Interview by David Rolinson, recorded: London, 3 July 2006
Play for Today Writer: Alan Plater; Director: Brian Parker; Producer: David Rose
This piece assumes background knowledge of the play. For a short essay and synopsis, see my piece for Screenonline. For detailed analysis and mention of other Plater sources, see my article ‘The Surprise of a Large Town: Regional Landscape in Alan Plater’s Land of Green Ginger’, Journal of British Cinema and Television, 4:2, November 2007, pp. 285-306, available in print or online. Plater also wrote the lovely memoir Doggin’ Around. If you want to research Plater’s work, I can provide a full interview transcript; I strongly recommend the University of Hull’s Alan Plater archive at the Hull History Centre. I am eternally grateful to Alan Plater (who sadly passed away in 2010) and Shirley Rubenstein for their time, warmth and generosity. Read more... (6254 words, 3 images, estimated 25:01 mins reading time)
By John Wheatcroft
Play for Today Writer: Hugh Whitemore; Adapted from: the book by Helene Hanff; Director: Mark Cullingham; Producer: Mark Shivas
‘…people going to England find exactly what they go looking for. I said I’d go looking for the England of English Literature…’
When Arthur Dent receives an alien tongue-lashing on arrival at yet another inhospitable planet during The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he observes in exasperation: ‘Why doesn’t anyone ever seem to pleased to see us?’ One answer to that question might well be: ‘Because drama and comedy rely on conflict to make them work.’ There’s rarely a great deal of mileage to be extracted from people liking one another and generally getting on, but when the trick is pulled off, the results can be delightful and surprising.
This was the case with 84, Charing Cross Road, Hugh Whitemore’s adaptation of Helene Hanff’s book in which the New Yorker recorded her 20-year love affair with Marks & Co, a second-hand bookshop in London. It began in 1949 when Britain was still on the ration and ran through until the end of the 1960s. Hanff’s book reads like a cross-cultural epistolary novella, in which the straight- talking Yank (responding to the first letter from London which begins: ‘Dear Madam’, she comments: ‘I hope Madam doesn’t mean over there what it does over here’), eventually extracts the inner warmth from the more reserved and correct Brits. Read more... (1698 words, 1 image, estimated 6:48 mins reading time)
By Cat McKiernan
Play for Today Writer: Dennis Potter; Director: Barry Davis; Producer: Kenith Trodd
‘Why can’t people accept evil when they are offered it?’
Brimstone and Treacle is probably one of Dennis Potter’s most well-known titles, not least because of the ban it received directly before its originally scheduled transmission date of 6 April 1976. It took a full eleven years, with different BBC executives, before the play was finally broadcast for the first time.
Written as part of an informal trilogy, Brimstone and Treacle was intended to be viewed alongside two other Potter plays that also challenged aspects of spirituality and explored conventional ways of thinking, Double Dare and Where Adam Stood. Instead, as John R. Cook notes in his book, ‘having been commissioned and recorded by the BBC it was “pulled” from the schedules on the orders of Alasdair Milne, then Director of TV Programmes within the Corporation’. Read more... (2556 words, 5 images, estimated 10:13 mins reading time)