"Play for Today" Home (TV Episode 1972) Poster

(TV Series)


User Reviews

Add a Review
4 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
not that fun, but a good slice of life
funkyfry20 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
In the early 1970s U.K. director Lindsay Anderson formed a creative partnership with playwright David Storey; this filmed play is the best result of that partnership that I've seen. Touchingly simple music from Alan Price (Anderson's collaborator on his masterpiece, "O Lucky Man!") introduces and concludes each of the play's two acts, setting the stage for the intimate character explorations to follow. Anderson's camera pokes and probes about the stage, only zooming once (and quite slowly at that) to give weight to John Gielgud's strong performance. Most of the time it rests comfortably in the audience's perspective (I didn't actually see an audience and some parts of the play are pretty funny but I didn't hear any laughter, so this was probably not filmed in front of a live crowd) but occasionally he glides about the stage to follow the various characters as they move away from the table with 2 chairs that serves as the focal location of the play.

There's almost no "action" in the film at all – the closest we get is a lobotomized oaf (Warren Clarke, instantly recognizable from his brilliant performance in Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange"; this is an actor who can really use his face to good effect) lifting the chairs and table high in the air and eventually absconding with the precious lawn furniture. There are only 5 characters and all the character development consists of revelations and not real transformations. Even so, it's difficult to tell which of the revelations are true and which are simply a façade, because even though these people are inmates at some kind of mental hospital (a fact which, like so much else, is never made explicit but rather must be understood by inferring from casual observations by the characters), they still feel the need to maintain some kind of personal dignity. They show each other respect as well (as the other poster noted, it takes Gielgud's character quite a while to finally let Richardson's character know that his card tricks aren't working too well). Storey's play hits the mark when he shows the 4 primary characters -- Gielgud and Richardson's along with 2 women (Dandy Nichols and Mona Washbourne) one of whom makes up for her insecurity through male attention and the other of whom seems to pay attention to everything and everyone except herself – fussing and fretting over who should sit in which of the 2 chairs in the courtyard. I find it really strange, and yet very convincing, that the spectacle is both so pathetic and somehow ennobling. When Clarke's character enters the scene with his implicit violence, they are finally able to restore order to the scene by speaking to him as well, although they grow annoyed when he hangs around perhaps in hopes of being spoken to further. These are characters struggling to hold onto their own sense of belonging in the universe, but deathly afraid of offending or upsetting anyone else's sense of place as well.

I can't say that this is a hugely entertaining film and it will probably alienate many viewers by its lack of action and its down-to-earth conversational style of dialog. However I enjoyed it quite a bit just as a "slice of life" kind of play and I think the dialog and the acting were very well done.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
oh what a shame.
lousvr30 May 2011
I don't remember how I came to see this piece but what a lucky day it was. Pure chance. What a shame that it barely has 2 dozen votes. Indicative of the tight, limited exposure of this wonderful dot of genius. Then added to this is the performances of Gielgud & Richardson. These guys are the best. What depth of character and subtlety. The actresses are also wonderful. The swallowness of todays efforts cause me to think about the cameramen, scenery, etc.. but this piece I'm lost in its grip. Totally involved with there world. This kind of quality is rarely seen today. This is a piece that can be viewed over and over and in fact is best to do so to fully appreciate it.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Anderson's very simple filming of a stage play.
runamokprods15 September 2016
Very simple filming of a stage play.

It features two amazing and complex performances by John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson, along with Lindsay Anderson's trademark mix of humor, surrealism and sadness.

The play focuses on five characters in a home for mentally unstable people during the hours where they sit in the garden and try to hold onto their dignity and their identity.

One of those plays where not all that much happens in terms of events, but I was always fascinated by the human beings themselves and their odd interactions as they bounced off of each other like billiard balls.

It didn't hold up quite as well for me on 2nd viewing, but the performances were still terrific, and the ending quite moving. Still well worth seeing
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews