25 January 2017 will be the opening night for a small season of screenings in the state-of-the-art Minghella Building at the University of Reading. The reason I am excited about this is that it is a partial revival of a season of screenings I curated at BFI Southbank in 2012 — one of the most interesting, enriching and surprising public engagement projects I’ve worked on in recent years.
A little background: before joining BCMCR I spent five years in the School of Media, Arts and Design at the University of Westminster, working with John Wyver on the AHRC-funded research project ‘Screen Plays: Theatre Plays on British Television’ and its impact. In the second year, we discussed the idea of a season of screenings with colleagues at BFI Southbank and — to our slight surprise — they were extremely enthusiastic about our idea of a season of screenings under the title ‘Greek Tragedy on the Small Screen’. (Our subsequent three ‘Classics on TV’ series showcased television productions of Jacobean tragedy, 2013, Edwardian drama, 2014, and American plays, 2015).
The 2012 season was interesting in terms of working around the challenges of making elements from a relatively small and patchy corpus of productions — accessible previously only in archives and being of varying quality — make sense in terms of a sequence of programmes which would attract relatively large and as yet unknown audiences; it was enriching in a number of ways, but not least in the way co-watching is often more invigorating that studying a television text, alone at the desk via the laptop screen; and, finally, it was surprising to achieve full houses for all but one of the screenings. In fact, this was the most successful of the four seasons that John Wyver and I, between us, curated for the BFI over the course of the AHRC project.
You can read more about the nine televised Greek tragedies that featured in the original season on the Screen Plays blog. Taken together, they offered a fascinating range of approaches to the foundational plays of Western drama and the small screen presentation of ancient Greece, illuminating the richly interesting variety of ways that British television practitioners have experimented with capturing the force of these ancient tales on the small screen from 1958 to 1990.
The season was partially revived at the University of Birmingham in 2015 (under the guardianship of Dr Elena Theodorakopoulos) and the University of Nottingham in 2016 (by Dr Lynn Fotheringham).
The upcoming season at the University of Reading, which has been organised by Professor Barbara Goff, comprises three screenings, each of which is preceded by an introductory talk, as follows:
Wednesday 25 January 2017, 6.30pm
Iphigenia at Aulis. Theatre Night, BBC, 1990. Dir. Don Taylor. With Imogen Boorman, Roy Marsden, Fiona Shaw, Tim Woodward. 120 min.
Introductory talk by Dr Amanda Wrigley; the screening will be followed by a Q&A with Wrigley and Professor Jonathan Bignell.
Wednesday 1 February 2017, 6.30pm
Agamemnon: Part One of The Serpent Son. BBC, 1979. Dir. Bill Hays. With Helen Mirren, Denis Quilley, Diana Rigg. 95 min.
Introductory talk by Professor Barbara Goff.
Wednesday 8 February 2017, 6.30pm
Sophocles’ Electra (modern Greek language). Associated-Rediffusion for ITV, 1962. Dir. Joan Kemp-Welch. With Aspasia Papathanasiou, Georgia Saris. 58 min.
Introductory talk by Dr Anastasia Bakogianni.