BBC Drama Films and Documentaries

Plays

video Arthur Miller: an exclusive interview (BBC documentary)

BBC Video
Type: Video

At his Connecticut home, Arthur Miller talks to Alan Yentob about his life and career, some of the many influences behind his work, and his marriage to Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe.

One of America’s greatest playwrights, Arthur Miller was 72 when this film was recorded in 1987. This was the year that he had published his autobiography Timebends: A Life and he had granted Omnibus an exclusive interview partly to mark both this occasion and partly as his latest play A View From The Bridge was about to transfer to the London stage. He begins by reminiscing about his New York Jewish upbringing, and the effects upon him and his family of the Great Depression, which was the theme for his Pulitzer Prize-winning tragedy, Death of a Salesman. Miller recalls the opening night and the reaction it received. The McCarthy witch-hunts of the early 1950s inspired another of his great plays, The Crucible. Miller discusses the genesis of the play and the effects of McCarthyism upon him and his career, commenting on the “immemorial tendency of the human race to panic.” Interspersed with film extracts from Death Of A Salesman, After The Fall and A View From The Bridge are Miller’s observations on the political and poetic nature of his plays and of the writer’s art.

Miller gives his insight into his most famous marriage, speaking publicly about it for the first time “She was in rebellion when she acted, and she expected punishment as a result of it,” he says. “The great thing about her to me was that the struggle was valiant; she didn’t give up until the end.” He also talks about the shooting of Monroe’s last completed film, The Misfits, for which he wrote the screenplay. This was the time when her health was deteriorating due to an increasing dependency on drugs, though she still managed to give an exceptional performance. It was also on the set of The Misfits that Miller met his next wife, Magnum photographer, Inge Morath.

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

video Blue/Orange (BBC Film Adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

Blue/Orange is based on Joe Penhall's award winning play of the same name. In a London psychiatric hospital, an enigmatic young man claims, among other things, to be the son of an exiled African dictator - a story that becomes unnervingly plausible. In a fiery and suspenseful debate, his doctor and consultant clash over the patient's diagnosis and treatment. What ensues is an incendiary tale of race, madness and a Darwinian power struggle at the heart of a dying National Health Service. Filmed on location in London, and shot in high definition, this dynamic and often very funny adaptation of Joe Penhall's award-winning play retains the music, lighting and sound team from the original stage production, which premiered in April 2000.

‘Beautifully written - intelligent, complex, uncompromising and compassionate’ The Times

‘Riveting and intense … often-funny, always smart … Parkes delivers those lines with a manic energy illustrative of the lines Chris straddles. And both Simm and Cox match his intensity, to the point where one forgets there are only three speaking characters.’ Multichannel News, USA

‘All three acting performances are strong. Brian Cox is excellent as the ambitious Robert, gradually and artfully revealing the baser impulses that reside beneath the doctor’s polished professional demeanor. Shaun Parkes’s searing portrayal of Chris is the heart of the show and he is particularly good at giving life to the menagerie of concocted and also legitimate-fears that haunt the patient.” CultureVulture, USA

Awards for the original theatre production:

Best New Play Olivier Awards for 2001; Best Play of the Year, Evening Standard Awards 2000; Best New Play, Critics' Circle Theatre Awards 2000

Credits:

Director: Howard Davies; Written and adapted by: Joe Penhall based on his award winning play of the same name; Producer: Richard Fell; Executive Producer: Bill Boyes; Starring: Brian Cox, John Simm, Shaun Parkes.

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

video Copenhagen (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

A BBC/KCET Hollywood co-production, Copenhagen is a stylish screen adaptation of Michael Frayn’s award winning stage-play about science, friendship and the uncertainty of things. In 1941, the German physicist Werner Heisenberg made a strange trip to Copenhagen to see his Danish counterpart, Niels Bohr. The pair had once been great friends and close colleagues who had revolutionised atomic physics in the 1920s with their work together on quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle. But now the world had changed and the two men were on opposite sides in a world war. Their meeting was fraught with danger and embarrassment and ended in disaster. Ever since, historians have wondered why Heisenberg went to Copenhagen and what he wanted to discuss with Bohr. In Michael Frayn’s play, Heisenberg meets Bohr and his wife Margrethe once again to look for the answers and to work out, just as they had once worked out the internal functioning of the atom, how we can ever know why we do what we do.

The stage play premièred in May 1995 at the Royal National Theatre, London and won the 1998 Evening Standard and the Critics’ Circle Awards for Best New Play. Its New York debut was at the Royale Theatre in April 2000. This adaptation features a slightly abbreviated script and is shot on location.

‘Be prepared to go through some serious mental gymnastics to keep up with the action, but it's worth the effort.’ The Guardian

‘I found myself thinking that it worked even better than it had in the theatre. Largely shot in a sparsely furnished country house bathed in chilly Scandinavian light, it was flawlessly constructed, constantly unsettling and deeply moving, with wonderfully judged performances … one of the dramatic highlights of the year.’ Sunday Telegraph

Credits:

Director: Howard Davies; Cinematographer: Ian Wilson (Emma, The Crying Game); Producer: Richard Fell; Executive Producer: Simon Curtis (Man, Boy); Starring: Stephen Rea (The Crying Game), Daniel Craig (Our Friends in the North, Lara Croft Tomb Raider), Francesca Annis (Deceit, Wives, Daughters)

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

video The Critic (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

Hywel Bennett, Alan Badel, Nigel Hawthorne and John Gielgud star in Sheridan's clever farce on the pretensions of the theatrical world. The Critic: or, a Tragedy Rehearsed is a political and literary satire, following in the vein of George Villiers’ The Rehearsal (1671), which takes jovial aim at the vanities of authors and politicians and at the foibles of the theatre itself.

Credits:

Lord Burleigh: John Gielgud; Mr. King/Mr. Puff: Hywel Bennett; Mr. Sneer: Nigel Hawthorne; Mrs. Dangle: Rosemary Leach; Mr. Dangle: Norman Rodway; Sir Fretful Plagiary: Alan Badel; Tiburina: Anna Massey; Constable: Rodney Bewes; Interpreter: Christopher Biggins; Director: Don Taylor; Writer: Richard B. Sheridan; Producer: Louis Marks; Costume Design: Betty Aldiss.

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

video The Devil’s Disciple (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

The Revolutionary War serves as the backdrop for this brilliant satire penned by Bernard Shaw. Self-professed ‘devil's disciple’ Dick Dudgeon (Mike Gwilym) -- who long ago scorned the piety and traditional values of his mother (Elizabeth Spriggs) -- returns home when his father dies. But after the British army arrives on the scene to lynch the village minister (Patrick Stewart), Dick finds that he can't escape his moral underpinnings.

Credits:

Director: David Jones; Producer: Shaun Sutton; Lighting: Howard King; Playwright: Bernard Shaw; Composer: Stephen Oliver; Designer: Tony Burrough; Costume Designer: Odette Barrow; Script Editor: Stuart Griffiths; Cast: John Cater: Uncle Titus Dudgeon; June Ellis: Mrs Titus Dudgeon; Patrick Godfrey: Lawyer Hawkins; Mike Gwilym: Richard Dudgeon; Timothy Kightley: Chaplain; Larry Lamb: Sergeant; Cheryl Maiker: Essie; Patrick Newell: Uncle William Dudgeon; Ian Richardson: General Burgoyne; Freda Rodgers: Mrs William Dudgeon; Elizabeth Spriggs: Mrs Dudgeon; Patrick Stewart: Anthony Anderson; Graham Turner: Christy Dudgeon; Benjamin Whitrow: Major Swindon; Susan Wooldridge: Judith Anderson.

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

video A Doll’s House (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

Henrik Ibsen struck an early blow for feminism in 1879 with this liberated tale of a wife who rebels. Juliet Stevenson plays Nora who finally revolts against her husband's perception of her as a doll-wife whose opinions count for nothing.

‘A new, pointedly ideological translation by Joan Tinsdale is both sharp and felicitous…Ibsen is served brilliantly’ New York Times.

‘Exceptionally acted’ L. A Times

Credits:

Director: David Thacker; Producer: Simon Curtis; Starring: Juliet Stevenson, Trevor Eve, Geraldine James, Patrick Malahide and David Calder.

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

video An Englishman Abroad (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

Alan Bennett's award-winning film drama based on a meeting between Australian actress, Coral Browne and British spy, Guy Burgess. Alan Bates stars in a story based on a true incident which took place in Moscow in 1958. British spy, Guy Burgess encounters actress Coral Browne (who plays herself) on tour from the 'old country'. Invited to lunch at Burgess's shabby apartment, he presents her with a strange request. Both Browne and Bates were winners of BAFTA awards for acting for their roles in this production.

Credits:

Guy Burgess: Alan Bates; Herself: Coral Browne; Claudius: Charles Gray; Rosencrantz: Harold Innocent; Guildenstern: Vernon Dobtcheff; General: Czeslaw Grocholski; Boy: Matthew Sim; Hamlet: Mark Wing-Davey; Hotel Receptionist: Faina Zinova; Toby: Douglas Reith; Giles: Peter Chelsom; Tessa: Judy Gridley; Scarf Man: Bibs Ekkel; Tolya: Alexei Jawdokimov; Mrs Burgess: Molly Veness; Tailor: Denys Hawthorne; Shoe Shop Assistant: Roger Hammond; George: Charles Lamb; Pyjama Shop Manager: Trevor Baxter; Writer: Alan Bennett; Director: John Schlesinger; Producer: Innes Lloyd.

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

video Hamlet (RSC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

In 2008, the UK's eminent Royal Shakespeare Company brought Hamlet - Shakespeare's most famous and perhaps most influential play - back to the stage, spoken in verse but with contemporary dress and David Tennant in the eponymous role. No recent stage production in Britain had attracted either the level of interest of the near-unanimously positive reviews. Tennant's interpretation was recognised as defining the role for a generation, and Patrick Stewart - playing Claudius - gave a performance of great depth and complexity for which the actor won a highly-coveted 2009 Olivier award. Director Gregory Doran’s modern-dress production was seen as a brilliant ensemble presentation that was thrilling, fast-moving, immediately accessible, supremely intelligent and, in parts at least, very funny. In this specially-shot screen version of the stage play (filmed on location rather than in the theatre), Tennant and Stewart reprise their roles. Wholly faithful to the stage production and its performances; dynamic, exciting and contemporary, it brought Shakespeare's greatest play to a far wider audience than ever before.

‘A superb reworking ... David Tennant is a revelation’ The Guardian

‘Part the caustic wit of John Lennon, part the looks of a snake-hipped Brett Anderson, part the louche allure of Bryan Ferry...Tennant's is the funniest Hamlet I've ever seen, and the sexiest’ The Times

Awards nominations: Best Photography & Lighting, Fiction, British Academy Television Craft Awards 2010; Olivier Awards 2009: Best Performance in a Supporting Role (Patrick Stewart)

Credits:

An Illuminations/Royal Shakespeare Company production for BBC Wales in association with Thirteen for WNET.ORG and NHK. Director: Gregory Doran; Director of Photography: Chris Seager; Written by: William Shakespeare; Producer: John Wyver; Executive Producers: David Horn, Bethan Jones, Taro Teraoka, Denise Wood. Starring: David Tennant, Patrick Stewart, Penny Downie, Mariah Gale.

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

video Hedda Gabler (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

Ibsen's classic story of a woman who sets out to destroy her husband and his smug, middle-class attitudes, but instead finds herself having to make a grave decision. This television production is related to the 1991 Abbey Theatre, Dublin production which transferred to the West End. Fiona Shaw had played the lead role in that production which was also directed by Deborah Warner.

Credits:

A BBC production in association with WGBH Boston. Director: Deborah Warner; Writer: Henrik Ibsen; Producer: Simon Curtis. Starring: Fiona Shaw (Mind Games), Brid Brennan, Donal McCann (The Serpent's Kiss), Stephen Rea (The Crying Game), Nicholas Woodeson (The Avengers).

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

video Henry IV Part 1 (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

In 1978, the BBC set itself the task of filming all of William Shakespeare's plays for television. The resulting productions, renowned for their loyalty to the text, utilised the best theatrical and television directors and brought highly praised performances from leading contemporary actors.

Henry IV Part One: these are troubled times for King Henry. His son, Prince Harry acts more like a rogue than royalty, keeping the company of drunken highway robber Falstaff and other shady characters. Meanwhile, from the north come rumours of a rebellion led by the son of the Percy family, the valiant Hotspur. One of Shakespeare's most celebrated dramatic achievements, this play mixes history and comedy effortlessly, moving from scenes of royalty to rough drinking dens with ease. This production matches its superb characters with great actors, particularly in Anthony Quayle's magnificent Falstaff.

Credits:

Starring: Anthony Quayle, Jon Finch, David Gwillim, Tim Piggott-Smith, Brenda Bruce

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

This collection features stunning film adaptations of classic and contemporary plays from Sophocles and Shakespeare, to Oscar Wilde, Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, Bernard Shaw and contemporary writers, Michael Frayn and Joe Penhall.