9 items from 2017
Michael Wearing, who has died aged 78, was a television producer and executive behind some of the most socially and politically charged dramas of the late 20th century. He successfully steered the medium through a period when single plays were dropped in favour of series. It was his work as script editor on The Black Stuff, the writer Alan Bleasdale’s 1980 Play for Today, that led him two years later to produce the landmark five-part drama Boys from the Blackstuff, which became a battle cry for the unemployed in Thatcher’s Britain after their numbers soared to more than three million. Bernard Hill’s cry of “Gissa job” in his role as Yosser Hughes became a national catchphrase.
However, Wearing continued to use the single-play format by presenting each episode as the story of »
- Anthony Hayward
Wearing (right), who held a number of senior positions across drama at the BBC, died on Friday 5 May following a stroke. Wearing is survived by his three children, Sadie, Ella and Ben.
After studying anthropology at Newcastle University and a short career in the theatre, Wearing joined the BBC’s English regions drama department as a script editor in 1976.
Reporting to David Rose, who went on to become founder of Film 4, at the BBC’s Pebble Mill base in Birmingham, Wearing worked with writers including Alan Bleasdale and Ron Hutchinson on a number of Play for Today scripts.
He also worked on series including Stephen Davis’ Trouble With Gregory, which aired as part of BBC2’s Playhouse strand, Hutchinson’s six-part »
TV and film director who won a Bafta award for the BBC play Bar Mitzvah Boy
The British television and film director Michael Tuchner, who has died aged 84, left a body of work that vividly reflected life in the UK and Us during the 1970s and 80s. As Tuchner was an unshowy man who allowed the performances and narrative to dominate a film, his contribution often went unsung, even though he made more than 40 television and big screen movies. Nevertheless, after his debut feature, Villain (1971), starring Richard Burton, he was always considered a safe pair of hands by producers and was nominated for four Bafta awards, winning one for the acclaimed BBC Play for Today production of Jack Rosenthal’s Bar Mitzvah Boy (1976).
Tuchner was born in Berlin, the son of Martin, a tailor, and his wife, Rosa (nee Wolochwiansky). When he was seven, the family moved to the UK, »
- Ronald Bergan and Michael Apted
Louisa Mellor Feb 14, 2017
Ace anthology series Inside No. 9 returns next week for its third run. Here’s what its creators had to say at the press launch…
Having made audiences wince at characters put through all manner of horrors—murder, suicide, demonic possession—sadism would seem a fair accusation to level at Inside No. 9’s creators. It doesn’t stand of course, because the show’s so good that it’s all pleasure and no pain. Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith don’t seek to make people suffer in writing the series. “I wouldn’t say that’s what we enjoy, we’re not sadists!” Pemberton laughs at the series three press launch. “For us, it’s all about the narrative and taking that half-hour we have for each episode and weaving the story that takes you on the biggest journey.”
Louisa Mellor Feb 21, 2017
Anthology strand Inside No. 9 is an ingenious antidote to bloated TV storytelling and convuluted multi-series arcs. Created by The League Of Gentlemen and Psychoville's Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, who write and appear in each episode, it tells original half-hour tales that surprise, delight and unsettle.
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Thankfully, BBC Two appears to know what a gem it has in the show and is treating it with the care it deserves. Five new episodes following the 2016 Christmas special start airing tonight, and filming is about to get underway on a fourth series.
Deborah Orr laments the loss of Play for Today (Opinion, 14 January). The effect that it had in exploring social issues is illustrated by the charity Action against Medical Accidents, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. My Play for Today, Minor Complications (which was directed by Moira Armstrong), exposed the way medical negligence was covered up in the health service. It was based on a real story of a woman fighting her own case. The response was so great my wife and I set up the charity to help people with claims: an uphill task because the opinion of medical experts was essential and (with honourable exceptions) the profession closed ranks. It is now more open and legal awareness much greater thanks to AvMA. Hospital trusts paid out just over £1bn in medical negligence claims in 2013-14, compared to £287m in 2003-4. According to AvMA’s chief executive Peter Walsh, »
Deborah Orr (Why can’t TV make new plays for today?, 14 January) correctly points out that British playwrights are tackling many of the major social issues today in the theatre instead of using the more democratic medium of television. She laments the loss of Play for Today, saying it “fostered such talents as Mike Leigh, Alan Bleasdale, Dennis Potter and Jack Rosenthal (though this was the 70s, so no women.)” There was at least one – me. I wrote a play for that series which was directed by the late Alan Clarke. It was called Nina, based on the lives of two Russian dissidents, and it starred Eleanor Bron and Jack Shepherd.
• Over the 14 years (1970-84) that Play for Today ran, at least 21 female dramatists (including Julia Jones, Beryl Bainbridge, Caryl Churchill and Paula Milne) had plays produced for it. Play for Today also employed four female producers (Irene Shubik, »
While theatre embraces dramas such as Love, Wish List or Boy, it seems sinister that television balks at reflecting austerity Britain
Ten years in, and the metropolitan elite is at last receiving regular tuition in austerity, at the theatre. Often the plays make their way to the capital from other urban centres. Love, currently at the National Theatre, was created using a devising process by Alexander Zeldin, associate director at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. It starts playing there at the end of January.
Set in a hostel for homeless people, it features a disparate group of the desperate: a father of two whose new wife is 33 weeks pregnant, all four of them sharing one room; an adult son and his ailing, incontinent mother, sharing the room next door; plus a female refugee from Sudan and a male refugee from Syria who drift in and out of the claustrophobic lives of the central group. »
- Deborah Orr
Author: Jon Lyus
The show airs its first episode tomorrow night on BBC One and charts the return of James Delaney, described by the actor as a “perverse renaissance man”, to London from his adventures in Africa upon the death of his Father.
He is a man with guilty secrets, and one who gives no quarter to the hostility he encounters from his family and the institutions which seek to hold him to order. As viewers will see tonight the dawn of the Industrial Revolution has been recreated in all its gory, dirty glory. This is a bleak beginning to a story that has an even darker path to tread in future weeks.
We sat down with Hardy and »
- Jon Lyus
9 items from 2017
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