No fear

15th February 2017

On Monday Alice Saville wrote an article for Exeunt about streaming and filming theatre. ‘Why theatre needs to love film, not fear it’ is intended as a provocation, so perhaps unsurprisingly I found interesting and irritating in about equal measure. Similarly predictable is my wish to respond, which is what this post is intended to do. Let me start with this from near the end of the article:

Theatre’s relationship with filmed media has historically been defined by fear.

Which, with respect, is nonsense. There is an incredibly rich tradition, both in Britain and elsewhere, and across more than a century, of theatre, film, television and digital media collaborating and collectively exploring and enhancing performance, and together extending its audiences and engaging them in new ways.

The partnerships go right back to Herbert Beerbohm Tree’s King John (1899, illustrated above), which appears to have been shot to bring audiences to the eminent actor’s forthcoming stage production. This is really a topic for another piece, but I am certain that the more we know about the intimately intertwined histories of stage and screen then the richer is our understanding of the possibilities and potential now. That said, let’s consider the finer grain of Alice Saville’s argument. read more »


13th February 2017

On Sunday afternoon Beware of Pity, an adaptation of a Stefan Zweig novel created by Complicite and Schaubühne Berlin, was live-streamed from the stage of London’s Barbican. The much-praised show sold out its theatre performances but along with around 1400 others looking in on the YouTube page, I happily watched the feed on my laptop at home. I was delighted to do so, although the experience felt somewhat reduced, at least when compared with viewing a full-blown, fully resourced live broadcast of a theatre show in a cinema.

As this perhaps suggests, I want to offer some comparative points about the Beware of Pity stream and the live broadcasts that I produce for the RSC and that NT Live similarly takes out into the world. I am going to be critical about aspects of yesterday’s stream, although I hope in a supportive way. I’m cautious about doing this, not least because I recognise the budget disparities between the approaches, but also because I don’t want simply to appear to be justifying my practice and that of the RSC. And pleasingly you can make up your own mind, since the stream recording remains online until Sunday 26 February. read more »

Live links 2

10th February 2017

Sunday is a big day for live/as-live performance online, with the release of Opera North’s Ring Cycle plus a stream at 3pm from the Barbican of the Complicite and Schaubühne Berlin show at the Barbican, Beware of Pity (above). Links to those below, plus other elements in my second (roughly) fortnightly round-up of news and releases relating to theatre, dance and opera performance being broadcast to cinema, television and online. The first post, from 25 January 2017, is here.

(Incidentally, we are still plagued by glitches and gremlins across the site – which is in part why I have not been posting as regularly as I would like to. But individual posts and direct links seem fine – and we hope to be back to full functionality very soon.) read more »

Sunday links

29th January 2017

The past week has been even worse for the world than the one before, but here is a list of links not totally dominated by the hideousness across the Atlantic, the hideousness at home, and the hideousness of the two together on Friday. My continuing thanks to all those who alert me to these – and my apologies for not acknowledging that individually.

The schedule and the stream: Matt Locke is essential on media and public space.

Mary Tyler Moore was one of the most important auteurs in TV history: Matt Zoller Seitz on the much-lamented actor and executive, who died this week.

How La La Land is made: David Bordwell offers real insight – and a few spoilers.

• Arthouse roccoco: Close-up on two films by Catherine Breillat: Michael Pattison on two films currently playing in the UK on (which I am coming to like more and more): Romance, 1999, and Anatomy of Hell, 2004; article, by the way, is probably NSFW.

• Asghar Farhadi: Matthew Eng at Reverse Shot has an interview with the Iranian director currently banned from attending the Oscars ceremony for which his feature The Salesman is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film; Sean O’Neal at The A.V. Club has background on the story. There is also a fine Tony Pipolo review for Artforum; and here’s the trailer:

read more »

Live links 1

25th January 2017

As my production interests and my academic concerns are both focussed, albeit not exclusively, on live events for the cinema, I am acutely aware of how rapidly the field is developing. To help myself, if no-one else, keep up to date with what is happening, every fortnight I am going to gather together a group of links about recent and forthcoming live cinema events, including reviews, previews, industry news and trailers. I also intend to keep these pages developing, so I’ll be adding additional links about the subjects below as I come across them. read more »


24th January 2017

Although it was published just over a fortnight ago I don’t want to let pass without comment a slightly thoughtless Sunday Times article about John Berger and arts television by Waldemar Januszczak. In ‘A murky way of seeing’ (free registration required) the predictably contrarian critic took issue with the idea that Ways of Seeing (1972) made by Berger and producer-director Mike Dibb (who doesn’t rate a mention) was a significantly influential television series. Rather, Januszczak argues, it was Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, which preceded Ways of Seeing by three years, and to which the later series was in some ways a riposte, that shaped much of television’s subsequent engagement with the arts, including the scribe’s own humble efforts. read more »

Forgotten TV dramas remembered

23rd January 2017

Let’s for a moment forget the woes of the world and look forward to some television treats coming up at BFI Southbank during February. A second season of Forgotten Dramas (the first was in 2015) features a number of fascinating titles that have mostly remained unseen since they were first broadcast. The season is curated by those exemplary scholars Lez Cooke, John Hill and Billy Smart, and it is associated with the History of Forgotten Television Drama research project based at Royal Holloway, University of London, which runs a very good blog here.

I intend to write about several of the below, but for the moment I urge you to book your tickets – apart that is for the first event which is already sold-out (although some tickets may become available later). I have included the listings information below, which ought to be enough to convince you that there are wonderful things in prospect here, including the brace of experimental pieces on Wednesday 22 and Loyalties on Sunday 26. I should also metnion that I am contributing to the Archives, Access and Research conference on Wednesday 22, about which I’ll post further details in a future post. read more »

Sunday links

22nd January 2017

After a break through the early weeks of January, in part prompted by technical troubles here, let’s return once more to posting. In a dark, dark week for the world, the first links are more or less loosely engaged by ways of resisting – and the later ones are more general. My continuing thanks to all those who alert me to these – and my apologies for not acknowledging that individually.

• Why I cannot fall in line behind Trump: by Peter Wehner, a Republican aide and speechwriter.

• At his inauguration, Trump signals no break from his politics of fear and loathing: there has been much excellent reporting over the past few days – David Corn’s opening paragraph for Mother Jones is close to the top.

Preserve, protect and defend: as so often David Remnick for The New Yorker is essential, here on the inauguration; the magazine’s writing in the past weeks has been just tremendous.

The image above, incidentally, which comes courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol, is from the first inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt on 4 March 1933, when he famously spoke of

my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

‘This land is your land’: the Boss in 1985 sings Woody Guthrie:

America, America: Jonathan Kirshner for LA Review of Books:

Having spent three-quarters of a century fretting about enemies abroad, we have never fully processed a lesson of history: that great civilizations almost invariably collapse from within. We are Athens, we are Rome — we are, more than anything, Paris in the 1930s, another society divided against itself, living in what one historian described as “the age of unreason.”

The real story of 2016: Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight continues the vital work of trying to understand America today.

• How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next: a really exceptional Guardian Long Read by the astute commentator Will Davies.

From lying to leering: Rebecca Solnit is brilliant on Trump’s fear of women, from London Review of Books

The threat of moral authority: … and Masha Gessen from New York Review of Books is equally good on Trump and John Lewis.

How jokes won the election: Emily Nussbaum on Trump and television humour, for The New Yorker.

A reading list for the new America: lots of great recommendations here, from artists, performers and others invited to submit to the Walker Art Centre blog.

The shining: Michelle Kuo for Artforum:

In another delirious moment, facing another rise of nationalism, autocracy, and a new world order, Siegfried Kracauer wrote that the artist’s “tasks multiply in proportion to the world’s loss of reality.” The artist must ultimately take on the role of “the observer who not only sees but also prophetically foresees.” Art can and must foresee other pictures, other worlds—to which we can look, and for which we must fight.

read more »

The (Peter) Wright stuff

3rd January 2017

Catching up with television’s Christmas treats I have been watching BBCFour’s The Ballet Master: Sir Peter Wright at 90. (The 60-minute documentary is on iPlayer for another 22 days.) This is an enjoyably warm celebration of the dancer, choreographer and founding director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, with appropriately gushing tributes from the ballet world’s great and good, and with a wealth of terrific archive. The ever-reliable producer-director David Thompson tells a clear story and assembles the conventional elements immaculately. He elicits engaging anecdotes from Wright himself and interviewees, even if for most of the time discretion wins out over gossip. Only when speaking of Sylvie Guillem, with whom he clearly had an uneasy relationship, does Peter Wright’s politesse slip. read more »