The ‘Appening: Parkin’s Patch (1969-70)

DAVID ROLINSON

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As a festive, er, ‘treat’, here’s a much more facetious piece than this site usually runs, a DVD review (of Parkin’s Patch: The Complete Series), which apart from some revisions is reproduced from the excellent (but at this moment on hiatus) Tachyon TV website… There’s a moment in the episode ‘Lock, Stock and…’ when a character starts an alibi with “I took the whippet out”. This made me think two things: “until it has a Yorkshire edition, the CSI franchise is merely treading water” and “Parkin’s Patch is pretty much what I expected.” So, should you expect 26 half-hours of charming yet undemanding early evening telly with a local bobby investigating quirky and/or spiky Yorkshire folk? ‘Appen. And ‘appen not. There are some predictable, even ramshackle, moments, but there are also some lovely surprises that make Parkin’s Patch a bit of a treat.

Sunset Across the Bay (1975)

DAVID ROLINSON

Play for Today Writer: Alan Bennett; Director: Stephen Frears; Producer: Innes Lloyd

‘Knocking-off time…’

Sunset Across the Bay follows a retired couple who move from Leeds to the seaside resort of Morecambe. Their struggle to adapt to retirement produces humour through the observation of Northern dialogue and idiosyncrasies, but moves towards tragedy.1 One of many impressive collaborations between writer Alan Bennett and director Stephen Frears, the play combines understated emotional power and a sense of the social impact of urban planning with a skilful deployment of technique that builds mood, character and theme.

The play (if not the published script) opens with Mrs Liversidge’s spiritedly inept performance of Ivor Novello’s We’ll Gather Lilacs in the Spring Again.2 Its heightened, ‘florid’ delivery is so different from Mam and Dad’s prosaic understatement that it has been called an ‘ironic prologue’.3 However, the song’s lyrics anticipate key moments (‘never leave me’… ‘when you come home once more’), create a relevant sense of moving on by looking backwards (gathering lilacs ‘again’) and foreshadow Mam’s moment of articulacy in the Lake District later, when she performs a poem featuring daffodils.

Alan Clarke: Play for Today Biography

DAVID ROLINSON

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Alan Clarke was neglected for a long time by television scholars and, because all but three of his approximately sixteen screen credits between 1967 and 1989 were for television, film scholars. This has changed in recent years: see Richard Kelly’s 1998 book of interviews1 and my book from 2005, the first (and, I hope, not last) critical study of Clarke’s work.2 Best of all, in May 2016, the vast majority of Clarke’s surviving work will be made available – much of it for the first time and some of it after previously being thought lost – in the BFI DVD and blu ray releases Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC. Now everyone can find out what people have been so excited about. However, Clarke was first and foremost a television director, and as wonderful as it is that film fans are discovering Clarke, his work must be seen in the context of British television drama rather than as an aberration from it. Discussions of Clarke understandably prioritise his mid-to-late 1980s work, but this particular biography is designed to accompany the essays on this site about the dozen productions he made for Play for Today, which form around one-fifth of his total output.