The Wednesday Play: The End of Arthur’s Marriage (1965)

A satirical musical full of fantasy, surrealism and formal experimentation? That can only mean one man: Ken Loach.

Hang on a sec. That doesn’t seem quite right, does it? Yet 1965’s The End of Arthur’s Marriage is just that.

Written by poet and Private Eye contributor Christopher Logue and composer Stanley Myers (who wrote the theme to The Deerhunter, fact fans), The End of Arthur’s Marriage was broadcast as part of the BBC’s Wednesday Play series and sees working class man Arthur (Ken Jones) tasked with putting down a deposit on his house, using his in-laws’ savings. However, he soon discovers he’d rather spend everything in a few scant hours with his daughter (Maureen Ampleford) instead.

The play was one of Loach’s earliest works, so came at a time when he was still finding his voice. While it incorporates a number of his future trademarks, including his first use of 16mm film, as well as the use of documentary techniques and the untrained Ampleford, there’s a lot that’s uncharacteristic of Loach: as well as conventional songs by Long John Baldry and others, there are in-character songs, including a sales pitch by shop assistant John Fortune, and narrators attacking middle-class conformity. There are also hints of Brecht in Arthur’s purchase of an elephant and the episodic narrative structure, and Loach intercuts between scenes of people dancing and disgruntled viewers, even appearing as himself at one point, arguing with a documentary crew filming at his planned location.

While Loach says he was the wrong person for the job, it’s certainly worth watching The End of Arthur’s Marriage to see what he could do before he decided what job he was the best person for. And you have your chance below – enjoy!