The Wednesday Play: Dinner at the Sporting Club (1978)

As we all know, The Sweeney was one of the most influential shows of the 70s, making stars out of both Dennis Waterman and John Thaw. But all good things have to come to an end and stars have to move on. So what did Waterman and Thaw do next? Waterman, of course, went on to the more comedic Minder, created by writer Leon Griffiths. And Thaw? Well, oddly enough, he went on to star in a BBC1’s Play For Today, also written by Griffiths, in which Griffiths – who had also written for Thaw in the 60s when he starred in Redcap – rehearsed many of the techniques that he would use in Minder.

Dinner At The Sporting Club sees Thaw play a small-time London boxing promoter, disillusioned by the fact all seven of his fighters have zero ambition. One night he has to send one of his fighters to a sporting club to fight the reigning featherweight champion; the fighter isn’t the best, just the whitest. The rest of the play then depicts the events of that night in all their seedy glory.

In contrast to a lot of Play For Today but in common with Minder, there’s no real social message and no judgement. People are people, life’s just life and this is what it’s like for them, good and bad. And, as well as Thaw, Ken Campbell and Maureen Lipman, if you squint, you’ll spot Liam Neeson in a very early role.

As always, if you enjoy the play, buy it on DVD to support thems who made it!