The Weekly Play

The Wednesday Play: The Mahabharata (1989)

Le Mahabharata

Right now, you may have noticed, there’s a whole load of religions about to have some sort of festival or other. So to avoid all hint of bias, this week’s Wednesday Play has nothing to do with any of them and is purely of concern to Hindus – none of whom are celebrating anything right now, except maybe a birthday or two.

Peter Brook CH, CBE is one of the world’s most famous and justifiably lauded theatre directors. His career in both theatre and film has spanned decades, stretching back with the RSC to 1950 all the way through to the present day. Perhaps his most famous work, however, was a 1985 production that he had co-written over eight years with Jean-Claude Carrière and Marie-Hélène Estienne: The Mahabharata. An astonishing nine hours long, it was nevertheless a distillation in itself of the world’s longest and perhaps even most important work of epic poetry, the eponymous 200,000-line long Sanskrit text Mahabharata.

Regarded by Hindus as both a text about Hindu moral law (dharma) and its history, the poem dates back to 400BC and is perhaps as early in origin as 9th century BC. Its main plot is about the struggle between two branches of a single family – the Kaurava and the Pandava – for the throne of Hastinapura, which eventually culminates in the battle of Kurkshetra, but the majority of the work includes a wide range of other myths and legends.

Brook regarded the Mahabharata as a text of the world, so for his production, he chose a cast from countries all round the world, including Georges Corraface, Vittoria Mezzogiorno, Mamdou Dioumé and Yoshi Oida. After the production premiered at the 39th Avignon festival, Brook was to take it on a world tour for four years and at the end of that period, an abridged version a mere six hours long was filmed and shown as a two-part mini-series on Channel 4 in the UK. This was subsequently cut down to three hours for a cinema and DVD release.

Many of the cast of the stage production were to return for the mini-series, including Corraface, Mezzogiorno, Dioumé and Oida; however, in true RSC fashion, as well as some new cast members such as Ciarán Hinds, some of the original cast took on different roles, with Bruce Myers switching from Karna to become both Ganesha and Krishna, Andrzej Seweryn moving from Duryodhana to Yudhishthira and Maurice Bénichou switching from Ganesha and Krishna to Kitchaka, to name but a few.

It’s an epic in all senses and a very theatrical one at that, but if you have the time – perhaps over Christmas – you can watch all six hours of the mini-series below or you can get it on DVD. It’s definitely worth the effort.

Other versions
It’s worth noting that Brook was not the first to adapt the Mahabharata, even if he was the first to adapt it in English. Because there was a film made in 1963 of just one story of the Mahabharata, Narthanasala, which again you can watch below, although your Telugu had better be good since it’s not subtitled.

A 1965 film, however, made an attempt at adapting the full story in just two and a half hours, and this is subtitled, if you want to give it a go, you may be glad to hear.

As well as a 2013 film, this time 3D and animated, there have also been four Indian TV series (1988, 1997, 2008 and 2013). The earliest of these series was produced by famed Indian film director BR Chopra and despite being 94 episodes long and taking nearly two years to air, was one of the most successful programmes in Indian TV history. It was subsequently imported to the UK by BBC2.

The 2013 series, Mahabharat was equally well viewed but had a somewhat larger budget, being the most expensive series in Indian TV history.

It seems this epic has legs…

News: E4 acquires The Goldbergs, The Missing and Brokenwood Mysteries renewed, a Crims trailer + more

Film casting


  • Trailer for The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • New trailer for Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella

Canadian TV

New Zealand TV

  • TV2 green lights family sci-fi drama The Cul De Sac, Prime renews The Brokenwood Mysteries


New UK TV shows

  • Trailer for BBC Three’s young offenders comedy Crims


US TV show casting

New US TV shows

New US TV show casting

  • Neil Jackson joins TNT’s Lumen, Giacomo Gianniotti joins Lifetime’s Marilyn
Weekly Wonder Woman

Weekly Wonder Woman: Sensation Comics #18, Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Three #11

Sensation Comics #18

Unfortunately, it’s our last weekly round up of Wonder Woman appearances for the year, thanks to DC’s continuing ‘War on Hellenismos’ my Christmas break, which means that unless I feel invigorated in the New Year, I’ll be missing out on the next issues of both Wonder Woman and Superman/Wonder Woman and maybe even the first issue of Wonder Woman ’77, which are all due out in the next fortnight.

Let’s all pray to Dionysos for Christmas booze to fill me with life then.

Either way, I’ll be leaving you with a look at two comics. Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #18 concludes a three-part story in which Diana’s been off to Apokolips to fill it with Christmas cheer rescue some Amazons and work out what Darkseid’s been up to.

Meanwhile, we also see the surprise return of Wonder Woman in year three of Injustice: Gods Among Us, she having spent the previous year in a coma, which turns out not to be quite what it seemed. No, it wasn’t Dionysos’ Christmas booze.

Continue reading “Weekly Wonder Woman: Sensation Comics #18, Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Three #11”


A fourth Totally Serialized is coming to London in January


Un village français



Caroline Proust

Hey everyone – remember the first three Totally Serialized (one, two, three)? Well, the fourth one’s coming next month…

Totally Serialized – Season 4
29 – 31 January 2015 at Ciné Lumière

From 29 to 31 January, Ciné Lumière will hold the 4th edition of Totally Serialized, the one and only TV series festival in London. Aimed to promote and improve collaboration between the UK and France, it will showcase the best of new productions from both sides of the Channel.

Audiences will get a chance to attend exceptional preview screenings and meet creators and actors of their cult TV series.

Those last years of production have proven that TV series are more creative than ever. And more recently, the British TV industry has broken down frontiers, with international buyers moving away from a remake-centred strategy and now broadcasting the original series with subtitles. French shows such as The Returned, Braquo, Spiral, Hard and Maison Close from the French Pay TV CANAL+ have benefited from this shift, and have proven to be a success on Channel 4, FX, BBC Four and Sky Arts respectively. Just recently, Channel 4 acquired Witnesses, another French series. One of the aims of the festival is to encourage this trend.

A dedicated industry programme is organised in association with Creative Europe Desk UK and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) on 29 & 30 January aiming to foster international exchanges and co-productions in order to meet the growing demand for high-quality European TV drama. Various aspects of the constantly-evolving field of TV series, including producing, screenwriting, and financing will be covered.

The festival opening ceremony followed by an industry cocktail is organised with CANAL+.

In partnership with the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers (SACD), British and French TV writers will gather and discuss the art of TV writing on 30 January while networking events will accompany this two-day programme. The festival also launches a speed-dating meeting between selected French and British producers organised with Europe Creative Desk MEDIA France and Ile de France Film Commission.

Festival highlights include a preview of award-winning writer Russell T. Davies’ Banana, courtesy of E4 (Channel 4) in the presence of members of the cast and crew.

Spiral enthusiasts are in for a treat as several events will be dedicated to this dark and labyrinthine Parisian crime drama. While Series 5 will be showing on BBC Four, the CANAL + CREATION ORIGINALE series will be unravelled by its screenwriter Anne Landois in a special screening of episode 1 at Ciné Lumière on 29 January. In addition, Caroline Proust, who plays Captain Laure Berthaud will give a masterclass where Spiral’s fans will learn behind-the-scene stories on 31 January. The UK premiere of Paris, a mini-series from the team behind Spiral, will top it all.

Thrillers are a strong strand in this year’s festival as we will also screen the UK Premiere of Jean-Christophe Grangé’s The Passenger with actor Jean-Hugues Anglade (Braquo). and host a masterclass with Tony Grisoni in which he will decrypt the creative process behind the acclaimed Channel 4 TV show Southcliffe.

This year’s festival will be a platform for new talent with a BAFTA masterclass on ‘Breaking and entering TV Screenwriting’ for budding writers, a marathon of new French TV comedies and fresh out of French animation schools directors with En sortant de l’école, a mini series based on Jacques Prévert’s poems.

After the jump, the programme of public events (ie the ones you can attend if you don’t work in TV). And to find out more or book tickets, visit the Totally Serialized web site

Continue reading “A fourth Totally Serialized is coming to London in January”

Martin Freeman returns to The Office. Sort of

Martin Freeman was hosting Saturday Night Live in the US this weekend and for one of the sketches, he returned to the series that made him famous in the first place: The Office. Except since The Office, he’s become even more famous thanks to The Hobbit*. So guess what Saturday Night Live did. And it’s surprisingly accurate to the BBC version, too…

*And Sherlock, obviously.