Live theatre returns to TV, via Sky

Channel comissions six 30-minute plays for summer

LONDON Live legit is returning to British TV screens in what is believed to be the first initiative of its kind in 25 years.

Paybox BSkyB’s Sky Arts channel has commissioned six 30-minute plays to air live this summer. The satcaster claims “Sky Arts Theater Live!” is the first such series since the BBC’s iconic “Play for Today” skein ended in 1984.

NBC’s “ER” broadcast a much-hyped live episode in 1997, while cult drama “The Quartermass Experiment” aired on BBC4 in 2005. But live smallscreen theater, once the mainstay of schedules, has long been superseded by telepics.

“For the first quarter-century of British television, drama was live,” “Sky Arts Theater Live!” director Sandi Toksvig says. “I started my career in live TV. It has an energy that cannot be found elsewhere.”

“Sky Arts Theater Live!” will offer viewers behind-the-scenes footage of rehearsals and the chance to post comments on the play as it airs.

There will also be an after-show discussion on each production involving the actors, writer and director.

Each play will feature a cast of no more than four, which will rehearse for three weeks at the Orange Tree Theater in Richmond, West London, before moving to the purpose-built Sky Arts Theatre Live! Studio to perform before an audience.

Those taking part, in addition to Toksvig, include author Kate Mosse, actor Pauline Collins and her helmer-thesp husband John Alderton.