BSkyB brings back live theater

Sky Arts commissions six new plays

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

Sky Arts, part of U.K. paybox BSkyB’s channel offering, is responsible for the initiative, which will see six newly commissioned theater plays air on U.K. TV this summer.

The satcaster claims “Sky Arts Theater Live!” is the first time a series of live TV plays has been commissioned in Blighty since the end of the BBC’s iconic “Play for Today” strand in 1984.

“ER” broadcast a much-hyped live episode in 1997, while cult drama “The Quartermass Experiment” aired on BBC4 in 2005, but live small-screen theater, once the mainstay of schedules, has long been superseded by film-style TV drama.

“Sky Arts Theater Live!” director Sandi Toksvig said: “For the first quarter-century of British television drama was live.

“Live drama has a rawness and immediacy in which anything can and did happen…

“Now Sky Arts brings back genuine ‘reality’ television — drama as it happens, whatever happens; vibrant, immediate, warts and all.

“I started my career in live TV. It has an energy that cannot be found elsewhere and I am delighted to be going back to it.”

In keeping with the editorial values of contemporary TV, “Sky Arts Theater Live!” will enable auds to watch behind-the-scenes footage of rehearsals and post their 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, who will rehearse at the Orange Tree Theater in Richmond, West London.

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