I am a cultural historian working on the contextual histories of radio and television in 20th-century Britain, focusing on imaginative programming which adapts and creates dramatic and literary forms. My work, which centres around issues of adaptation, intermediality, audiences and education, explores questions about the roles of mass media in the cultural and educational lives of individuals.
Specialisms include: the literature and history of ancient Greece on British radio and television; BBC Radio features, with a focus on Louis MacNeice; and theatre plays on British television. Below, I summarize my research and writing to date under three broad headings:
I expanded my doctoral thesis into the book Greece on Air: Engagements with Ancient Greece on BBC Radio, 1920s-1960s (Oxford University Press, 2015) which examines the changing contexts for cultural broadcasting before, during and after the Second World War, paying attention to the origins and aims of the BBC’s cultural broadcasting policy, and also departmental, literary-historical, and creative contexts for broadcasts which engages with the literature and history of ancient Greece. It argues that radio functions as a ‘democratic’ medium, making these works practically accessible to a wide public, and also as a ‘popularizing’ medium, offering listeners a particularly rich imaginative experience of ancient stories in performance. The book has been reviewed in The Classical Review and The Times Literary Supplement, 22 April 2016.
One of case studies has already been published as ‘A Wartime Radio Odyssey: Edward Sackville-West and Benjamin Britten’s The Rescue (1943)’ in The Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast and Audio Media 8.2 (2010); this won the Philadelphia Constantinidis Essay in Critical Theory Award 2010. Other published essays on radio topics include ‘Aeschylus’ Agamemnon on BBC Radio, 1946-1976’ (2006), ‘Stages of Imagination: Greek Plays on BBC Radio’ (2007), ‘Louis MacNeice’s Radio Classics: “all so unimaginably different”?’ (2009), ‘Aristophanes at the BBC, 1940s-1960s’ (2013) and ‘The Anger of Achilles, A Prize-Winning “Epic for Radio” by Robert Graves’ (2015).
An off-shoot of this work is the book Louis MacNeice: The Classical Radio Plays, a volume of selected radio scripts which draw on Greek and Roman literature, with introductions, on which I served as lead co-editor with Stephen Harrison (published with Oxford University Press in June 2013). The publication of this work, which coincided with the half-centenary of MacNeice’s death, gave rise to a conference on MacNeice as writer and producer for radio, an event which promises to lead to a further volume (to be co-edited with Richard Danson Brown) exploring MacNeice’s twenty-plus years at the BBC.
In the autumn of 2014, I curated (with Hugh Chignell of Bournemouth) a series of ‘public listenings’ to some classic feature programmes from the 1940s and 1950s at the British Library. In 2016, I curated another season focusing on the radio writing and producing career of Louis MacNeice.
From 2011 to 2015, I was Research Fellow at the University of Westminster, working with John Wyver on the AHRC-funded project Screen Plays: Theatre Plays on British Television, and I continue to work with John on its impact.
We built Screen Plays: The Theatre Plays on British Television Database, hosted by the BUFVC, and edited a volume of essays, Theatre Plays on British Television, for Manchester University Press (forthcoming in 2017).
Partially emerging from the project is another edited volume, Ancient Greece on British Television, which I am co-editing with Fiona Hobden (forthcoming with Edinburgh University Press in 2017).
Topics on which I have written / am writing include:
(a) the production history of Greek plays (on which topic I curated a season of screenings at BFI Southbank in 2012)
(b) BBC and ITV Schools productions of theatre plays, and the use of television in courses on drama run by The Open University (on which I was commissioned to write a piece for The History of the OU project)
(c) the plays of Arthur Miller and other major American playwrights (arising from my work on curating a season of screenings of American plays at BFI Southbank in 2015)
(d) television engagements with the medieval mystery play
(e) Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood as a radio-stage-television work
(f) the directorial style of ITV director Joan Kemp-Welch.
‘Greek plays: Sophocles’ Electra (A-R for ITV, 1962)’ (10 August 2011)
‘Greek Plays: King Oedipus (BBC, 1972)’ (17 August 2011)
‘Greek Plays: Oedipus the King (BBC / Open University, 1977)’ (2 September 2011)
‘A307 Drama: Macbeth (BBC / Open University, 1977)’ (9 September 2011)
‘Greek plays: Lysistrata redux (BBC, 1964)’ (21 October 2011)
‘Greek plays: Philoctetes for BBC Schools (1961-62)’ (22 December 2011)
‘Greek plays: the National Theatre’s The Oresteia (Channel 4, 1983)’ (23 January 2012)
‘A307 Drama: The Balcony (BBC / The Open University, 1977) … banned!’ (31 October 2012)
‘Arthur Miller on the small screen 3: The Crucible’ (23 May 2013)
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream (A-R for ITV, 1964)’ (9 September 2013)
‘The Edwardians: J. M. Synge’s Riders to the Sea (BBC, 1960)’ (30 April 2014)
‘More Synge on the small screen’ (12 May 2014).
I was guest editor for a special issue of Comparative Drama on the theme of Translation, Performance and Reception of Greek Drama, 1900-1960: International Dialogues (2011), contributing an introduction on ‘Greek Drama in the First Six Decades of the 20th Century: Tradition, Identity, Migration’. I am also co-editor of Dionysus since 69: Greek Tragedy at the Dawn of the Third Millennium (Oxford University Press, 2004) and Aristophanes in Performance, 421 BC-AD 2007 (Legenda, 2007).
I have published a monograph and several essays on Greek drama in educational contexts and by touring companies in the UK. Performing Greek Drama in Oxford and on Tour with the Balliol Players (University of Exeter Press, 2011), also engages with the history of theatrical performance of ancient plays beyond Oxford – for example, John Masefield’s Boars Hill Players, Penelope Wheeler’s Greek plays at the Front, and the link with the London stage through touring companies such as that led by Sybil Thorndike.
I have also co-written, with Robert Davis, an article on the American settlement theatre stage, ‘Greek Immigrants Playing Ancient Greeks at Chicago’s Hull-House: Whose Antiquity?’ (published in the Journal of American Drama and Theatre, 2011).