Central to John’s research is the exploration of the history of television in Britain, and especially the intersections of broadcasting with the arts. The early years of television, up until the late 1950s, hold a particular fascination. One key strand of this work deals with the development and current practice of theatre and performance on television.
This interest is complemented by an engagement with adaptation studies, most especially of films and television productions of plays by Shakespeare but also by modern and contemporary writers including Shaw, Ibsen, Chekhov and Pinter. From 2011-15 John led the AHRC-funded research project ‘Screen Plays: Theatre Plays on Television’ which documented in an open access database British television productions since 1936 of plays originally written for the theatre. John has co-edited a volume of essays developed from the project that is forthcoming from Manchester University Press. Other books including my chapters are Ancient Greece on British Television (2018), Shakespeare on Screen: The Late Romances (2016), Shakespeare Survey 69 (2016), and The New Elizabethan Age: Culture. Society and National Identity after World War II (2016) Journal articles about adaptations, theatre plays on television and related topics have appeared in Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Shakespeare Bulletin, Journal of British Cinema and Television, Shakespeare, Critical Studies in Television and Adaptation. My book Vision On: Film, Television and the Arts (2007) explored the history of the arts documentary in Britain, and in press with Bloomsbury as a volume in The Arden Shakespeare series is The Royal Shakespeare Company on Screen: A Critical History (2019).
John is also active as a media producer, having co-founded and led since 1982 the independent production company Illuminations. He produces arts and performance programming for television, event cinema and other platforms, and approaches this work as practice-based research, documenting and analysing his work and the contexts in which it is made in teaching, conference presentations and writings. He is also employed as Director, Screen Productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and produces their RSC Live from Stratford-upon-Avon cinema broadcasts, of which by mid-2018 there have been 21. John’s other productions with the RSC include the BAFTA-nominated Shakespeare Live! From the RSC (2016). Recent performance productions for television and for event cinema include Hamlet (2009) with David Tennant, Macbeth (2010) with Patrick Stewart, the Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy (2017), and Hamlet (2018) with Andrew Scott, as well as the dance films Winged Bull in the Elephant Case (2018) with Wayne McGregor, and Hofesh Shechter’s Clowns (2018).
He has produced and directed numerous documentaries about the arts including the pioneering video art series Ghosts in the Machine (1986, 1988) and State of the Art (1987), as well as the series Tx. (1993-97) and films about Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Francis Bacon, Kenneth Clark and many contemporary visual artists. His research has also involved projects focused on performance and digital technologies, most recently – in the EU-funded 2-IMMERSE project with BT, BBC R&D and others – the development of object-based media prototypes for multiple screens to enhance the viewing of performance at home and in education. His work as a producer has been honoured with a BAFTA Award, and International Emmy and a Peabody Award, as well as the Silver Medal of the Royal Television Society.
For further information about John’s research, supervision and teaching experience also see:
Film and Media
Film and media research is a long standing area of excellence at CREAM, and leads the field for interdisciplinary approaches to moving image practices and their discourses. CREAM research ranges from experimental documentary to moving image installations of international renown.