Today: April 10, 2024

Five Stage To Screen Adaptations

Whether it’s a classic musical or a ground-breaking play, works written for the stage don’t always successfully translate to the big screen. Those that do, however, shine.

To celebrate the release of one the most beautifully transitioned plays to film, The Pass, coming to DVD April 10th, we are taking a look at an array of the most thought-provoking and attention-grabbing plays which were adapted for the big screen.

The Pass
Adapted from John Donnelley’s successful play, The Pass proved to be just as gripping and profound when translated to the big screen. Wth two remarkable central performances from Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene, and introducing a huge talent in debut director Ben A. Williams, this microbudget British film lets the authentic theatre-created tension bubble over. The Pass also makes an important statement about how discrimination still pervades certain areas of society where manliness and being gay are viewed as mutually exclusive. The play has helped bring a much-needed conversation to the forefront in everyday rhetoric.

Doubt
In Hollywood’s golden age, Catholic movies traditionally featured cheerful priests raising funds, conducting their choirs and innocently flirting with Sisters. Doubt painted a rather different picture of a Church community wracked by homophobia and suspicion. The film, written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, was based on his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play. His 2008 film version also received high praise for its electrifying performances from Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Viola Davis.

Angels In America
The 2003 HBO miniseries adapted from Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, is a seven hour piece in two parts. The epic tale looks at the year 1985 and the social and political implications of the AIDS crisis. Following in the play’s footsteps, the film too depicts the AIDS crisis, as more of a broad overview of the 1980’s, and won applause for the performances of Hollywood heavyweights Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson and Mary-Louise Parker. Full of unexpected dramatic twists and turns, Angels In America is a rare theatre piece that withstands the snapshot of America it so intricately exposes in film as well as on stage. Following the success of both the film and play, Angels In America is set to return to the West End this summer, starring Andrew Garfield and The Pass star, Russell Tovey.

Fences
Ever since its stage premiere 33 years ago, people have been waiting for a film version of this classic piece of theatre. The challenge was retaining the power and poetry of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play without seeming too claustrophobic or Hollywoodised. Fortunately, actor-director Denzel Washington (who earned a Tony for the 2010 revival along with co-star Viola Davis) had the right instincts and vision for such a big screen adaptation. As a result, the Oscar contender proved to be just as visually and rhythmically compelling in its depiction of a struggling African-American family in 1950’s Pittsburgh as the original play.

Sweeney Todd
Tim Burton’s adaptation of the Tony-winning 1979 musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler was something the filmmaker had hoped to attempt for decades. The dark material proved to be a good fit for the director’s fantasy-horror sensibilities, who inevitably made the film his own. While star Johnny Depp’s singing earned mixed reviews – and the movie dropped or shortened some of Sondheim’s songs – the film as a whole received plenty of critical acclaim as well as a Golden Globe for best picture (with Depp himself earning an Oscar nomination for his performance.)

Starring Russell Tovey, Arinzé Kene, Nico Mirallegro and Lisa McGrillis, The Pass is available on DVD April 10th.

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email: writerpaula@icloud.com

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