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Sky Arts to follow Birthday with more stage-to-screen adaptations

Stephen Mangan will star in the TV adaptation of Joe Penhall's play Birthday. Photo: Sky Arts
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Sky Arts director Philip Edgar Jones has revealed plans for more TV adaptations of theatre productions later this year.

He also said that he preferred screen adaptations to filming live theatre productions, because “you lose something in translation” when they are recorded.

Sky Arts will this month broadcast Birthday, an adaptation of the 2012 Royal Court production written by Joe Penhall that starred Stephen Mangan, who also appears in the TV version.

Speaking as part of this year’s Soho Create festival, Jones said he was “looking at doing some more” adaptations.

“I think Birthday is a very successful adaptation of the stage play. Not all of them are ripe for adaptation or should be adapted necessarily. So we’ll look at cherry-picking a few throughout the year that we think are,” he said.

He also predicted that National Theatre Live would soon start broadcasting theatre live on television, but revealed that he thought theatre broadcasts were inferior to the live experience.

“People are used to watching theatre in cinemas as a collective experience, and the filming of theatre is now much more sophisticated, so it’s better than it used to be. But I still think you lose something in translation from theatre to screen,” he said.

Mangan added: “I think theatre has traditionally been awful on television, especially films and recordings – it just doesn’t work.”

He also argued creatives in the theatre industry were now more likely to work across different mediums.

“Jez Butterworth writes plays, he’s now writing the new Bond film. There’s much more crossover. You’re not just a playwright, you’re not just an actor that does theatre, you’re not just a TV actor, we’re much more fluid in this country now,” he said.

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