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Bignell, Jonathan (2014)
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Languages: English
Types: Article
The BBC television drama anthology The Wednesday Play, broadcast from 1964-70 on the BBC1 channel, was high-profile and often controversial in its time and has since been central to accounts of British television’s ‘golden age’. This article demonstrates that production technologies and methods were more diverse at that time than is now acknowledged, and that The Wednesday Play dramas drew both approving but also very critical responses from contemporary viewers and professional reviewers. This article analyses the ways that the physical spaces of production for different dramas in the series, and the different technologies of shooting and recording that were adopted in these production spaces, are associated with but do not determine aesthetic style. The adoption of single-camera location filming rather than the established production method of multi-camera studio videotaping in some of the dramas in the series has been important to The Wednesday Play’s significance, but each production method was used in different ways. The dramas drew their dramatic forms and aesthetic emphases from both theatre and cinema, as well as connecting with debates about the nature of drama for television. Institutional and regulatory frameworks such as control over staff working away from base, budgetary considerations and union agreements also impacted on decisions about how programmes were made. The article makes use of records from the BBC Written Archives Centre, as well as published scholarship. By placing The Wednesday Play in a range of overlapping historical contexts, its identity can be understood as transitional, differentiated and contested.
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