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.