The Wednesday Play: Scum (1977)

Ray Winstone in Scum

Over the years, there were many controversial plays produced for the BBC. However, few of them were so controversial that they were pulled before transmission over concerns about their content. Dennis Potter’s Brimstone and Treacle, which depicted both someone who might be the Devil and the potential rape of a disabled woman, was the first, while this week’s play, Scum by Roy Minton, was the second, not getting an airing until 14 years after it was made.

Directed by Alan Clarke and featuring the likes of David Threlfall, Phil Daniels and Ray Winstone, the play was set in a borstal and deals with the question of whether young offenders’ institutions actually rehabilitated its inamtes. Winstone arrives at the borstal after allegedly attacking a prison officer at his previous borstal. After suffering abuse from the prison officers as well as the ‘daddy’ (the top dog) at his new home, Winstone decides to take charge and become the new daddy.

The play was withdrawn because the BBC’s powers-that-be decided that it glamourised borstal – an odd decision, given the racism, gang rape and suicide depicted by Scum. It was a decision that seemed even stranger when, like Brimstone and Treacle, a movie version of the play was released just a few years later that featured most of the main actors.

Weirdly, though, the phrase ‘Who’s the daddy now?’ entered popular parlance and years later, Winstone used it in a series of ads for Holsten Pils – odd, given that he’d originally delivered them in a banned play while beating an inmate around the head with a sock full of billiard balls.

But just to prove that the power to shock has diminished, you can now watch the whole thing on YouTube – and it’s the Wednesday Play. Enjoy!