Archive | The Wednesday Play

A weekly classic TV play

January 21, 2015

The Wednesday Play: Play For Today – The General's Day (1972)

Posted on January 21, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

William Trevor is widely regarded as one of the greatest contemporary writers of short stories in the English language. Nominated for the Booker Prize five times and winner of the Whitbread Prize three times, he was awarded an honorary CBE in 1977, made a Companion of Literature in 1994, and was given an honorary KBE for his services to literature in 2002.

Although most of his work has been literary, between 1965 and 1978, he wrote many plays for both the BBC and ITV, including the famous O Fat White Woman, which was adapted from a short story in 1971 for the BBC’s Play For Today. The following year, he wrote The General’s Day, which starred Annette Crosbie (One Foot In The Grave), Dandy Nichols (In Sickness and Health) and, in one of his last ever roles, Alastair Sim (Scrooge, the St Trinian’s movies and Ealing comedies). Sim plays the general of the title, General Suffolk, who wants to get rid of his housekeeper (Nichols) as he’s persuaded a much younger school teacher (Crosbie) to move in with him.

It’s a bittersweet piece, demonstrating Trevor’s typically acute observations of the human condition, and it’s today’s Wednesday Play.

January 14, 2015

The Wednesday Play: Armchair Theatre - The Criminals (1958)

Posted on January 14, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

I’ve not got much time for an introduction to this, so just a quick summary for this 1958 episode of ITV’s Armchair Theatre, The Criminals, in which a bunch of respectable men at the New Year’s Eve party of a small construction company are forced to take part in a bank robbery by a ruthless crook (Stanley Baker, the star of Zulu) who has intimate knowledge of their private lives. Co-written by noted Doctor Who writer Malcolm Hulke, it also starred Peter Swanwick (The Prisoner) and Allan Cuthbertson (Edge of Darkness) with a minor appearance by Angus Lennie.

It’s this week’s Wednesday Play and you can watch it below – as always, if you like it, please buy it!

January 7, 2015

The Wednesday Play: Second City Firsts - Mike Leigh's The Permissive Society (1975)

Posted on January 7, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Permissive Society

England's second city is Birmingham. You may not have known that, suspecting that Manchester should hold that title, and now that a big chunk of the BBC has moved to Salford, in terms of televisual output, you might be right.

But back in the 60s and 70s, BBC Birmingham and its Pebble Mill Studios were prodigious sources of television output, including, of course, the famous lunchtime show Pebble Mill (At One).

As well as contributing many programmes with little fanfare to the overall BBC output, including many entries to the Play For Today strand, between 1973 and 1978, BBC Birmingham had its own higher profile play strand: Second City Firsts. As the name suggests, as well showing off Birmingham and the Pebble Mill Studios, it was also intended to provide an outlet for first-time writers, with 42 writers contributing to the nine series of half-hour plays.

The most notable of these were Alan Bleasdale and Mike Leigh, and today’s Wednesday Play is Leigh’s Permissive Society. A short piece videotaped entirely in the studio, it features three characters: a couple – Les (Bob Mason) and Carol (Veronica Roberts) – and Les’s sister Yvonne (Rachel Davies). Les and Yvonne are both abrasive, and over the course of the evening, Carol realises she hasn’t much in common with her boyfriend. However, it turns out that the reasons for Les’s behaviour aren’t quite what they seem.

By turns cringe-worthy, funny and moving, Permissive Society highlights the fact that despite sex seemingly being everywhere in ‘the permissive society’, few people were yet very comfortable with it, let alone talking about it. It also includes Leigh’s trademark use of improvisation in developing the script, something that confused the BBC2 announcer enough to proclaim it an ‘unscripted play’ when it first aired.

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