‘An ideology red, white and blue in tooth and claw’: David Edgar’s Destiny (1978) – Part 2 of 3

TOM MAY

Play for Today Writer: David Edgar; Producer: Margaret Matheson; Director: Mike Newell

This essay continues from Part 1.

Part 2: Production and reception

Production of the Play for Today version

David Edgar has observed that, although the theatre version has been placed in the lineage of the “rather inaccurately dubbed ‘state-of-England’” plays by Brenton, Hare, Barker, Griffiths and himself, the television version reflected the influence of the school of social realist drama that was associated with Ken Loach, Roy Battersby and Tony Garnett, which was more “grittily proletarian” and which echoed the British New Wave cinema of the early 1960s.1 Neither Edgar nor Matheson can recall who first suggested that Destiny be adapted as a television play,2 but Edgar recalls that, in a script meeting with himself and Newell, Matheson asked, “So, what are we telling the nation here?” For Edgar this demonstrates what “we thought we were about in the 70s […] not asking ‘how will the viewer respond to this?’”3 This reflects its era, with producers and creative personnel having control of decision making, in stark contrast with the later Birt-era move towards pleasing the consumer. Such engaged, high-minded ambition was made possible by settled scheduling which, as Matheson argues, allowed Play for Today to build a regular audience who, for half of the year, “knew they would get something distinct and surprising once a week.”4

The process of making and broadcasting Destiny was smoother than that of other Play for Today pieces on controversial topics such as Leeds United! or Scum. The latter play was due to be broadcast in November 1977, the week after Abigail’s Party, but BBC managers cancelled it, which they justified by criticising its alleged blurring of the boundaries between reality and fiction.5 David Leland later claimed that Scum had been the victim of political censorship.6 Matheson doesn’t recall the management expressing a view about Destiny: “they were used to me stirring it up.” She gives the example of her later Play for Today production of Caryl Churchill’s The Legion Hall Bombing (1978),7 which was “exiled” to the BBC studio in Glasgow due to fear of an IRA attack on BBC Television Centre in London.8

Matheson enlisted Mike Newell as director. Newell’s previous credits included five Play for Today pieces such as a version of Brenton and Hare’s Brassneck,9 two episodes of LWT’s slow-burning, politically intricate dystopia series The Guardians (1971),10 and six episodes of the controversial crime drama Big Breadwinner Hog (1969), whose author Robin Chapman had “hopes for a people’s theatre on TV”.11 Newell was thus well-placed to direct a putative accessible version of Destiny, a complex piece of people’s theatre.12

On 16 November 1977, Matheson issued an Early Warning Synopsis, providing a plot outline of Destiny and booking studio recording time.13 Edgar adapted the play for television. He now recalls that he made it “more naturalistic in some ways: we lost Paul and Tony’s out-front scene-setting in the scene in Turner’s antiques shop, and we cut the picket scene from the stage version, which was out front descriptive.” He retained the “little verses which brought the main four characters back from India” and put the play “in event-chronological order (the Hitler party scene followed the Turner antique shop scene on stage).” He also added incidents such as the one in which Turner appears at the late Colonel Chandler’s door with a wreath and is given new dialogue signifying his hierarchical deference: “My old commanding officer…”14 Certain characters from the play were omitted from the television version: the Police Inspector, the middle-aged French Canadian far-rightist Drumont, and the Tory candidate’s wife, Emma Crosby.15 Other changes include characters who are partly or wholly new to the television version, such as left-wing barroom agitator Don Matthews (Roderick Smith) and the Party Secretary (Rolf Day).

Sixteen of the twenty-five strong cast appeared in other Play for Today productions either before or after Destiny. For example, Annie Hayes, playing lower-middle-class Nation Forward supporter Liz, made three further appearances in plays by David Hare, Ian McEwan and John McGrath, while the experienced actress Rosalie Crutchley, playing the “elderly gentleperson” and disaffected Tory Mrs Howard,16 later appeared in Rose Tremain’s Moving on the Edge.17 Destiny has a distinguished cast in central roles. The veteran fascist leader Richard Cleaver was played on stage by Bob Peck but is played here by Iain Cuthbertson who, though known from popular series like Budgie (1971-72), was a seasoned and versatile actor.18 Joseph Blatchley, whose résumé ranged from Armchair Theatre to François Truffaut’s The Story of Adele H. (1975) and the final film in Bill Douglas’s autobiographical trilogy, My Way Home (1978), played arch-persuader and socialist-Nazi David Maxwell (a part played on stage by John Nettles).19

Edgar was involved in the casting for the television version; he had very much wanted Colin Jeavons to play petit-bourgeois-shopkeeper-turned-Nation Forward candidate Dennis Turner, which he did.20 Edgar was “thrilled’ that Nigel Hawthorne was cast as Major Lewis Rolfe,21 the embittered right-wing Tory martinet.22 Hawthorne was one of several cast members to have featured in Trevor Griffiths’ Bill Brand (1976). The Coventry-born – though Cape Town-raised – Hawthorne was part of the West Midlands contingent of the Destiny cast.23 While Hawthorne claimed not to be very political, his autobiography focuses extensively on the “iniquitous” policy of Apartheid in South Africa, and criticises “attitudes so devoid of humanity” in his adopted homeland.24 He mentions being in Basil Warner’s anti-Apartheid play Try for White at the Hofmeyr Theatre in Cape Town in January 1959, but notes the irony that “by law no Cape coloured person was allowed to see” this progressive play.25 Of the nine Play for Today productions in which Hawthorne appeared (this was the sixth), several had political themes: for example, John Elliott’s A Child of Hope (1975) focused on Apartheid South Africa,26 and the Rhys Adrian-written and Mike Newell-directed Buffet (1976) was set against the backdrop of British economic woes.27 In his autobiography, Hawthorne does not mention any of his Play for Today appearances. He emphasises that Joan Littlewood was “the most importance influence of his life’, making him take risks as an actor and teaching him to be “truthful”.28 His major breakthrough in the acting profession was his work on Oh! What a Lovely War at Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop in Stratford East in 1963-64.29 Hawthorne appeared in a very different piece, Euston Films’ Sweeney 2 (1978), with fellow Destiny cast members Marc Zuber and Frederick Treves, which filmed in London and Malta from 12 November to 10 December 1977, the Saturday before Destiny began recording.30

First generation Indian immigrant to the UK Gurjeet Singh Khera was played by Saeed Jaffrey, who had been born in Maler Kotla in the Punjab region of India and was well-known from roles in film and television.31 Khera was played on stage during the Stratford and Aldwych runs by Marc Zuber, but here he plays union organiser Prakash Patel.32 Yorkshire actor Paul Copley was cast as election agent Paul McShane, who represents the Labour Party’s militant, Bennite Left. This was the second of six Play for Today appearances by Copley, following Barry Hines’s Speech Day (1973),33 although he also appeared in Ken Loach and Jim Allen’s Days of Hope (1975), a left-wing drama that created intense debate in the national press and academia, and Copley wrote a Play for Today which was made but never broadcast: Pillion (1979).34 Peter Jeffrey was cast as the mainstream Conservative businessman and behind-the-scenes player Frank Kershaw; Jeffrey had featured in Lindsay Anderson’s questioning cinematic explorations of British culture if…. (1968) and O Lucky Man! (1973) and had played a traditionalist Tory ranged against Dennis Waterman’s Brechtian drama teacher in Peter Nichols’s television play The Common (1973).35 Other well-known faces included Alan Lake as Jewish cockney businessman Monty Goodman, who acts as a catalyst for Turner’s disenchantment. Although Lake was also known from dramas for strands like The Wednesday Play, he made no fewer than seven sex comedy films in the 1970s, the latest of which – Mary Millington vehicle The Playbirds (1978) – began filming four days after Destiny was broadcast.36 There were also less well-known faces in key roles. Playing the young, unemployed and inarticulate Tony Perrins, David Beames received his first television credit. His future work included Thames drama series Enemy at the Door (1978-80),37 and Chris Petit’s road-movie-come-enigmatic murder mystery Radio On (1979).38

Members of the cast had form in enacting political material. In addition to examples given earlier, Crutchley featured in No Love for Johnnie (1961), a filmic delight for British politics anoraks featuring Peter Finch. Cuthbertson appeared in the controversial Scotch on the Rocks,39 James MacTaggart’s adaptation of Conservative MP Douglas Hurd’s novel, which depicted violent rebellion against English rule by a Scottish Liberation Army.40 In 1975, Zuber featured in the BBC’s politicised, multicultural dystopian children’s serial, The Changes,41 and John Gould and Whitemore’s State of Emergency, which depicted a fascist-ruled Britain.42 Stacy Davies had played an Inspector from the omnipotent Public Control Department in three episodes of Wilfred Greatorex’s anti-socialist future dystopia, 1990, a series which depicted a bureaucratic Britain policed by the PCD and symbolised by very 1960s high-rise tower blocks.43 Peter Jeffrey was to appear in another political Play for Today, Tom Clarke’s Victims of Apartheid.44 Jeffrey had a key role in Alan Bennett’s The Old Crowd, an experimental drama of class tensions broadcast during the Winter of Discontent.45 In 1993, Treves and Jeffrey would appear in Dennis Potter’s Suez Crisis-set Lipstick on Your Collar,46 as figures in the military establishment.47

After 2-3 weeks of rehearsals in the BBC Rehearsal Rooms at Action, the studio recording of Destiny ran for three days, between Tuesday 13 December-15 December 1977, in TC6 at BBC Television Centre.48 Following camera rehearsals (17 scheduled hours across the three days), the recording took place from 7.30-10pm each evening,49 onto two-inch videotape with a feed from at least four cameras.50 Matheson explains that a vision mixer selected each shot live as they recorded, so editing options were at a minimum, with time spent using two-inch machines being “expensive and at a premium”.51 As far as Matheson can recall, it was made on budget, though she feels any higher costs were likely balanced out with a “less demanding” production.52 In addition to the multi-camera video material, there were film sequences listed in the camera script: Chandler’s funeral (which is described as “Remembrance Day”), Rolfe sitting in the train and the penultimate scene of the fight. Production documentation refers to the television play as an “Epic Drama”.

Broadcast and reception

Destiny went out on BBC1 at 9.25pm on Tuesday 31 January 1978 following The Good Old Days and the News.53 Edgar recalls its viewing figure as “lowish”.54 It gained an average of 3.26 million viewers, with an early peak of 3.54 million decreasing to 2.92 million by the end.55 Its BBC2 opposition – averaging 1.24 million viewers – was an episode of Spike Milligan’s Q7, The Man Alive Report on a housing shortage and In the Looking Glass, the third instalment of “an electronic mystery tour” led by John Wells and John Fortune.56 Its ITV opposition – averaging 10.62 million viewers – was Wilde Alliance, News at Ten and The Shoot, charting a year in the life of a Northamptonshire gamekeeper. The fairly low ratings for Destiny can partly be put down to a lack of media coverage: the Radio Times featured an image of Colin Jeavons as Turner, with a union flag behind him, on the TV listings page for Tuesday evening, but there was no further coverage, unlike the feature articles that promoted series opener Stronger than the Sun and Alan Garner’s Red Shift and the publicity that surrounded The Spongers, which garnered an audience of 11.63 million viewers.57

The response to Destiny demonstrated that it was highly topical. The play was discussed at a BBC News and Current Affairs meeting on 24 January: no specific comments were recorded, but the Director of News and Current Affairs Richard Francis drew attention to it and an Inside Story documentary providing a “portrait of England’s fourth largest political party”,58 the NF, to be broadcast on 15 February.59 Destiny was broadcast just one day after Conservative leader of the opposition Margaret Thatcher made widely-reported comments on This Week about how white communities felt “swamped” due to immigration.60 As Edgar noted, this showed that the Tories were “fully prepared to articulate the kind of militant and exclusive national resentment that had hitherto been the preserve of the fascist fringe.”61

The cultural context increasingly reflected multi-culturalism. On the same day as Destiny was shown, Radio 1 revealed that ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ by Jamaican singers Alethea & Donna had reached number 1 in the UK singles chart. This John Peel-championed record would be seen as the chart-topper on the Thursday 2 February edition of Top of the Pops and would spend 11 weeks on the chart. The same Top 10 included several disco hits and entering at number 9 was Bob Marley’s ‘Jamming/Punky Reggae Party’ with the latter advocating a Rock Against Racism style cultural alliance between punk and reggae and white and black.62

On 1 February, the day after Destiny was broadcast, an advert for the Anti-Nazi League appeared in the Guardian: “Did you see David Edgar’s play ‘Destiny’ on BBC Television last night? The National Front are emerging as a growing force in British politics.”63 Under the headline “NEVER AGAIN” and featuring an image of children in a Nazi concentration camp in 1943, the two-month-old Anti-Nazi League appealed for donations and offered supporters “posters, stickers and leaflets”. The piece concluded by listing “over 400” League sponsors, who included prominent figures in British culture such as Dave Allen, Melvyn Bragg, Brian Clough, Glenda Jackson, Miriam Karlin, George Melly, Warren Mitchell, Michael Parkinson, Arthur Scargill, Tom Stoppard, Terry Venables and David Edgar.

On the same day as the ANL’s advertisement was published, Destiny was discussed at a meeting of the Television Weekly Programme Review Board. DPA David Webster and Head of Plays James Cellan Jones agreed that it had been “very well done”.64 Webster commented that the play’s complexity suited its subject and “what had been interesting was the fair way in which the different strands of political thought had been represented.” Monica Sims, Head of Children’s Programmes, said that “it had really required a lot of concentration, but she had got caught up in it.” Sims expressed interest in its “rhetorical, poetical language in a setting of realism; this was something that one was not so used to on television as one was in a certain type of stage play.” Slim Wilkinson, veteran sports producer and Assistant Head of Outside Broadcasts, suggested that “the first half of the play had not been sufficiently bigoted.” James Cellan Jones countered by saying “it had been designed to be watched carefully all through” and also singled out Joseph Blatchley as having been “very much at his best” in the part of Maxwell.

On 3 February, the Director General Ian Trethowan was recorded as wanting to pass on congratulations to all concerned with both The Spongers and Destiny; he discussed their “frightening credibility, not least in characterisation”, as well as how they “demonstrated that work of immense power can be produced without recourse to gratuitous violence or distortion”.65 On 4 February, Edgar appeared on ITV’s South Bank Show, which also featured David Hockney, Sir Granville Bantock and Jerzy Skolimowski interviewed about his exceptional, odd, Devon-set film The Shout (1978), which was nearing its UK release. Peter Fiddick commented that the discussion of Destiny demonstrated greater substance than usual for the series, which he thought tended towards being “The Melvyn Bragg Show”, though Fiddick adds that the discussion’s length may have been due to clips of the play being withdrawn.66 In a BBC Board of Management meeting on 6 February, Trethowan again stressed that Destiny had been “very good indeed”; like The Spongers, it had been “polemical and yet credible” and “one could believe in the characters”.67 Managing Director of External Broadcasting Gerard Mansell, an archetypal, old-school BBC “mandarin” based at Bush House and answerable to the foreign office,68 had “seen the play in the theatre and disliked it intensely” but gave only limited comment on the television version, which he felt had “differed from the stage version in certain respects.”69 BBC Director of Public Affairs and former Panorama producer David Webster was much more effusive, acclaiming Destiny for its undisguised complexity and how “one could feel sympathy for the characters.”70

The reception from television critics was more mixed than the reaction from BBC management and critics of the theatre version. In The Guardian, Nancy Banks-Smith commented that it was helped by its context following the Thatcher speech on ITV, but felt that “still looked and sounded” like a stage play that had not been successfully translated to its new medium.71 She found it “sententious” and “slow”; although she felt it had a “solemn power and pain”, she professed herself “not enthused”, finding amusement in the non-naturalistic dialogue: “At no point was it possible to have a pint without someone bursting into impassioned oratory at the bar and someone else taking your pint pot for a silver collection. Or for two toughs to share a cell without breaking into political counterpoint.”72 In The Observer, Melvyn Bragg also commented that its “timing” the day after Thatcher’s comments on This Week gave the play much “impact”.73 Bragg pinpointed what he saw as the play’s limitations: its concern being with 1930s parallels and too little with “the Britain of the 1970s”; for example, in Edgar’s presentation of the deal between National Forward and British big businessmen as a conscious echo of Hitler and the Ruhr barons. While Bragg acclaimed the play’s “admirable moral fervour”, he was concerned about how Edgar’s “documentary” influenced style is combined with speculation and how it takes liberties with the contemporary political situation and twists “known facts”.

In The Sunday Telegraph, Philip Purser was critical of what he saw as an implausible switch from 1947 India to the mid-1970s West Midlands, describing the former scenes as “straight out of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.”74 Purser thought the “young National Socialist radical” David Maxwell (Blatchley) was by far the most interesting character and liked the presentation of his coaching of Turner. Purser argues that he would have depicted the seductive nature of the far-right’s appeal as it is about to gain power, because he felt that the production fails to show how deeply “beguiling” such a prospect could be. He imagines a depiction of “the first heady days when millions are seized with a huge, blind excitement” and feels that Matheson would have bounced his hypothetical script back, given the “political tinge of her other productions”. Purser equates this hypothetical censorship of his formulation of Destiny with how BBC management banned Scum. In today’s climate, Purser’s ambitious suggestions seem ever more the product of a different era of engaged drama and intelligent discourse around its potential. Clive James was more positive: for him, Edgar had got the “tone of voice” of extremism just right and “had plainly given a lot of thought to how a Poujadist movement in Britain could spring from disgruntled NCOs and passed-over officers.”75 Peter Buckman of The Listener described the play as “timely” in view of “headlines about racialism in Wolverhampton”, but he argued that the play gave no insight “into the mentality of the racialist.”76 This was later echoed by Jeremy Brien, who argued that there was a risk with the television version “that the reaction to cries of patriotism and race can win support for their own sakes from the less analytical” and analogised to audiences reading Alf Garnett as “having a point”.77

Echoing Banks-Smith, Buckman criticised Newell’s direction for not having rethought the play in television terms. He compared it unfavourably with Yorkshire’s Aren’t We All (1978), which was broadcast the previous week.78 Buckman preferred this play’s approach, which he felt was less true to its original text (a story by Frederick Lonsdale), changing its pacing and avoiding excessive close-ups.79 He would have preferred Destiny to have fewer sets and more location work: a critical comment anticipatory of television drama’s actual development into the 1980s and beyond. In The Daily Telegraph, Sean Day-Lewis stated that he preferred the television version, with its shorter scenes and jump cuts resulting in a tidier proposition.80 Day-Lewis praised Newell’s judicious direction, creation of moments of “high tension”; and how “the eye was kept as well informed as the ear”. However, he criticised some of the verse links as “a bit glib” and how “some of the most intoxicated activists” spoke in “clichés and slogans”, veering towards caricature. His view of the casting is clouded by actors’ previous personae. For example, he referred to Cuthbertson’s previous role as Procurator Fiscal in Sutherland’s Law, seeing him as “an unlikely Fuhrer”. (Buckman acclaimed Cuthbertson’s performance as “masterly”, with his “knack of so fixing the viewer with his eye that you believe anything he says” cleverly used for his portrayal of an English Nazi who plays on authentic fears.81 Day-Lewis also found it difficult to see Saeed Jaffrey as a “downtrodden factory worker”, given his prosperousness in Gangsters, currently in its second series. Otherwise, he praised the “acute” casting and the “convincing” acting, particularly singling out Hawthorne, Jeavons and Blatchley for high praise.82

The most positive review was from Dennis Potter in the Sunday Times,83 who praised it as the “peak” of “an exceptionally strong season of BBC drama”.84 He argued that, just like Koestler’s novel Darkness at Noon (1940), it was “good enough to convert a few people to the Communism the novel was set on destroying, so Destiny carried within it the force and emotional appeal of what it, too, was concerned to eliminate.”85 Edgar keeps a copy of Potter’s review and treasures it.86

The BBC’s Audience Research Report recorded a relatively positive-to-mixed reaction from its panel of 70 viewers.87 Views were not extreme or polarised: only 9% and 7% opted for the A+ and C- ratings. Its overall Audience Index (AI) rating was 54, much lower than the previous week’s play, The Spongers which gained an exceptionally high AI of 76, but it registered higher than the recent Red Shift (45) and equalled David Hare’s Licking Hitler. The somewhat lukewarm reception is supported by the fact that only half of the audience watched it all, with 33% either watching half or less of the play.88 40% regarded it as believable or very believable and 25% as far-fetched or very far-fetched (with 35% neutral). “A number” remarked how “true to life the situations in Destiny were and added that it was a play that had set them thinking.” Generally, those were critical were more forthcoming with comments: while “few actually objected to David Edgar’s political stance”, some shared Banks-Smith’s critical tone, arguing the dialogue “failed to ring true – it was just propaganda.”89 Some also commented on its “bitty” nature and lack of cohesion, leading to boredom and a loss of interest. More positive consensus surrounded the acting: 79% thought it either good or very good and only 7% thought it poor or very poor. Ultimately, however, the production “was considered to be good rather than outstanding”.90

This essay continues in Part 3.

Originally posted: 1 June 2017 (Part 2)
Updates:
2 June 2017: minor typographical corrections and standardisation; specific correction resulting in ‘ANL’s advertisement’.
14 July 2017: one minor typographical correction; corrected coding errors that obstructed weblinks; standardisation of endnotes by completing first names in one citation; punctuation standardisation.

Visit Tom May’s British Cold War Culture blog here.

  1. David Edgar, email to Tom May, 21 November 2016. []
  2. Ibid. Edgar already knew Margaret Matheson through her husband David Hare. []
  3. Ibid. []
  4. Margaret Matheson, email to Tom May, 20 January 2017. []
  5. James Knight and Ben Rayner, ‘Break Down The Walls!’, Vice, 2 September 2009, available here. Accessed on 3 March 2017. []
  6. BBC2, 27 July 1991, quoted in Dave Rolinson, Alan Clarke (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005), p. 84. []
  7. Play for Today: ‘The Legion Hall Bombing’, BBC1, tx. 22 August 1978. Transcript edited by Caryl Churchill, produced by Margaret Matheson, directed by Ronald Joffé. []
  8. Matheson, email to May. []
  9. Play for Today: ‘Brassneck’, BBC1, tx. 22 May 1975. []
  10. The Guardians, ITV, tx. 10 July 1971-2 October 1971. []
  11. Along with its predecessor Spindoe, which Newell also directed, Hog represented for Chapman his “hopes for a people’s theatre on TV accessible to all those millions who had not left their minds behind when they settled down to watch a thriller.” Quoted by Ian Greaves, programme notes, Big Breadwinner Hog (Network DVD), p. 20. As Greaves notes, the series ran between 11 April 1969-30 May 1969 and found its way into 5.3 million homes. []
  12. Newell also directed the opener of Childhood, Arthur Hopcraft’s adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Baa Baa Blacksheep’ – Granada for ITV, tx. 21 April 1974 – and The Boundary for Eleventh Hour. However, he may have been best known for directing Jack Rosenthal’s Ready When You Are, Mr Gill as part of Red Letter Day – Granada for ITV, tx. 11 January 1976. []
  13. ‘BBC tv DRAMA EARLY WARNING SYNOPSIS: DESTINY’, Dept. DRAMA PLAYS, 16 November 1977. BBC WAC. []
  14. This occurs in Scene 4. Edgar, email to May. []
  15. On stage, the Police Inspector was played by Hubert Rees, Drumont by David Lyon, and Crosby by Judy Monahan. []
  16. Edgar, Plays, p. 349. []
  17. Play for Today: ‘Moving on the Edge’, BBC1, tx. 6 March 1984. Other actors who performed elsewhere on Play for Today include Margo Field, who appeared in Robin Chapman’s Play for Today: ‘The Jumping Bean Bag’ (tx. 17 February 1976) before playing the Mayoress; Lydia Lisle had appeared in Play for Today: ‘Blooming Youth’ (tx. 18 June 1973) before playing Carol, who serves drinks to the far-right luminaries and businessmen at the end. (Cherie Lunghi played both Liz and Carol on stage.) Stacy Davies, who played white foundryman and trade unionist Attwood (played on stage by David Lyon), had appeared in Tony Perrin’s potteries-set Play for Today: ‘Shutdown’ (tx. 29 November 1973). Rolf Day was one of two cast members from Philip Martin’s innovative crime drama Gangsters (1976-78), itself a spin-off from an earlier Play for Today, BBC1, tx. 9 January 1975. []
  18. For example, Cuthbertson appeared in Border reiver sagas (The Borderers), sinister “folk horror” for children (Children of the Stones) and Michael Sadler’s Play for Today: ‘Pidgeon: Hawk or Dove?’ (tx. 28 March 1974). []
  19. Blatchley’s earliest TV credit had been in Terrance Rattigan’s Armchair Theatre play ‘Hot Summer: Do Not Sell’ (Thames for ITV, tx. 12 September 1972). He had appeared in Ray Lawler’s Elizabeth Taylor adaptation Play for Today: ‘Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont’ (tx. 18 October 1973). Blatchley was one of the few Destiny cast members never to have had to resort to “keeping it up” or “confessing” in a 1970s British sex comedy. []
  20. This was Jeavons’s second appearance in the series following Michael O’Neill and Jeremy Seabrook’s Play for Today: ‘Skin Deep’ (tx. 25 November 1971). In the stage version, Turner was played by Ian McDiarmid. []
  21. Edgar, email to May. []
  22. Rolfe had been played on stage by Michael Pennington. []
  23. Alongside Stoke-on-Trent born Alan Lake, Worcester-born John Price and Birmingham-born Annie Hayes. []
  24. Nigel Hawthorne, Straight Face: The Autobiography (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1992), p. 139. []
  25. Ibid., p. 146. Cedric Messina later produced a television adaptation of this play, with Alan Gibson directing, for Theatre 625, BBC2, tx. 18 April 1965. []
  26. Play for Today: ‘A Child of Hope’, BBC1, tx. 24 April 1975. []
  27. Play for Today: ‘Buffet’, BBC1, tx. 2 November 1976. []
  28. Hawthorne, p. 174. []
  29. This was a major success, touring internationally, and was the first production to perform simultaneously in East and West Germany. Ibid., p. 176. []
  30. Wood, p. 100. []
  31. His television roles appearances included Gangsters and his films included The Wilby Conspiracy (1975) and The Chess Players (1977). He would appear in the next broadcast play in this strand, Caryl Churchill’s Play for Today ‘The After Dinner Joke’ (tx. 14 February 1978). []
  32. Patel was played on stage by Dav Sagoo. Zuber was born in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, in 1944 and raised in England following Indian independence and had featured in early British Asian film A Private Enterprise (1974). []
  33. Play for Today: ‘Speech Day’, BBC1, tx. 26 March 1973. Written by Barry Hines, produced by Graeme McDonald, directed by John Goldschmidt. []
  34. Copley’s other roles in this period included Alan Plater’s serial Trinity Tales (1975). On stage, McShane was played by Greg Hicks. []
  35. Play of the Week: ‘The Common’, BBC1, tx. 21 October 1973. Jeffrey’s two previous Play for Today appearances came in the infamous, critically reviled ‘The Rainbirds’ (tx. 11 February 1971) and the excellent William Trevor play about prep-school brutality, ‘O Fat White Woman’ (tx. 4 November 1971). Kershaw had been played by Dennis Clinton on stage and was voiced on radio by that impeccable performer of unflappable conservatism, Geoffrey Palmer. []
  36. The Playbirds began filming at Bushey Street on 4 February – L. Wood, British Films 1971-1981 (London: BFI National Archive), p. 102. Lake’s other films of this type include It’s Not the Size That Counts (1974) and The Amorous Milkman (1975). He appeared in four plays in The Wednesday Play strand between 1965-68 including ‘Stand Up, Nigel Barton’, BBC1, tx. 8 December 1965. []
  37. Beames also appeared in BBC1 historical drama Wings (1977-78) and John Bowen’s eerie, health farm-set Ghost Story for Christmas ‘The Ice House’ (BBC1, tx. 25 December 1978). In the Bristol-London film Radio On, filmed in the aftermath of the Winter of Discontent, Beames played Robert, the main protagonist. On stage, Perrins was played by Leonard Preston. []
  38. David Robb played Conservative by-election candidate Peter Crosby, emblematic of ‘One Nation’ moderation. (Interestingly, Paul Shelley played both Crosby and the spiv Goodman on stage.) Robb, known for series like Warship (BBC1, 1973-77) and I, Claudius (BBC2, 1976), imbues the part with a John Le Mesurier-like debonairness and public-school diffidence. Frederick Treves plays Colonel Chandler; Treves’s many credits included Play for Today appearances in ‘Doran’s Box’ (tx. 20 January 1976), Trevor Griffiths’s political history play ‘Country’ (tx. 20 October 1981) and ‘PQ17’ (tx. 15 December 1981) alongside Paul Copley. (Chandler was played on stage by David Lyon.) Veteran film and television actress Ursula Howells was cast as the Colonel’s wife Sarah (played on stage by Judith Harte, who also played battle-axe Mrs Howard); Howells’s many roles included Mrs Gradgrind in Arthur Hopcraft’s Dickens adaptation Hard Times (Granada, 1977). Aspiring young Labour parliamentary candidate Bob Clifton (played on stage by Paul Moriarty) was played by John Price, who also appeared in Play for Today pieces ‘Our Flesh and Blood’ (tx. 18 January 1977; written by Mike Stott) and ‘Kate the Good Neighbour’ (tx. 6 March 1980; written by Peter Ransley). Gabrielle Lloyd played Thawston Community Project worker and Bob’s wife, Sandy (played on stage by Frances Viner). Lloyd also appeared in the BBC’s critically mauled historical drama serial, Churchill’s People (1975), along with Ashley, Lake, Treves, Robb, Copley, Jeavons and Crutchley. For Play for Today Lloyd also appeared in Jim Allen’s Play for Today ‘A Choice of Evils’ (tx. 19 April 1977) and Lesley Bruce’s ‘Jude’ (tx. 2 December 1980). Graham Ashley made his fourth Play for Today appearance playing Jim Platt, Baron Castings works manager and Taddley’s Tory constituency party chairman (played on stage by Clyde Pollitt). Ashley’s other appearances came in O’Neill and Seabrook’s ‘Highway Robbery’, John Hopkins’s ‘A Story to Frighten the Children’ (tx. 3 February 1976) and John Bowen’s ‘A Photograph’ (tx. 22 March 1977) and his regular work included parts in Grange Hill and Stanley A. Long’s sex-comedy Adventures of… film series (1976-78). Those in minor roles included Astley Jones as the newsreader, just a year before playing a newscaster in the Australian co-production, football film and Ian McShane-vehicle, Yesterday’s Hero. []
  39. BBC1, tx. 11 May 1973-08 June 1973. []
  40. This series has never been repeated. []
  41. BBC1, tx. 06 January 1975-10 March 1975), []
  42. State of Emergency, BBC1, tx. 4 December 1975-18 December 1975. Fifteen years before his role in conspiracy thriller Defence of the Realm (1986), Frederick Treves had played a dubious teacher in ATV’s 13-part paranoia-for-kids serial, Tightrope (1972). []
  43. This Britain was largely ignored in The Queen’s Realm 3: ‘A Prospect of England’ (BBC1, tx. 31 May 1977), a Jubilee celebration with photography by Nat Crosby, cinematographer for ‘Destiny’. In contrast with Crosby’s foregrounding of Arcadian England in this patriotic celebration, Crosby worked on a more critical representation of the Jubilee, Jim Allen’s Play for Today ‘The Spongers’ (tx. 24 January 1978). []
  44. Play for Today: ‘Victims of Apartheid’, BBC1, tx. 24 October 1978. Written by Tom Clarke, produced by Richard Eyre, directed by Stuart Burge. []
  45. The Old Crowd, tx. ITV, 6 February 1979. Written by Alan Bennett, produced by Stephen Frears, directed by Lindsay Anderson. In the same year, Treves appeared in Ian Curteis’ drama-documentary, Suez 1956 (BBC1, tx. 25 November 1979). Paul Copley appeared in Antony Thomas’s controversial Death of a Princess. []
  46. Channel 4, tx. 21 February 1993-28 March 1993. []
  47. In the same year, Treves would appear alongside Jeavons in the second of the Francis Urquhart trilogy, To Play the King, revolving around Michael Kitchen’s king with a social conscience challenging Urquhart’s hegemony. To Play the King, BBC1, 21 November 1993-12 December 1993. []
  48. Camera script, 02147/3647. BBC WAC; Early Warning Synopsis. []
  49. Ibid. []
  50. Matheson, email to May. []
  51. Ibid. []
  52. Like the double-bill of Play for Today: ‘Gotcha’ and Play for Today: ‘Campion’s Interview’ (1977), which only required one set each – both BBC1, tx. 12 April 1977. []
  53. Anonymous, ‘Television/radio’, The Guardian, 31 January 1978, p. 20. []
  54. Edgar, email to May. []
  55. BBC Audience Research Department report ‘PLAY FOR TODAY: Destiny’, VR/78/65, 17 March 1978, p. 1. BBC WAC. []
  56. Television/radio, p. 20. []
  57. BBC Audience Research Department report ‘PLAY FOR TODAY: The Spongers’, VR/78/52, 20 March 1978, p. 1. BBC WAC. []
  58. Inside Story: ‘Behind the Front’, BBC2, 15 February 1978, 8.10pm. Produced by Roger Mills. Radio Times #2831, 9 February 1978, p. 49, available at BBC Genome. Accessed 6 March 2017. []
  59. ’37. Broadcasting and the National Front (20)’, News and Current Affairs Meeting R.S.5, C/F N1879, 1978. BBC WAC. Sean McCarthy’s BBC2 Play of the Week, ‘The Turkey Who Lives on the Hill’, which reunited erstwhile Labour comrades in ‘Destiny’ Paul Copley and John Price, was broadcast on the same day. []
  60. This Week, Thames for ITV, tx. 30 January 1978. []
  61. Edgar, The Second Time as Farce, p. 11. []
  62. The same week’s album chart saw John Martyn’s One World enter at number 54, released on Island Records and featuring a contribution from Jamaican dub reggae producer Lee “Scratch” Perry. The title track of this album is an eloquent ode to global unity, communication and a profoundly subtle anti-racist statement. []
  63. ‘NEVER AGAIN’ advertisement, The Guardian, 1 February 1978, p. 2. []
  64. ‘Television Weekly Programme Review Board meeting minutes’, 1 February 1978, p. 37. BBC WAC. []
  65. ‘M.D.Tel. C109-3’, 3 February 1978. BBC WAC. []
  66. Peter Fiddick, ‘One man show’, The Guardian, 6 February 1978, p. 8. []
  67. ‘Board of Management meeting minutes’, 6 February 1978, p. 8. BBC WAC. []
  68. Philip Purser, ‘Gerard Mansell obituary’, The Guardian, 22 December 2010. []
  69. Board of Management minutes, 6 February 1978. In 1979, Mansell was to sack Panorama editor Roger Bolton for the way in which he had sanctioned filming in the IRA-stronghold Carrickmore, Co Tyrone. – Purser, ‘Gerald Mansell obituary’. []
  70. Board of Management minutes, 6 February 1978. []
  71. Nancy Banks-Smith, ‘Destiny’, The Guardian, 1 February 1978, p. 8. []
  72. Ibid. []
  73. Melvyn Bragg, ‘Force of “Destiny”’, The Observer, 5 February 1978, p. 29. []
  74. Philip Purser, ‘Calling the Bans’, The Sunday Telegraph, 5 February 1978, p. 15. []
  75. Clive James, ‘Top of the pops’, The Observer, 5 February 1978, p. 27. []
  76. Peter Buckman, ‘Stage and small screen’, The Listener, 9 February 1978, p. 181. []
  77. Jeremy Brien, ‘Destiny: Bristol’, The Stage and Television Today, 22 March 1979, p. 15. []
  78. ITV Playhouse: ‘Aren’t We All’, Yorkshire for ITV, tx. 1 February 1978. Adapted by Pat Sandys, produced by John K. Cooper, directed by John Frankau. []
  79. Buckman, ‘Stage and small screen’. []
  80. Sean Day-Lewis, ‘Anti-Fascist polemic tempered by humour’, Daily Telegraph, 1 February 1978, p. 15. The son of Poet Laureate Cecil and elder brother of Oscar winning actor Daniel. []
  81. Buckman, ‘Stage and small screen’. []
  82. Day-Lewis, ‘Anti-Fascist polemic tempered by humour’. []
  83. Dennis Potter, ‘A play astonishing in its excellence’, Sunday Times, 5 February 1978, p.35. Collected in Ian Greaves, David Rolinson and John Williams (eds.), The Art of Invective: Selected Non-Fiction 1953-94 (London: Oberon, 2015), pp. 255-257. []
  84. Ibid., p. 35, collected in The Art of Invective, p. 256. []
  85. Ibid., p. 35, collected in The Art of Invective, p. 257. []
  86. Edgar, email to May. []
  87. ‘PLAY FOR TODAY: Destiny’, BBC Audience Research Department, VR/78/65, 17 March 1978, p. 2. BBC WAC. []
  88. Ibid. []
  89. Ibid, p. 1. []
  90. Ibid, p. 2. []

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