Archive | The Wednesday Play

A weekly classic TV play


July 8, 2015

Nostalgia corner: Ace of Wands (1970-72)/The Wednesday Plays: Dutch Schlitz's Shoes/Mr Stabs (1984)

Posted on July 8, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Russell Hunter as Mr Stabs, with Judy Loe as Lulli in Ace of Wands

There can't be many TV characters that have managed to endure for 15 years, on and off. There must be even fewer still who were villains and played by different actors. Even fewer of them must have appeared in children's TV shows and been set up for their own spin-off series. And even fewer have had children imitating them in playgrounds.

But to do all of that and to appear in no fewer than three unrelated TV shows? That surely must be unique.

So spare a thought for Estabse, an immortal member of 'the Brotherhood', servant of Beelzebub and prodigious user of 'hand magic', for his journey is indeed both unique and fascinating.

It begins in Ace of Wands, in itself a fascinating and unique show warranting an entry in Nostalgia Corner, before moving over into The Wednesday Play and two different anthology series: Shadows and Dramarama. Are you prepared to meet Mr Stabs?

Continue reading "Nostalgia corner: Ace of Wands (1970-72)/The Wednesday Plays: Dutch Schlitz's Shoes/Mr Stabs (1984)"

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July 1, 2015

The Wednesday Play: Leeds United (1974)

Posted on July 1, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It’s quite easy to dismiss a lot of the late 60s/early 70s Play For Today strands as agitprop. I’ve done it myself, plenty of times. But it’s worth remembering that even when it was agitprop, that didn’t mean that everyone in the left wing was happy with the results.

Leeds United is one play that garnered considerable backlash… from trade unions. It was written in 1974 by actor Colin Welland (Kes, Z Cars, Straw Dogs, Sweeney!) who’s now best known as the writer of Chariots of Fire, for which he won the Best Screenplay Oscar and notoriety for his "The British are coming!" acceptance speech:

Directed by Roy Battersby and starring Lynne Perrie, Elizabeth Spriggs, Lori Wells, Josie Lane and Bert Gaunt, the play was based on the true story of a 1970 strike in Leeds by female textile-factory workers. What did they want? To be paid the same as their male colleagues. When did they want it? Now. Their biggest obstacle? Their own trade union.

While Welland, of course, survived the furore from the trade unions, Battersby didn’t fare as well. Despite being a Trotskyist and full-time organiser for the Workers Revolutionary Party, his career was considerably damaged. His third Play For Today, Leeds United would be the last of his contributions and he never worked on the series again. He worked very little on TV for the rest of the 1970s, but his career revived in the 80s. He eventually won the Alan Clarke BAFTA for ‘outstanding creative contribution to television’ in 1996.

Leeds United is this week’s Wednesday Play. Try not to blacklist anyone after you’ve watched it.

June 17, 2015

The Wednesday Play: Vampires (1979)

Posted on June 17, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Sir Christopher Lee in Vampires

Given the sad passing of Sir Christopher Lee this week, it seems appropriate that this week's The Wednesday Play should be Vampires, a 1979 BBC Play For Today, about the power of horror movies to affect the imagination. One of the slot's best remembered plays, it nevertheless features mainly untrained, child actors and was written by an unknown, Liverpool writer Dixie Williams. 

One of only two film productions BBC Pebble Mill could afford to make that year, Vampires tells the story of three boys who stay up late to watch Lee's career-launching role - Hammer classic Dracula: Prince of Darkness. Suitably entranced, they soon end up playing at being vampires, but down the local cemetery, they become convinced that a lone man dressed in black is a real-life vampire. As the play progresses, increasingly spookier and macabre events transpire and the play continues to suggest that maybe they're not wrong and that vampires are the least of their worries…

Directed by John Goldschmidt, who was best known for his documentaries at the time and who gives the play a distinctly matter-of-fact approach to its supernatural subject, Vampires also includes moments of great fun, including a schoolboy discussion of the difference between horror and science-fiction that invokes The Quatermass Experiment, as well as more traditional Play For Today themes, including the difficulty of bringing up kids when you're a poor, working class mother living in Liverpool in the late 70s.

And it's your Wednesday Play. Enjoy!

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