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a Sunday Night Theatre live performance of Lionel Harris' musical production of The Comedy of Errors, starring David Pool as Antipholus of Ephesus and Paul Hansard as Antipholus of Syracuse (); There were also four multi-part made-for-TV Shakespearean adaptations shown during the 1950s and 1960s; three specifically conceived as TV productions, one a TV adaptation of a stage production.
The first was The Life and Death of Sir John Falstaff (1959).
During his time on set, Messina realised that the castle grounds would make a perfect location for an adaptation of Shakespeare's As You Like It.
By the time he had returned to London, however, his idea had grown considerably, and he now envisioned an entire series devoted exclusively to the dramatic work of Shakespeare; a series which would adapt all thirty-seven Shakespearean plays.
The vast majority of these transmissions were broadcast live, and they came to an end with the onset of war in 1939. After the war, Shakespearean adaptations were screened much less frequently, and tended to be more 'significant' specifically made-for-TV productions.
In 1947, for example, O'Ferrall directed a two-part adaptation of Hamlet, starring John Byron as Hamlet, Sebastian Shaw as Claudius and Margaret Rawlings as Gertrude (5 & 15 December).
When he encountered a less than enthusiastic response from the BBC's departmental heads, Messina bypassed the usual channels and took his idea directly to the top of the BBC hierarchy, who greenlighted the show.
The concept for the series originated in 1975 with Cedric Messina, a BBC producer who specialised in television productions of theatrical classics, while he was on location at Glamis Castle in Angus, Scotland, shooting an adaptation of J. Barrie's The Little Minister for the BBC's Play of the Month series.The Wars of the Roses was a three-part adaptation of Shakespeare's first historical tetralogy (1 Henry VI, 2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI and Richard III) which had been staged to great critical and commercial success at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in 1963, adapted by John Barton, and directed by Barton and Peter Hall.At the end of its run, the production was remounted for TV, shot on the actual Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage, using the same set as the theatrical production, but not during live performances.Although An Age of Kings, which was the most expensive and ambitious Shakespearean production up to that point was a critical and commercial success, The Spread of the Eagle was not, and afterwards, the BBC decided to return to smaller scale productions with less financial risk.In 1964, for example, they screened a live performance of Clifford Williams' Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) production of The Comedy of Errors from the Aldwych Theatre, starring Ian Richardson as Antipholus of Ephesus and Alec Mc Cowen as Antipholus of Syracuse.