Accessibility navigation

Screen and stage space in Beckett’s theatre plays on television

Bignell, J. ORCID: (2022) Screen and stage space in Beckett’s theatre plays on television. In: Wrigley, A. and Wyver, J. (eds.) Screen Plays: Theatre Plays on British Television. Manchester University Press, Manchester, pp. 226-245. ISBN 9780719097928

Text - Accepted Version
· Please see our End User Agreement before downloading.


It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.


As a living writer, Samuel Beckett’s personal connections with performers, directors and theatre venues could be harnessed by production staff keen to present his work on television. For Beckett’s collaborators, adapting his plays offered other opportunities: small casts, single settings and suitability for shooting in the controlled environment of the television studio. Public service imperatives to disseminate his work underpinned repeated adaptations of Beckett’s plays throughout the second half of the twentieth century and beyond, often drawing on broadcasters’ links with theatre venues, productions and personnel. But television adaptations of Beckett’s theatre work received poor ratings and audience feedback; they looked old-fashioned because they were recorded in a studio, and their long takes with few cuts could make the plays seem ‘theatrical’ rather than ‘televisual’. In Britain adaptations of Krapp’s Last Tape appeared in both the BBC’s Festival and Thirty Minute Theatre series, but it was mainly arts programmes like Arena on BBC2 that transmitted original and co-produced or imported productions of Beckett’s plays. This chapter discusses a range of different kinds of Beckett adaptation, and places three adaptations of Krapp’s Last Tape within that broader context. The three productions use different strategies to direct viewers’ attention to bravura performances in relatively fully-realised sets, and a comparison of the versions offers ways to address questions about what television adaptations of theatre aimed to achieve, and the opportunities and constraints with which they negotiated.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Samuel Beckett Research Centre
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
ID Code:104691
Uncontrolled Keywords:Beckett, television drama, adaptation, BBC, Krapp's Last Tape, British Theatre, Irish Theatre, television history
Publisher:Manchester University Press
Publisher Statement:


Downloads per month over past year

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation