Do you like playwright Trevor Griffiths? Do you like German TV? Then the BFI has a season and a single TV show for you in May.
‘Fassbinder: Television Pioneer’ looks at the German film director’s TV work, while ‘Interventions: The Television Plays of Trevor Griffiths’ covers the likes of Food For Ravens, All Good Men, Oi For England, Through the Night and Country, as well as an episode of Fall of Eagles. Details after the jump.
But first, here’s that Fall of Eagles ep, which looks at the origins of the Bolshevik/Menshevik split, as well as this week’s ‘Wednesday Play (on a Friday)’, All Good Men, in which a Marxist son confronts his moderate Labour father when he accepts a peerage – Dennis Potter described it as having ‘some of the sharpest, most telling and intelligent speeches ever heard on television’.
Tuesday 2 May
Fassbinder: Television Pioneer
From ambitious series like Berlin Alexanderplatz to TV-movie melodramas, Fassbinder embraced television as a medium and a platform. In this talk, film scholar Mattias Frey (University of Kent) explores how Fassbinder exploited TV’s artistic potential, how the funding it offered made his career possible (he would surely be making Netflix series today), and how he seized upon TV as a way of communicating provocative ideas to a mass audience, in their own homes.
Tuesday 9 May
Trevor Griffiths in Conversation
Join us for this fantastic opportunity to hear Griffiths discuss his work for television – what motivates him to write about the subjects he does and why the political dialectic features across so much of his work. Using clips from throughout his remarkable career, Griffiths talks to fellow writer Rupert Walters.
Joint ticket available with Food for Ravens £15, concs £12 (Members pay £2 less)
Food for Ravens
BBC Wales 1997. Dir Trevor Griffiths. With Brian Cox, Sinead Cusack, Dean Carey Davies. 84min
Commemorating the centenary of Aneurin Bevan’s birth and winner of the Royal Television Society’s Best Regional Programme, this play (both written and directed by Griffiths) is a tender and poetic eulogy to the founder of the NHS. As ill health catches up with him, Bevan re-examines his great speeches in the House and above all his unshakeable belief in the people. Griffiths’ unsentimental script builds a picture of a complex and great man, while Brian Cox’s magnificent performance beautifully conjures the ghosts of the past.
Joint ticket available with Trevor Griffiths in Conversation £15, concs £12 (Members pay £2 less)
Thursday 11 May
Play for Today: Through the Night
BBC 1975. Dir Michael Lindsay-Hogg. With Alison Steadman, Jack Shepherd. 83min
Based on the harrowing story of Griffiths’ then-wife’s experience of being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer, this was one of the first plays to place the subject in the public domain and is credited with having changed attitudes and practices across the NHS. Steadman gives a heartrending performance as she encounters the dehumanising insensitivities of the system as it existed in 1975.
Tuesday 16 May
Play for Today: Country
BBC 1981. Dir Richard Eyre. With James Fox, Leo McKern, Wendy Hiller, Penelope Wilton. 81min
Superbly directed by Richard Eyre, Country is one of Griffiths’ finest achievements. As an upper-class family gathers on the eve of the historic Labour Party victory of 1945, the heir to the family estate realises that society is changing and a new class war is inevitable. Griffiths’ adaptation of The Cherry Orchard had been transmitted the previous week and Chekhov’s influence is clear in the political subtleties and nuanced characters. Country remains one of the greatest analyses of class power to grace our screens.
Friday 19 May
Play for Today: All Good Men
BBC 1974. Dir Michael Lindsay-Hogg. With Bill Fraser, Ronald Pickup, Jack Shepherd, Frances De La Tour. 63min
In its devastating critique of the Labour Party, the play can be seen as a precursor to Griffiths’ masterwork series Bill Brand (1976). A Marxist son (Shepherd) returns to confront his father (Fraser), a moderate Labour politician, about his acceptance of a peerage. The fascinating dialectic and family revelations that emerge result in what Dennis Potter described as ‘some of the sharpest, most telling and intelligent speeches ever heard on television’.
+ Oi for England Central
ITV 1982. Dir Tony Smith. With Adam Kotz, Neil Pearson, Richard Platt. 54min
Written in response to the riots of the early 1980s and a worrying rise in neo-Nazism, Griffiths’ play remains as relevant today as when it was written. A band of four working-class skinheads rehearse in a Moss Side basement. As race riots rage outside, a mysterious individual arrives with the offer to play at a fascist rally, and suddenly loyalties are tested to breaking point.
Tuesday 23 May
Screen Two: Hope in the Year
BBC 1994. Dir Elijah Moshinsky. With Jack Shepherd, Tom Bowles, Sophie Linfield. 70min
As Georges Danton, hero of the French Revolution, sits out his final hours in a Paris jail, so afraid are the authorities of his immense popularity that they have installed a decoy in the jail to frustrate any rescue attempts. Now a young guard must decide if this is the real Danton and whether he should risk everything to help him. In the discourse that follows, Griffiths is able to interrogate the heart and soul of the revolution and the shifting dynamic between politics and morality.
+ Fall of Eagles: Absolute Beginners
BBC 1974. Dir Gareth Davies. With Patrick Stewart, Michael Kitchen, Charles Kay. 53min
A drama series that documented the decline of the great European dynasties. Griffiths’ contribution was this perfectly judged account of the origins of the Bolshevik/Menshevik split. It is a fine example of what Griffiths calls ‘strategic penetration’, using popular forms to better understand complex ideological issues.
Patrons and champions’ priority booking: April 3 from 11.30am
Members’ priority booking opens: April 4 from 11.30am
Public booking opens: April 11 from 11.30am
Member concs: £7.20
Non-member concs: £8.80
Under 16s £6
Reduced prices for weekday matinees. Conc prices are available to senior citizens, students, unwaged and disability visitors. Proof of eligibility may be required.
As always, visit the BFI web site for more details.