Play for Today: Season 3, Episode 20

Hard Labour (12 Mar. 1973)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 173 users  
Reviews: 6 user | 1 critic

A quiet and put-upon house cleaner breaks her silence.



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Title: Hard Labour (12 Mar 1973)

Hard Labour (12 Mar 1973) on IMDb 7.4/10

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Liz Smith ...
Mrs. Thornley
Clifford Kershaw ...
Jim Thornley
Polly Hemingway ...
Vanessa Harris ...
Mrs. Stone
Cyril Varley ...
Mr. Stone
Linda Beckett ...
Alan Erasmus ...
Rowena Parr ...
June Whitaker ...
Mrs. Rigby
Paula Tilbrook ...
Mrs. Thornley's friend
Keith Washington ...
Mr. Shaw
Louis Raynes ...


Mrs. Thornley works very hard without notice or appreciation. Every day she keeps her own house clean, attends to her husband and unmarried daughter, Ann, then cleans other women's houses. She looks tired and has little affect. She does have a married son and a daughter-in-law who's chatty and pleasant. Mrs. Thornley's husband works nights, except for Saturdays, when he expects conjugal attention. Ann's worried about pregnancy and talks to her mum about labor and childbirth. Later, Mrs. Thornley goes to confession at her parish church, and she makes an extraordinary revelation. Written by <>

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Release Date:

12 March 1973 (UK)  »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Featured in Arena: Mike Leigh Making Plays (1982) See more »

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User Reviews

Shockingly bleak brilliance from Mike Leigh
31 August 1999 | by (London) – See all my reviews

A classic BBC Play For Today from the days when televsion still provided a forum for this sort of comment, one that directly screamed at its audience in defiance. Hard Labour is chiefly noticeable for an excellent cast and several superbly staged scenes. Clifford Kershaw turns in a very different performance to his usual lonely old man role. Two of the finest scenes are the love scene and the clocking on at work. The "Love scene" is really anything but, as Jim returns drunk and unbearably loudly undresses while his wife sleeps. Then he forcefully has sex with her. Leigh's brilliance comes in keeping the camera away from the events, lingering almost asleep on the pillow so we feel powerless to stop the horrible events. Another fine scene is where Jim arrives to his nightshift and talks to his supervisor, a scene that goes through numerous subtle psychological changes. Also of note is Louis Raynes fine turn as the tallyman and one of the plays more klikeable characters in the form of Ben Kingsley. One excellent feature of this play is that it could be set anytime in the last 100 years. It is 1973 but for a long time early on could be almost Victorian so horrendous are the lifestyles. Producer Tony Garnett commented in the Radio Times before broadcast "If you are not shocked by this play, you have already been brainwashed." Bring back Play For Today!!

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