Archive | The Wednesday Play

A weekly classic TV play

July 2, 2014

The Wednesday Play: The Cherry Orchard (1962/1981)

Posted on July 2, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Judi Dench in The Cherry Orchard

Chekov's last play was The Cherry Orchard, a typically cheery little number in which an aristocratic Russian woman (Madame Lyubov Andreievna Ranevskaya) and her family return to their family estate - which includes a large cherry orchard - just before it is auctioned to pay the mortgage. The family is given several options to save the estate, but essentially does nothing, resulting in it sale to a serf and the demise of the orchard, in an allegory for the futility of the Russian aristocracy's early 20th century attempts to preserve its status.

The great thing about plays, of course, is not only can they be re-staged time after time, the same actors can come back to them at later stages of their lives, offering different interpretations, perhaps even of different characters. For example, in a televised version of the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1962 production, Dame Judi Dench played Anya, Madame Ranevskaya's daughter, alongside John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft and Dorothy Tutin. And in 1981 BBC production, she played Madame Ranevskaya herself, alongside Bill Paterson and Timothy Spall. And you can watch them both below to compare and contrast. As always, if you like them, buy them on DVD.

June 25, 2014

The Wednesday Play: Ghosts (1987)

Posted on June 25, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The heyday of theatre on television has long gone. Indeed, by the early 80s, with television's constant drive to become more filmic and more 'mimetic', pretty much all the play strands on all the UK's channels had disappeared, leaving film strands or even nothing at all behind them. However, occasionally, one channel or another would try to revive theatre on TV.

In 1987, BBC2 launched its Theatre Night strand, which televised staged adaptations of classic plays. One of those chosen was Ibsen's Ghosts, directed by Elijah Moshinsky and starring Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Michael Gambon, Freddie Jones and Natasha Richardson.

Given the year, it should be no surprise that Ibsen's story of a venereal disease passed down from father to son should have been selkected. Working entirely in a studio set of interconnecting rooms created by designer Gerry Scott, the adaptation shows the power theatre has, even without the trappings and verisimilitude of film, but it wasn't enough to convince the powers that be that plays should still be part and parcel of television output. All the same, you can enjoy it on YouTube or buy it on DVD.


June 18, 2014

The Wednesday Play: Just A Boy's Game (1979)

Posted on June 18, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Despite being the European city of culture not so long ago, Glasgow has a reputation for being rough and its people have a reputation for being just as tough. Consider 17 things overheard in Glasgow if you want proof.

But 1979's Play For Today, Just A Boy's Game, depicts a Glaswegian wrestling with the notion of hardness, which some might argue is 'just a boy's game'. Jake (Frankie Miller) lives in the shadow of his dying grandfather (Hector Nicol), who was once Greenock's hardest. Jake hates his grandfather - and vice versa - but his sole aim is to be as tough as him. But one day, Jake's life of drifting, drinking and fighting leads to a bleak realisation. 

The play, written by Peter McDougall, a former Glaswegian docker and the recipient in 2008 of a BAFTA for services to Scottish broadcasting, and directed by fellow Scot John Mackenzie (The Long Good Friday), and an absolute degree of authenticity and is unafraid of showing every miserable, decaying facet of Glasgow in the late 1970s. Look hard enough and you'll even spot the likes of Glasgow's favoured son, Gregor Fisher.

As always, if you like it, support the makers by buying it on DVD.

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