Archive | The Wednesday Play

A weekly classic TV play

April 22, 2015

The Wednesday Play: In Two Minds (1967)

Posted on April 22, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

We’ve had a couple of weeks of fun plays, courtesy of Noël Coward, so it’s about time we had a bit of misery. And when we want to turn to misery, naturally we turn to Ken Loach. Angry, realism-loving Ken Loach.

A frequent contributor to the BBC The Wednesday Play series, Loach offers us many choices, so since we’re feeling indecisive, let’s go with In Two Minds, written by David Mercer, who won the Writers’ Guild Award for the best television play of 1967 for this.

The first of Loach’s television plays to be shot entirely on location, bar five brief sequence shot electronically, the play owes a lot to the ideas of RD Laing, which are set out in Laing’s Sanity and Madness in the Family. Laing argued that schizophrenia* lacks an organic basis and therefore it was the family that had the potential to make people mentally ill. Oddly enough, it was famed theatre critic Kenneth Tynan who introduced Mercer and producer Tony Garnett to Laing, who was eventually retained as a consultant for the play.

Kate Winter (Anna Cropper), a young girl under psychiatric examination and receiving electroconvulsive theory, suffers from a lack of confidence, self-esteem and self-control – telling of the "bad Kate" who commits immoral acts. Could the hypocrisy, selfishness and weakness of those around her have led to this state of mind or can Kate simply be diagnosed and dismissed as a schizophrenic*?

As well as the award garnered by the play, In Two Minds would go on to be remade as the feature film, Family Life, which Loach also directed. But you can watch the original below. Enjoy**!

* Kate more properly would have had something called dissociate identity disorder, rather than schizophrenia, assuming she had what would then have been classified as schizophrenia anyway. But even at the time, psychiatrists argued that Kate would be more properly diagnosed as depressed and ‘hysterical’. But, you know, the 60s.

** If that’s the right word.

April 15, 2015

The Wednesday Play: Noël Coward's Present Laughter (1981)

Posted on April 15, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Continuing on from our previous Wednesday Play, we have another Noël Coward comedy – Present Laughter. A semi-autobiographical work that heteronormalised many of the relationships in Coward's life, it was first staged in 1942 and follows a few days in the life of light comedy actor Gary Essendine (then played by Coward) as he prepares to tour Africa. Along the way, Garry has to deal with women who want to seduce him, placate his long-suffering secretary and his estranged wife, cope with a crazed young playwright, and overcome his mid-life crisis.

There are, of course, many ways to film the play and in 1981, the BBC took the most literal route possible, filming Alan Strachan's production at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. Starring Donald Sinden as Essendine, as well as Dinah Sheridan, Gwen Watford and Elizabeth Counsell, it also gave a young Belinda Lang (Dear John, 2point4 Children, Alleyn Mysteries, Second Thoughts, Bust, The Bretts) one of her earliest roles as a groupie of Essendine and featured as the crazed young playwright a certain Julian Fellowes, who would of course go on to become a playwright in real-life and eventually give us that little heard of series Downton Abbey. I'm not completely convinced the initial scenes of the actors arriving at the theatre are 100% genuine, but YMMV.


March 31, 2015

What TV's on at the BFI in May 2015?

Posted on March 31, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's time for our regular look at the TV that the BFI is showing, this time in May 2015. The entire BFI TV output this month is dedicated to Noël Coward, with a season of his plays and music, including several Q&As with the likes of Keith Barron, Dame Penelope Keith, Barry Day and Kit Hesketh-Harvey all turning up to talk about the man himself.

Among the plays is Private Lives. Guess what? It’s this week’s Wednesday Play (on Tuesday) – you can read all about it after the jump or simply watch it below.

Continue reading "What TV's on at the BFI in May 2015?"

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