All of the BBC-TV Shakespeare adaptations cast actors with experience of performing the plays on stage, yet none emerged directly from actual stage productions. In what follows, I discuss only five ‘madefor-TV’ Shakespeare adaptations without a stage precursor, Michael Elliott’s 1983 King Lear, and the four Shakespeare English history adaptations made for the year of the 2012 British Olympics, The Hollow Crown. The other eleven productions discussed that were broadcast between 1972 and 2012 all emerged from celebrated stage performances, reworked for the small screen. Many would agree that the primary motivation for creating such small-screen versions has been to make a permanent record of productions that enjoyed popular and critical success on the stage, and to provide confirmation of the undoubted truth expressed in Kenneth Rothwell’s statement that ‘acting remains the one crucial variable determining success on stage or [small] screen’ (2000, 110). The chance for many more people via the small screen to enjoy what a comparatively tiny number of people have enjoyed in the theatre is also a major reason for creating such productions (in the USA often to be seen in the PBS Masterpiece Theatre series).
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