John Wyver’s practice-based research explores strategies for the creative adaptation for screen of stage productions of theatre and opera.

Still of the stage production of Hamlet


John Wyver’s research which takes the form of ambitious productions, made with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the BBC, American public and NHK, Japan, moved beyond the conventional form of ‘capturing’ live performance by camera in a theatre. Instead each staging was transplanted to a distinctive real world location and re-worked for a single camera and a cinematic screen language. The screen versions retained many of the essential qualities and values of the original staging. Each production was critically praised and each was recognised as advancing the imaginative possibilities for stage productions on screen.

Television productions co-produced by Wyver include Hamlet (2009), Macbeth (2010) and Julius Caesar (2012), each of which was seen on television, on DVD and online by significant audience numbers, in Britain and internationally.

Hamlet and Macbeth attracted extensive journalistic and online discussion. The films demonstrated an engagement with questions of creative adaptation outside of academia. Achieving large audiences at their initial screenings, each of the films has subsequently been screened by broadcasters around the world. They are available for streaming and download-to-own, and are also available on DVD and Blu-ray.

These films revived the long-established but largely declining form of television adaptations of classic theatre stagings, and specifically versions for contemporary audiences of Shakespeare plays. They explore in practical, pragmatic and high-profile ways how best to take successful theatrical productions and make them available on screen to broad-demographic audiences.

Engagement has been extensively documented online, and in essays, as well as the ongoing work of the ‘Screen Plays: Theatre Plays on British Television’ project.

Since their initial transmissions, the films have become valuable educational resources for the teaching of Shakespeare, and for the exploration of adaptations from stage to screen.


On Boxing Day, BBC2 screens an adaptation of David Tennant's Hamlet, which should settle for some time the debate over whether it's possible to transfer theatre to TV.

Mark Lawson, The Guardian, 17 December 2009

Supported by: AHRC, BBC Television, WNET13, NHK, BBC Worldwide