BBC Arts turns the spotlight on theatre as it continues its Culture in Quarantine initiative – bringing arts and culture into the nation’s homes – by partnering with theatres across the country to produce an unprecedented season of plays for audiences at home.
BBC Lights Up begins in February 2021, following what has been one of the most difficult winters for the performing arts in history. The season will ‘light up’ stages and studios across the UK by supporting hard-hit organisations and artists, and ensuring that audiences at home continue to have the opportunity to enjoy theatre across BBC platforms.
Working with more than 12 theatres and theatrical producers across the UK and running for three weeks the season includes more than 15 newly-recorded plays which will be broadcast across BBC Four, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, iPlayer and BBC Sounds. Each play will be a collaboration between BBC Arts and a theatre or producer and many productions will be recorded on the stages of empty theatres.
Jonty Claypole, Director of BBC Arts said: “This has been the hardest year in living memory for the performing arts – and the crisis is far from over. It is only right that the BBC – which has worked arm-in-arm with writers, performers and off-stage talent day-in day-out over the last 100 years – should support and celebrate our performing arts at this time. This is why BBC Culture in Quarantine is launching Lights Up: a major season devoted to theatre, celebrating the UK’s stages, its artists, the shows that we cannot see, for millions at home around the country. The shows come from every corner of the UK – from Belfast to Glasgow, Cardiff to London. And, as well as broadcasting new and recent productions, we are also using our broadcast and digital platforms to celebrate all that theatres do for our society. Theatre has been at the heart of our culture for centuries and will continue to be so for many to come.”
BBC Lights Up includes plays which are being recorded for television and radio for the first time and premieres of new plays, including plays which have not been seen by an audience. All of the televised plays will be broadcast on BBC Four.
The National Theatre of Scotland’s multi-award-winning stage play Adam will be made into a theatrical television drama for the first time, in a play inspired by the life of Adam Kashmiry who also plays the role of Adam. Written by Frances Poet and co-directed by Cora Bissett and Louise Lockwood, it tells the story of a young transgender man and his journey to reconciliation.
International premiere of new play Buttercup from Liverpool-based theatre company 20 Stories High, written and performed by Liverpool-Congolese multidisciplinary artist Dorcas Sebuyange, will be made into a television production, in a story about survival and coming to terms with childhood trauma.
International premiere of new dark comedy Harm, a Bush Theatre commission written by British playwright Phoebe Eclair-Powell and filmed exclusively for television, in a play about the corrosive effect of social media and isolation.
Writer and performer Natasha Marshall’s semi-autobiographical darkly comic play Half Breed from Soho Theatre will be televised for the first time, in a story about finding your voice, directed by Olivier Award-winning theatre director Miranda Cromwell.
Pale Sister, written by celebrated author Colm Tóibín for award-winning actress Lisa Dwan, will be made into a television production for the first time. The play recounts Sophocles’ Greek tragedy of Antigone from the viewpoint of her sister, Ismene, with a contemporary twist.
International premiere of The Lyric Theatre’s new play Sadie starring award-winning actress Abigail McGibbon filmed exclusively for television, in a play written by David Ireland about a dysfunctional relationship. Directed by Conleth Hill (Lord Varys, Game of Thrones) and in association with Stephen Rea’s Field Day Theatre Company.
BAFTA Award-winning actor Katherine Parkinson’s (Home, I’m Darling, The IT Crowd) debut play Sitting has been adapted to the screen by Avalon. Starring Parkinson for the first time and directed by Oliver Award-nominated Jeremy Herrin (People, Places & Things, Talking Heads), this new production follows three characters as they sit for a painter revealing themselves in the process.
New Perspectives Theatre Company’s award-winning production of The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, adapted by Gbolahan Obisesan. This tale of brotherhood, vengeance and fate is being produced for BBC Radio 3 featuring the stage cast, reuniting in an exclusive performance for radio, including Valentine Olukoga, winner of Best Actor at the Black British Theatre Awards 2020.
A double-bill of new BBC Radio 3 productions of Nick Payne’s award-winning stage play Constellations and Elegy.
New productions from BBC Radio 4 will include collaborations with Chichester Festival Theatre and the National Theatre of Wales.
In addition to the newly recorded plays, other programming will be broadcast across BBC Platforms which will shine a spotlight on the theatre sector. BBC Arts flagship documentary series Imagine will broadcast a special on how performers have responded during lockdown and on BBC Radio 4, Front Row broadcasts a special week-long focus on British theatre and talks to theatre-makers across the UK about how Covid-19 has affected the Industry and changed the way plays are written, performed and consumed. Plus broadcasts from local radio will reflect the views of theatres across the nation, as we approach the anniversary of the beginning of lockdown.
Full details of BBC Lights Up will be announced in due course.