OU 70s drama: first time as tragedy. Rerun and analysis

On 22nd June a symposium at the University of Westminster will consider the presentation of Greek tragedies on television. The speakers include Professor Lorna Hardwick of The Open University. She will talk about the use of television transmissions for the teaching of drama by The Open University and how this has developed and changed from 1971 to the present, drawing on her personal experience working in the Department of Classical Studies during some of this period.

Other confirmed speakers:

Dr Tony Keen of The Open University will discuss the extent to which The Serpent Son, the BBC’s Oresteia trilogy of 1979, had a science fiction aesthetic. This production of the three plays of Aeschylus featured costumes designed by Barbara Kidd, who was feted for her work on Doctor Who.

Dr Lynn Fotheringham of the University of Nottingham who will talk about issues of authenticity and historicity in the production of Greek tragedies for television, focusing particularly on the last major production of Greek tragedy to have been transmitted on British television – Don Taylor’s Iphigenia at Aulis production of 1990.

Professor Oliver Taplin of the University of Oxford will offer his thoughts on the two stage productions of Greek tragedy to have been ‘translated’ to the television medium: the 1962 ITV production of the Peireikon Theatron production of Sophocles’ Electra – given in modern Greek, without subtitles! – and Channel 4’s 1983 version of the 1981 National Theatre Oresteia trilogy, directed by Peter Hall, on which Professor Taplin served as academic advisor.

Dr Amanda Wrigley of the University of Westminster will talk about television’s creative and technological responses to the performance styles and dramatic conventions of 5th-century Athens, and specifically how ancient Greek imaginative and performative spaces were constructed in the television studio with a focus on Alan Bridges’ ‘inside-out’ production of King Oedipus for the BBC in 1972.

The symposium will also feature an interview with a practitioner and a screening of a previously unseen early 1960s BBC Schools programme on Greek tragedy. The registration fee for the symposium is £5. For a registration form and instructions please email amandawrigley@gmail.com.

In association with the symposium is a season of screenings of nine Greek tragedies plus one quasi-satyr play at the BFI Southbank. There will be a panel discussion at the BFI with actor and director Fiona Shaw and Classics scholar Professor Oliver Taplin. Among many other riches, the season includes a modern Greek Sophocles’ Electra, shown (astonishingly) on ITV without subtitles in 1962, Patrick Stewart as a half-masked Oedipus in a 1977 Open University production of Oedipus Tyrannus, the three parts of Peter Hall’s Oresteia trilogy as shown on Channel 4 in 1983 and Fiona Shaw as Clytemnestra in the 1990 BBC Iphigenia at Aulis. For the full details of the season, which has been curated by Amanda Wrigley, and online booking facility see www.bfi.org.uk/whatson/bfi_southbank/film_programme/june_seasons/classics_on_tv_greek_tragedy_on_the_small_screen. (n.b. Booking has been open for just a few days and seats are going fast!)

Sometime Clytemnestra Fiona Shaw pictured here fresh from her part in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets  and wearing her University of Ulster academic gown.

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