Production Overview:1.The Four Icons / 2.A New Man / 3.The End of the Festival / 4.Twenty-Four Steps / 5.Arrival / 6.Stand Up And Vote / 7.From Boneyards To Courting Pits / 8.Normal Service / 9.Homes Fit For Cathy / 10.Sleeping Dogs / 11.Last Orders / 12.Casualties of War
Episode Guide:Season 1 / Season 2 / Season 3 / Season 4 / Season 5 /
Season 6 / Season 7 / Season 8 / Season 9

The Four Icons

The first episode of The Wednesday Play was granted its own Radio Times cover

Iconoclastic is perhaps the best word to the describe the four months which drew to a close 1964. Over the course of that period, four major events transpired which have resonated long after they took place, and, for one reason or another, have placed each in the history books. On September 15th 1964, Britain's Daily Record newspaper was replaced by a broadsheet promising to adhere to an independent and radical agenda. The Sun newspaper became the new player in the British media market, and with the benefit of hindsight its readership can now recognise that quaint promises don't sell papers - but page three titillation does.

On September 28th 1964, Chief Justice Earl Warren of the Supreme Court handed down a ruling after months of exhaustive investigation that the assassination of President Kennedy in November the previous year was not the work of a conspiracy, and that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted independently. Hindsight once again underlines how one of the earliest conspiracy theories still rages some forty years after the event.

During December 31st 1964, Donald Campbell broke the world water speed record to complete a world land and water speed record, attained in the same year. The tragic consequences of the legendary man's pursuit for a place in the record books is now well known.

Finally, on October 28th 1964, a new series presenting a selection of plays to British audiences premiered on BBC Television, assembled under the banner title of The Wednesday Play, admirably named in accordance with its intention to present diverting, challenging and entertaining mid-week drama. Hindsight has been particularly kind to this vehicle, with a considerable volume of praise having rained down upon it over the passing of time.

Enthusiastic appreciation for drama which was bold enough to be different, brash enough to cut close to the bone, and brave enough to expose the veneer beneath the façade of contemporary life in the 1960s, has served to sustain a healthy interest in the series over the years, but beyond the nostalgic reminiscences of what is often considered a legendary and ground-breaking programme, was The Wednesday Play anything more than a run-of-the-mill product of its time?

Undoubtedly, there are some quarters axiomatic to archive television appreciation who would dispute the claim, believing as they do that the series represents a collection of plays produced in the so-called "Golden Age" of British Television. More hardened critics of the output of the period would cite a handful of notable successes in an on-going string of plays, shrouded in relatively standard fare which failed to stir the audiences in their seats, despite the best endeavours of BBC Television and its periodical mouthpiece, the Radio Times, to hail the inherent controversy of the content provided. The thoughts and views of both camps deserve credit in equal measure, as it is essentially only through a critical assessment of the series as a whole and not from the standpoint of appreciation through rose-tinted glasses that The Wednesday Play emerges, justifiably and triumphantly, with its iconic status intact.

© Matthew Lee, 2004