BBC Schools drama productions (1950’s – 1980’s)

I’ve recently been watching the 1966 BBC Schools production of Macbeth, with Andrew Keir in the title role. For several decades, low budget but highly serviceable drama adaptations were tacked by the BBC schools department. A handful have escaped into the public domain, but most remain locked in the vaults (and no doubt a fair few were wiped shortly after transmission).

Having enjoyed what I’ve seen (this Macbeth features, apart from Keir, the likes of Anthony Bate and James Grout with familiar faces, like William Marlowe, filling out the minor roles) I’m always temped to dig a little deeper into their history to see exactly what was produced.

Michael Simpson, who produced and directed this version of Macbeth, was also responsible for a number of similar adaptations during the 1960’s such as Hobson’s Choice, Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance and The Government Inspector. Simpson was clearly one of those directors who liked to employ a ‘rep’ of actors, as a number of them appear in more than one of these productions.

Ronald Smedley produced a series of similar adaptations in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Heil Casear! (a modern language version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar), A Taste of Honey and another version of The Government Inspector (this time with Robin Nedwell in the main role).  Possibly Smedley’s best-remembered production is the 1982 An Inspector Calls with Bernard Hepton, partly because it earned the accolade of an evening repeat but mainly because it remains available on YouTube (albeit in rather low-quality form).

Exactly what remains in the archives is a bit of a mystery (even TV Brain draws a blank on some of the ones I know about). Hopefully the odd one might surface on BBC4 (unlikely though that is) or YouTube (slightly more likely, as you can never tell what might get ‘liberated’ from the archives).

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