Two plays for ATV's Globe company, an associate of H M Tennent's West End management, and very bold in its policy and subject matter.

 

1963
The Stone Dance

 

A Revivalist pastor pitches his crusade tent within a Cornish stone circle. His repressed son becomes sexually obsessed with an outward-going local boy, and suffers a hysterical loss of speech. A storm blows the pastor's tent away, and amid the stones, their primal purity reasserted, by the boy's accepting touch the son is healed.

 

I believe that, prior to this, no tv play had overtly treated homosexual emotions as a central theme. (In Britain at this time, any gay sex could incur a prison sentence of up to two years.)

 

Cast included: John Hurt, Michael Hordern, Rachel Thomas, Michael Bryant. Producer Cecil Clarke, director Peter Wood.

 

1967
Children Playing

An even more transgressive theme: at a Midlands youth hostel, two young men loiter around a party of schoolchildren, trying to join in their games, turning them toward suggestive and dangerous acts. Breaking in on a midnight feast, they abuse one of the boys.

Jimmy Lynn, Brian Cox; children from South Birmingham schools. Producer Cecil Clarke, director Peter Wood.

Two plays for BBC TV Wednesday Play. This outlet specialized in an uncompromising near-documentary treatment of social and political issues, and often attracted hostility from Members of Parliament, the Press, and other bodies and individuals anxious to preserve an idealized image of the nation and themselves. My own two Wednesday Plays weren't so controversial as that, though the first of them did cause some upset - and earned the dubious distinction of being the subject of studio discussions on both BBC1 and BBC2 simultaneously, an accident of scheduling that has since as a matter of policy been avoided.

 

1967

 

House of Character

A newly-married man moves in to a flat in a rural Georgian house. There are strange features to this flat that do not make sense: a barred window, no kitchen... He waits for his wife, but she does not come. Exploring, he wanders into what seems a communal kitchen in the basement of the house, and here four business-suited fellow-tenants set on him. But he is the one who is put under restraint. After several more such perverse encounters, he realizes that he is being treated as insane: this house is a mental institution. The more he tries to explain himself, the more do the authorities in the house agree that he is mad. When at last his wife appears, she seems not to know him.

What upset audiences was that they were lured into this experience with the man himself, and that he was never rescued. Another to be upset was the culture-snobbish landlady of the house where my wife and I were renting a flat at the time: I had used features of the house (and of some of the other tenants) in my fictitious asylum; she, unknowing, had invited friends round to watch the play with her; next morning, we were given notice.

Alfred Lynch, Shelagh Fraser. Produced by Irene Shubik, directed by Alan Cooke.

1969
Blodwen, Home from Rachel's Marriage

A bigoted Welsh family wrangle with each other on their way home from a farcical wedding in Ulster. The parson father is a sanctimonious grotesque, the unmarried daughter a sectarian obsessive on the verge of an anti-sexual regressive hysteria. Back home in Wales, where she's an object of local ridicule, she is kidnapped by two figures in ape-costume and held hostage at a student rag. Released, she retreats into a dignified spinsterly childhood.

This was the first mainland tv play in which Northern Irish speech was heard. So unfamiliar was it, many actors had difficulty with it. It was the last to show an Ulster in innocence. Filmed on the very eve of the coming conflict, some of the location work shows streets (in Armagh) that would soon be destroyed.

Ann Beach, William Squire, Megs Jenkins, Gilbert Wynne. Produced by Irene Shubik, directed by Alan Cooke.

 

Two short plays for Second City Firsts at BBC TV, Pebble Mill, Birmingham: script editor Barry Hanson, producer David Rose. This slot showcased 30-minute plays, in a mix of film and studio-recording, almost all by unknown writers whom Hanson and Rose made it their business to discover. This one script editor and one producer generated between them a dozen such plays per year for several years.

 


1972
Bypass

 

A corrupt local councillor has gained from the routing of a controversial village bypass. He is sought out and murdered by a woman whose husband and child have been killed on the dangerous new road.

 

Linda Seaman, Bob Peck. Directed by David Rose.

 


1973

 

Atrocity

 

A man unhealthily obsessed with punishment and torture through the ages, awakes one morning to find himself a prisoner condemned to an atrocious mediaeval execution.

 

Antony Douse, Doreen Hepburn. Directed by Barry Hanson.