A Day in Summer (1989)

JOHN WHEATCROFT

There is a lot of dark stuff going on in A Day in Summer, the first novel by J.L. (James Lloyd) Carr. Literary critic D.J. Taylor described the novel as one that “defied classification […] a comic tragedy, if you like, by a gifted amateur still learning his trade.”1 It is a testament to Alan Plater’s skill that his adaptation of A Day in Summer (1989) handles so seamlessly the comic and tragic elements. This essay examines this Yorkshire Television production, drawing from an interview that I conducted with Carr in 1993 and new archival research into the production.2

Jack Shepherd plays a mild-mannered bank clerk, Peplow, who goes to Great Minden on the day of its annual fair. (The adaptation was filmed in Masham, North Yorkshire.) Peplow is seeking revenge for the death of his son at the hands of a drunken lorry driver. By a coincidence that should not perhaps be examined too closely, Peplow’s former RAF colleagues both live in Great Minden. One of them, Bellenger (Ian Carmichael), is dying, the other, Ruskin (Peter Egan), is confined to a wheelchair. The fate of his former colleagues shows how the novel’s comic and tragic elements rub up against each other simultaneously.

Disputed Territory: Drama and the Falklands

OLIVER WAKE

Every major conflict in living memory has become the subject of drama almost the moment it was over. The Falklands war, which this month reached its thirtieth anniversary and is again in the news due to renewed tensions between Britain and Argentina over the islands, is no exception. Numerous plays about the conflict reached the stage and radio in its aftermath, but none caught the attention of the public at large. However, when television tackled the subject for the mass audience, the results were frequently politically charged and contentious.

First was Don Shaw’s The Falklands Factor, for the BBC’s Play for Today, which was screened in April 1983, less than a year after the war’s end.1 Shaw dramatised a previous cold war for the Falklands from 1770-71 to illuminate the history of the conflict and draw parallels with the recent war. The play strongly hints at the role of political expediency in each response to a Falklands invasion and, by showing how diplomacy – narrowly – averted bloodshed, questioned whether the same could not have been achieved in 1982.

The Singing Detective 25th Anniversary Event (2011)

DAVID ROLINSON

“in keeping with the modernist sensibility and self-reflexivity of Hide and Seek and Only Make Believe, the decision to root a view of the past in the experiences and imagination of a writer protagonist, emphasises the fact that, far from being an objective assessment, any perspective on history can only ever be subjective” – John R. Cook.1


This one-day symposium, staged by Royal Holloway University of London on 10 December 2011, celebrated the 25th anniversary of The Singing Detective (1986).2 It paid tribute to the serial’s “narrative complexity, generic hybridity and formal experimentation” and placed writer Dennis Potter’s contribution alongside the contributions made by his collaborators, several of whom were present: producer Kenith Trodd, choreographer Quinny Sacks and actors Patrick Malahide and Bill Paterson.3 Other guests included Peter Bowker (as a modern television writer inspired by Potter), plus academic speakers and, mixing practitioner and academic perspectives, Professor Jonathan Powell, who was Head of Drama at the BBC when The Singing Detective was made. This mixture of academic and practitioner perspectives has been a welcome and often rewarding feature of British television drama conferences in recent years: see, for instance, the conference proceedings published as part of British Television Drama: Past, Present and Future.4

Tales Out of School (1983)

FRANK COLLINS

Writer: David Leland; Producer: Margaret Matheson; Directors: Mike Newell, Edward Bennett, Jane Howell, Alan Clarke

Because this site’s editor, Dave Rolinson, was involved with the Tales Out of School DVD (writing its 12,000-word booklet), it seemed fairer to ask a guest writer to review it: so here’s a review by Frank Collins, who writes the excellent, highly-recommended film & TV review blog Cathode Ray Tube. Many thanks to Frank for letting us reproduce this review.

David Leland’s quartet of dramas from 1983, under their original umbrella title of Tales Out of School, gets a very welcome release from Network this month. All four films, Birth of a Nation, Flying into the Wind, RHINO and Made in Britain, were commissioned by Central Independent Television, the ITV franchise that emerged from the restructuring of the original ATV, and were produced by Margaret Matheson, who had become Controller of Drama after a successful if controversial time at the BBC where she had produced Alan Clarke’s banned television play, Scum. After a steady career as an actor during the 1960s and 1970s, Leland’s reputation as a writer willing to tackle socially sensitive subject matters grew through his work in 1981 on Play For Today, on Psy Warriors and Beloved Enemy.

The Falklands Factor (1983)

OLIVER WAKE

Play for Today Writer: Don Shaw; Director: Colin Bucksey; Producer: Louis Marks

“I hope no-one ever needs to go to war over the Falklands, or for that matter, any writer write about them.”

The short but bloody Falklands war between Britain and Argentina played out over two and a half months in 1982. Television drama responded with a handful of plays about the conflict, most of which seemed to excite almost as much controversy as the war itself. (See Disputed Territory: Drama and the Falklands.) The earliest of these was Don Shaw’s The Falklands Factor, which was broadcast in April 1983, just ten months after hostilities in the South Atlantic had concluded.

Specialising in contemporary drama, the BBC’s Play for Today anthology was the natural home for such a recent subject, however The Falklands Factor is actually a historical drama, Shaw having chosen to dramatise a little known incident from the eighteenth century to put the more recent conflict into historic context and draw parallels between the two crises. The reader must excuse the passages which follow detailing brief parts of the Falkland islands’ convoluted history, without which the meaning of the play and this essay will be impossible to convey.