Giles Cooper

OLIVER WAKE

btvd_cooper_maigretGiles Cooper is widely recognised as having been Britain’s greatest radio dramatist. He was highly prolific, writing dozens of original plays and adaptations for radio across a period of around 13 years. He was responsible for many of the medium’s masterpieces during the 1950s and his accomplishments were acknowledged posthumously with the BBC’s radio playwriting award being named in his honour. He also wrote for the stage, having particular success with his 1962 play Everything in the Garden, a dark comedy of middle-class suburban hypocrisy and greed.

This work has unfairly overshadowed Cooper’s career as a television dramatist. Writing for both the BBC and ITV, Cooper was even more prolific in television than he was in radio, producing a large body of work in which his characteristic skill as a dramatist was evident. He would undoubtedly be better known today had he not died tragically young while at the height of his talents in 1966. Marking the fiftieth anniversary of his death, this article aims to highlight Cooper’s television career and argue that he deserves greater recognition as one of Britain’s greatest television dramatists.

Women and Work: Leeds United! (1974) Part 3 of 3

DAVID ROLINSON

Play for Today Writer: Colin Welland; Producer: Kenith Trodd; Director: Roy Battersby

This essay continues from Part 2 and Part 1.

The debate

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Producer Kenith Trodd faced criticism and praise from local workers, employers and critics in an edition of the discussion programme series In Vision (1974-75) that was dedicated to Leeds – United!1 The play had a largely female cast who were positioned as participants: its lead actors and its extras were social actors, as mass crowds reconstructed their real-life participation in the 1970 events. The guests on In Vision include women workers who respond to the techniques by which their experiences were depicted by that male-authored text. There is a revealing tension between the play and the discussion programme. Women are addressed variously as subjects, participants and audiences, and this problematic movement is one with which the women workers are partly complicit, as we shall see. Women are the minority – 3 out of 10 guests – and are addressed in part as audience members, albeit in order to comment on the textual representation of their social participation. The programme opens up gendered discourse relating to the workplace and drama, or even contributes to that discourse. Of course, In Vision is a different type of text, with its own codes and conventions as well as its own guidelines on issues such as balance.

(Times and) Spaces of Television – Doctor Who: Warriors’ Gate (1981)

DAVID ROLINSON

Four parts. Writer: Stephen Gallagher; Producer: John Nathan-Turner; Director: Paul Joyce

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Warriors’ Gate was a visually inventive, conceptually ambitious and idiosyncratic Doctor Who serial, but also a fraught one for Paul Joyce, its director.1 The disagreements behind the scenes have been well documented, and are often discussed as a marker or consequence of the serial’s ambition.2 I’ve researched this serial in the BBC Written Archives Centre production file on Warriors’ Gate and the archive of writer Stephen Gallagher that is held by Hull History Centre,3 studying everything from multiple script drafts and notes on script meetings through to the specs for the set’s timber framed gimbal mirror and a list of supplementary payments for overtime and wig fittings (at productive moments in these archives it was of course difficult not to declare that “I’m finally getting something done!”4 ). However, this essay is not a blow-by-blow production history but a discussion of Joyce’s direction: partly showing how Joyce’s approach helps to convey the serial’s ideas, but mainly showing how debates about the future of Doctor Who’s production methods and the spaces of television circulated around Warriors’ Gate.

Beyond the reach of the cartographer: Dennis Potter the reviewing writer and writing reviewer

DAVID ROLINSON

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Dennis Potter’s non-fiction writing is a tremendous body of work – reviews, radio talks and newspaper features on television, radio, books, society, politics and more.1 I was going to just run through some of his television reviews, but Potter wouldn’t let me get off that lightly. His non-fiction work interweaves with his fiction work in characteristically multi-layered, provocative and entertaining ways. He never lets us forget that words matter. So the word “reviewing” becomes unreliable, which is annoying if you’ve put it in your title. He’s not just a writer who wrote some reviews – his writing reviews, and re-views, his own plays and much more besides. There are lots of traps to fall into, as we can tell from the start of Follow the Yellow Brick Road

[Extract: 1:38 to 4.25]

Funny Farm (1975)

DAVID ROLINSON

Play for Today Writer: Roy Minton; Producer: Mark Shivas; Director: Alan Clarke

“This place gets more like a bleeding madhouse every day…”

BTVD_Funny Farm_1 2016Funny Farm depicts a night shift by nurse Alan Welbeck (Tim Preece) on a psychiatric ward. As reviewer James Scott put it, the play comments on “conditions in our mental hospitals – understaffing, overwork, bad pay, old inadequate buildings” and unsatisfactory “patient treatment and cure”, points which are heightened by the play’s “understatement” and rejection of “sensationalism and sentimentality”.1 Dennis Potter praised this “gentle and observant drama” as “Beautifully acted, compassionately written and intelligently directed”.2 The play also dramatises writer Roy Minton’s contention that “Psychiatric therapy is fundamentally an agent for the state”,3 and provides an example of Minton’s productive collaboration with director Alan Clarke. My book Alan Clarke didn’t have a chapter on Funny Farm in its own right – I discussed it only in relation to other collaborations and tendencies across Clarke’s work. This essay aims to correct that omission, and features some new research findings.