popular novels. Of course, these changes didn’t happen overnight, and a number of programmes of the period provide a snapshot of television drama in transition, containing elements of both the old and the new, sometimes uneasily colliding in the one production. One such drama is Stalingrad, from late 1963, which has roots in both a novel and its stage adaptation, but also attempts to make the material ‘televisual’, achieving mixed results.1 Here, we’ll examine the play, to see how it came to be made in a mix of styles and how critics and audiences reacted to it. Read more...(3566 words, 1 image)
Writer: David Whitaker; Director: Douglas Camfield; Producer: Verity Lambert
A literary costume drama set around the courts of Richard I and Saladin, The Crusade (1965) is an example of how important non-science-fiction historical stories were in the early years of Doctor Who. This essay looks at how The Crusade approaches history, in particular the characterisation of Richard I (“the Lionheart”). There will be attention paid to the programme’s attempts at historical accuracy, although that shouldn’t be our only focus because the historical study of popular culture too often ignores the specific qualities of popular culture (and also history) by depending on the accuracy question. Depictions of Richard I change for various reasons including historians’ debates, school curricula, changes in media institutions, shifting dramatic styles and reactions to previous dramas. These explain why Richard the Lionheart (ITV, 1961-65) uses Richard differently from Richard Lester’s film Robin and Marian (1976), which is in turn different from the series Robin of Sherwood (ITV, 1984-86) and Robin Hood (BBC, 2006-2009). This essay will therefore take Doctor Who’s version of Richard I as a starting point to think about how history and screen fictions build narratives around figures like Richard I. I’m drawing from unused sections of the research I conducted for a forthcoming academic publication on neo-medievalism,1 but any references to academic theory will be rooted in discussion of the choices made by writer David Whitaker and director Douglas Camfield. Read more...(6290 words, 11 images)
Play for Today Writer: Don Shaw; Director: Colin Bucksey; Producer: Louis Marks
“I hope no-one ever needs to go to war over the Falklands, or for that matter, any writer write about them.”
The short but bloody Falklands war between Britain and Argentina played out over two and a half months in 1982. Television drama responded with a handful of plays about the conflict, most of which seemed to excite almost as much controversy as the war itself. (See Disputed Territory: Drama and the Falklands.) The earliest of these was Don Shaw’s The Falklands Factor, which was broadcast in April 1983, just ten months after hostilities in the South Atlantic had concluded.
Specialising in contemporary drama, the BBC’s Play for Today anthology was the natural home for such a recent subject, however The Falklands Factor is actually a historical drama, Shaw having chosen to dramatise a little known incident from the eighteenth century to put the more recent conflict into historic context and draw parallels between the two crises. The reader must excuse the passages which follow detailing brief parts of the Falkland islands’ convoluted history, without which the meaning of the play and this essay will be impossible to convey. Read more...(2367 words, 1 image)