The BFI have had a bumper schedule in the last month. SHOOT THE MESSENGER, THE PROPOSITION and PLAY FOR TODAY PART III. Its been 50 years since many were originally transmitted but they still hold power and substance. The anthology series remains one of British television’s most substational and celebrated works. From 1970 to 1984, plays were produced onscreen which combined some of the era’s finest writing, acting and directing talents and were broadcast to a willing audience, regularly challenging viewers and pushing the boundaries of TV drama. This set, the third in the series, has six more films to explore, from Edna, the Inebriate Woman (Written by Jeremy Sandford | Dir. Ted Kotcheff, 1971), Just Another Saturday (Written by Peter McDougall | Dir. John Mackenzie, 1975), Bar Mitzvah Boy (Written by Jack Rosenthal | Directed by Michael Tuchner, 1976), The Mayor’s Charity (Written by Henry Livings | Dir. Mike Newell, 1977), Coming Out (Written by James Andrew Hall | Dir. Carol Wiseman, 1979) and finally A Hole in Babylon (Written by Jim Hawkins and Horace Ové | Dir. Horace Ové, 1979).

Having seen some of the plays, on various VHS copies ripped from the TV, at my parents house, I wasn’t confused by the film school promenading of the series. I understood the richness of the content. The stories. The challenges. The revelations of newness. This is to say, all of those things that would make someone say how very good a production was. Well we called them films, to be honest, as that is and was what they are or were. Looking at the list of six films and ignoring the overflowing talent, the cast, the directors, you need only see the production stories, to understand the confidence. Edna, the Inebriate Woman confronts the dire state of the destitute in the early 70s. Director Kotcheff (who would very soon after make WAKE IN FRIGHT) work is the best on the discs, reflecting his toned down but raw humanism of his characters. Bar Mitzvah Boy comes second, as an illuminating reveal to the Jewishness of becoming Jewish and the fears of teenage into adulthood. Coming Out is the third best on the film. Its timely but I expect it will always be timely. The fear of revealing your true self to a society, perched on expectation. Carol Wiseman directs with a compassion that allows the work to resonate.

  • 60-page book with new essays by Katie Crosson, David Archibald, Julia Wagner, Jon Dear, Simon McCallum and Kaleem Aftab

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