Jacobean jottings

25th April 2013

We are coming to the end of the Screen Plays season at BFI Southbank of television adaptations of Jacobean tragedy. In the final two screenings, tomorrow night (it’s sold-out but there may be tickets on the door) and on Monday, you have the chance to see two full adaptations of Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s play The Changeling together with substantial extracts from the other two surviving versions. Monday night’s showing is Compulsion (2009, with Parminder Nagra above), a modern updating of the play set in London’s Asian community – from which I have embedded an extract below. More details of this and the other adaptations in a moment, but I want also to use this round-up to mention that we have organised a very informal discussion group about the season from 3-5pm on Friday afternoon at BFI Southbank; if you think you might like to attend, do please e-mail me via john[at]illuminationsmedia.co.uk. Below, I am compiling through Thursday and Friday a number of links and a handful of reflections about the season so far.

Friday night’s screening is mostly devoted to a highly effective 1993 adaptation by playwright Michael Hastings of The Changeling made for the BBC’s Performance strand in 1993. Produced and directed by the strand editor Simon Curtis, it features stand-out performances from Bob Hoskins (as De Flores) and Elizabeth McGovern (Beatrice-Joanna) as well as a frighteningly youthful Hugh Grant plus Leslie Philips.

After the main event we will also screen a 20-minute extract from a 1974 Play of the Month version of The Changeling, directed by Anthony Page with Helen Mirren and Stanley Baker. Taken together, the two productions offer a fascinating contrast between different acting styles as well as the development of television studio drama across two decades.

On Monday the main attraction is Compulsion, which will be introduced by adaptor Joshua St Johnston and director Sarah Harding. Intriguingly, the other five screenings have all-but sold out, but there are still tickets left for this modern version of The Changeling. It’s a richly interesting film, and perhaps all the more so since it was made for ITV primetime. Parminder Nagra and Ray Winstone are the doomed couple and the film develops a really smart, sexy and, finally, satisfyingly bloody variation on the original play. The is most definitely Jacobean tragedy brought successfully into the twenty-first century.

Paired with Compulsion is a 15-minute extract from a 1965 Granada production of the play, which brings us full circle in the season as this was the complement to the production of Middleton’s Women Beware Women with which we opened the season at the end of March.

With links and further thoughts on the way…

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