The Weekly Play

The Weekly Play: Unnatural Causes – Ladies’ Night (1986)

Blog god Nigel Kneale might not immediately strike you as a feminist writer. Or even one with especially feminist leanings. It’s not like 1984, Year of the Sex Olympics or any of the Quatermass stories are jam-packed with strong female characters and there’s barely a female lead to be found.

Not until the 70s, that is. Just as the UK was rediscovering feminism at the time, so Nigel was awaking to the potential of female characters. Squint a bit at The Stone Tape or Murrain and you can see that the female characters have been elevated to co-leads, and some of his plays for Beasts had actual female leads and were concerned with female issues, with Baby and During Barty’s Party dealing with wives’ feelings of isolation when their husbands are unable to help them.

By the 80s, Kneale is becoming more overt about his new concerns. 1981’s Kinvig doesn’t seem at first like a feminist work, but Kinvig’s ridiculous fantasies about frequent shopper Prunella Gee are a reasonable satire of the male gaze in science-fiction. 

By 1986, he’s actually quite explicit about it. Ladies’ Night, which aired in 1986 as part of ITV’s Unnatural Causes anthology series (you can probably guess what each episode had in common), hints at its themes in the title. It features a tradition-bound gentlemen’s club that’s thrown into chaos when women are allowed in during ‘ladies’ night’ in order to raise money and attract new members. However, one member resents the intrusion of women so much that when she starts mocking the club’s antediluvian nature, he resorts to murder.

Directed by Herbert Wise and starring Alfred Burke, Bryan Pringle, Ronald Pickup, Fiona Walker and Nigel Stock, it’s only half an hour long and it’s this week’s Weekly Play. Unfortunately, it’s not available for embedding, but it’s over here on YouTube.

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