Fifty years on

Fifty years on

Far be it from me to rain on the National Theatre’s fiftieth birthday parade, but allow me to make a few slightly-less-than-gushing remarks about the recent two-part Arena documentary and tonight’s compilation album of extracts. (The two films are on BBC iPlayer for the next four days: The Dream here and War and Peace here – and you have a week to re-run the live gala 50 Years on Stage here.) It has been thrilling to see British theatre given such attention when by and large it remains one of the artforms that is less present than it might be on television. But I have to say that I have found all the self-congratulation just a touch too cloying.
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A Strange Interlude for television

A Strange Interlude for television

Eugene O’Neill’s remarkable play Strange Interlude opened at the National Theatre today to some strong reviews. Michael Billington for the Guardian praises the ‘excellent’ production (directed by Simon Godwin) and awards the evening 4 stars. Even at three hours twenty minutes, it’s well worth seeing, with some great performances (including from . Moreover, productions of the play come along comparatively rarely – the last on the London stage was in 1985. Which makes it all the more remarkable that back in 1958 there was a BBC Television production shown in peak-time on two Sunday evenings. In September last year I wrote about this production for the Screen Plays: Stage Plays on British Television blog and I am taking advantage of the National Theatre success to post a slightly revised version here.
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Happy 20th birthday, NVAP

Happy 20th birthday, NVAP

The National Video Archive of Performance (NVAP) is a great and glorious resource – and shamefully little-known. Thanks to a generous agreement with theatre unions (which permits taping without the payment of fees to artistes and others), the NVAP creates high-quality archival recordings of theatre shows. These can be accessed by researchers (and back in 2009 Annette Brausch contributed a wonderful guest post here about this process), but for the most part – because of the terms of the agreement – they are not publicly screened or otherwise distributed. To mark twenty years of the NVAP, however, the V&A, which is where the archive is based, is mounting a series of showings on Sunday afternoons – including on 12 February Gregory Doran’s recent Cardenio in Stratford (above). All the details are across the jump. (I know we don’t usually do announcements of forthcoming screenings here, but these are rather special.)
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‘This grave shall have a living monument’

‘This grave shall have a living monument’

To King’s College London on Saturday for the stimulating symposium Monumental Shakespeares. ‘Remembering Shakespeare in 1916 and after’ was the subtitle for a day of talks exploring the ways in which the tercentenary of Shakespeare’s death was marked. The discussions felt timely because two very significant dates will soon be upon us: 2014, which is the four hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the poet’s birth, and 2016, the quatercentenary of his death. On the other hand, numerous institutions under the title of the World Shakespeare Festival 2012 are going big on the Bard next year, alongside the Olympics. (Our film of Julius Caesar with the RSC for BBC is a contribution to the WSF.) So what might we learn from events a century ago to help us find appropriate ways to remember Shakespeare in the coming years?
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