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“Do you really enjoy the modern play?”: Beckett on commercial television

Bignell, J. ORCID: (2019) “Do you really enjoy the modern play?”: Beckett on commercial television. In: Stewart, P. and Pattie, D. (eds.) Pop Beckett: Intersections with Popular Culture. Samuel Beckett in Company, 7. Ibidem, Stuttgart, pp. 63-84. ISBN 9783838211930

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Television was the key popular medium of the second half of the twentieth century in the UK, and Samuel Beckett’s work was consistently aired by BBC, the British non-commercial TV broadcaster that had already featured his work on radio since the mid-1950s. But it is not generally known that his work also appeared on Independent Television, the commercially-funded British television channel set up in 1955 to rival BBC. The commercial ABC TV company made the series The Present Stage for the national ITV network in 1966. In its feature announcing the series, the TV Times listings magazine asked “Do you really enjoy the modern play like Look Back in Anger or Waiting for Godot?" ITV’s first half-hour programme on Waiting for Godot followed DIY expert Barry Bucknell’s demonstration of techniques for laying carpet. The following week’s episode, including extracts from Godot, was preceded by Bucknell’s advice on paving garden patios. This chapter asks what it meant for the ITV commercial channel to make a programme about Beckett’s drama in this context. Moving outwards from the example of The Present Stage, the chapter places Beckett’s drama in a time of dynamic and exciting instability in British culture, when the categories of the popular and the elite were being contested, to argue that Beckett’s work contributed to a cultural revolution.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
ID Code:86667
Uncontrolled Keywords:Beckett, Television, Broadcasting, Popular culture, Drama, Waiting for Godot, ITV


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