Catching up…

17th February 2012

Yes, I’ve been super-busy – and, yes, I feel guilty about not posting here for nearly a fortnight. So let me construct a post about a few of the things we’re involved in and also about one or two new developments relating to previous posts. First up…

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

One of the truly great coming togethers of theatre and television is the 1982 Primetime/Channel 4 adaptation of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Dickens dramatisation. The day-long immersion in its world at the Aldwych thirty years ago remains one of defining theatrical experiences of my life (see here) – and a week on Saturday, 25 February, BFI Southbank offering a chance to re-live that in a way, with an all-day screening of the television version. There’s also a Q&A with co-directors Trevor Nunn and John Caird, writer David Edgar and actor David Threlfall (and me as moderator). The event has been sold out for weeks (it’s in the modestly proportioned NFT3) but a few tickets are back on sale – and if you are quick you might snap one up here. If not, watch out for the blog that will follow.

Julius Caesar

We are making excellent progress towards our next television film with the BBC and the Royal Shakespeare Company. We have identified an amazing location and taken on our Director of Photography, and you can expect to see more blog posts about the production as we get closer to the start of filming on 23 April.

Five Truths

Back in August last year I wrote about Katie Mitchell’s fascinating installation (produced with the V&A and the National Theatre) about the ways in which key twentieth century theatre directors might stage (and film) the idea of Ophelia’s madness in Hamlet. Wonderfully, the films from the installation are now available as free downloads for the iPad; go here for details.

Screen Plays: the project, the blog and the conference

The academic research project Screen Plays which I am leading at the University of Westminster is going from strength to strength. Our blog has hosted some excellent posts in the past few weeks, including a fascinating discussion by Billy Smart of the 1959 BBC production of Ibsen’s Brand, with Patrick McGoohan in the title role, and an exploration of the National Theatre/Channel 4 adaptation in 1983 of The Oresteia by Amanda Wright. I have also just posted a couple of pieces about the BBC’s outside broadcasts from the Palmers Green rep house known as The Intimate Theatre in the immediate post-war years (here and here). The project also currently has an open call for proposals for a one-day conference in October, the details of which are here.

Don Carlos at the V&A

I blogged with enthusiasm early in January about the series of screenings organised at the V&A to mark the twentieth anniversary of the National Video Archive of Performance. On Sunday, 19 February, at 2.00 there is a free screening of the NVAP’s three-camera recording of Michael Grandage’s production of Schiller’s Don Carlos – to which I’m really looking forward; details here.

Leonardo’s London Blockbuster: The Movie

Before Christmas I blogged about the Sky Arts/Seventh Arts live-to-cinemas programme linked to the National Gallery’s exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Painter in the Court of Milan. Intriguingly and remarkably, Leonardo Live has now been screened in nearly 500 cinemas across the United States, as The New York Times details in this report. If it felt, as I wrote, ‘half-live’ when we were watching it ‘live’, goodness only knows how the programme came across three months after it was recorded.

Postcard from the battlefields

Prompted by my filming trip to some of the Great War cemeteries in Belgium and France, and by the visit to Thiepval (see here), I have been reading the terrific collection The Penguin Book of First World War Stories. Edited by Barbara Korte and Ann-Marie Einhaus, this is a richly varied read with surprising tales by, among others, Katherine Mansfield (a writer I need to know better), Rudyard Kipling, Hugh Walpole and Muriel Spark.

The volume concludes with a wonderful story by Julian Barnes, ‘Evermore’, originally published in The New Yorker in 1995. This tells of Miss Moss, a lexicographer who lost her brother in the war. and of her annual visits to the cemeteries and memorials of the Somme. It is a brilliant dissection of language, of loss and of memory. Miss Moss (the name is perfect) hates Sir Edwin Lutyens’ monument at Thiepval, but she recognises its importance:

Such an edifice assured the newest eye of the pre-existence of the profoundest emotions. Grief and awe lived here; they could be breathed, absorbed. And if so, then this child might in turn bring its child, and so on, from generation to generation, EVERMORE. Not just to count the missing, but to understand what those from whom they had gobe missing knew, and to feel her loss afresh.

… and finally, The Boss

Bruce Springsteen in a terrific piece for the Guardian by Fiachra Gibbons: ‘I have spent my life judging the distance between American reality and the American dream.’ Wrecking Ball is released on 5 March.


  1. Helene says:

    Hi, John,

    I’m very much looking forward to your (daily?) blogs on the behind-the-scenes of the “Julius Caesar” film. Have fun with that.

  2. Anna says:

    Hi John,

    will it be Greg Doran’s Julius Caesar, which opens in Stratford in May, or a completely separate production?

    • John Wyver says:

      Hi Anna,

      Yes, we’re making a film with Greg developed from his production but – as with Hamlet – mostly shot on location. But the difference this time is that we’ll be filming in the middle of rehearsals, not after the show has opened (and closed). Exciting – but a bit scary too. The BBC will screen it during the summer, so it wil be possible on consecutive nights to see the theatre production and the television film – and I don’t think there’s ever been a production where that has been possible before. Hope you’ll enjoy it!

  3. Anna says:

    Thanks John. The time frame had confused me somewhat! As someone who often sees an RSC production several times from first preview through to final performance, it’ll be fascinating to see a film made so early in the creative process. You have an amazing cast, though, so I’m sure they’ll be up to the job even though it won’t be as well oiled as Hamlet must have been.

  4. Anna says:

    Just thought – you couldn’t propose yourself as a speaker for this year’s RSC Summer School, could you? That would be a fascinating session!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.