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 Wednesday Play Season One
Season one was produced by Peter Luke, except Pale Horse, Pale Rider which was produced by Eric Till and First Love which was produced by Mario Prizek.
A Crack In The Ice
Transmitted : 28th October 1964
Script : Dramatised by Ronald Eyre. Translated by David Magarshack from the story by Nikolai Leskov

Director :
Ronald Eyre

Publicity : The Wednesday Play - A stimulating season of international drama is introduced here by its producer Peter Luke - Tonight: A Crack In The Ice with Michael Hordern and Bill Fraser; November 18: The Big Breaker by Alun Richards with Nigel Stock and Rupert Davies; December 2: Malatesta by Henry de Montherlant with Patrick Wymark and John Hollis: In planning a season of plays the producer's first consideration is his audience. What is my audience?

I like to think it is the sort that will sit up all night to get tickets for Covent Garden, that fills the vast Royal Albert Hall for the Proms, that queues the length of Millbank for a new exhibition at the Tate Gallery, that invades Glyndebourne, Chichester, and Stratford-upon-Avon, and that keeps life pulsating at the National Film Theatre, The Arts, The Royal Court, and many other enterprising cinemas and theatres. It is to this audience that I feel we owe a debt; and the debt is to provide television drama of the sort which, without ever departing from the canons of showmanship, respects the intelligence of its audience by making some demand on its intellectual curiosity. Before making any claims for the new season it might help to analyse briefly the first eight plays scheduled for transmission. Of these eight, five have been written for television; of these five, three have their origins in literature.

Only two, In Camera and Malatesta, have ever been performed in this country before. Whereas the series is in no way a "Theatre of Reassurance" none of the plays can really be described as pessimistic except, obviously, Sartre's parody of Hell. Nor can any of them be described as "sauce-bottle drama"; nor is there any commerce between these plays and the kitchen sink. Drama cannot survive if only old theatre pieces are to be presented on television. Creative writers must have the freedom of the television screen to explore their talents. But even the most creative writer cannot pump out original plays month after month, year after year. For the Wednesday Play series, writers have had the opportunity both to produce original work and to exercise themselves in dramatising the original ideas of others.

To foster both these ends we shall show in the new series works by Katherine Anne Porter, John Prebble, Alun Richards, Ronald Eyre, Sam Thompson, and Doctor Roger Manvell, whose new work The July Plot about the attempt to assassinate Hitler has just been published - and will be dramatised: a wide range to please all tastes either for "Tragedy, Comedy, History, Pastoral, Pastoral-Comical, Historical-Pastoral, Tragical-Historical, Tragical-Comical-Historical," etc.

The first play of the season, A Crack In The Ice, started as a short story called The Sentry by Nikolai Leskov, a nineteenth-century Russian (contemporary of Gorky) who was scarcely known in England until his collected works were published here recently. The story has been dramatised by Ronald Eyre who also directs the play. The play has excitement, humour, humanity, and, underneath it all, a serious contemporary meaning. This last is important because it is the intention of the Wednesday Play always to have some relevancy to our own times. The play is remarkable for two reasons: first, it experiments with new techniques which, quite unwittingly, were being used and have already been seen in Diary Of A Young Man - which proves perhaps that good ideas are endemic; secondly, in an extremely strong cast headed by Michael Hordern we bring back to the screen in his first straight part since appearing in Bootsie And Snudge that fine actor Bill Fraser. (Radio Times, October 22, 1964 - Article by Peter Luke)


Cast :
Bill Fraser (Lieutenant-Colonel Svinin), James Maxwell (Captain Miller), Derek Newark (Private Postnikov), Michael Hordern (The Chief Of Police), Donald Webster (Sergeant Platov), Colin Vancao (The Painter), Ray Mort (The Peasant), Roger Swaine (Kokoshkin's Aide), Jack May (Lieutenant Kirov), Duncan Lewis (The Superintendent Of Police), Conrad Monk (The Police Constable), David Kelsey (The First Guard), John bay (The Second Guard), Duncan Livingstone (Svinin's Batman), Peter Madden (The Bishop), Trevor Peacock (The Hospital Orderly) and Richard Hurndall (The Narrator)

Notes & Trivia :
This episode had a running time of eighty-five minutes and was transmitted from 9:25pm to 10:50pm. Story editor for this episode was Harry Moore. Drawings for this episode were provided by Signum. Music was provided by Norman Kay. This episode is one of three from the first series of The Wednesday Play which still exists.

In Camera
Transmitted : 4th November 1964
Script : Adapted for television by Philip Saville. Translated by Stuart Gilbert from the story by Jean-Paul Sartre
Director : Philip Saville

Publicity : Tonight's Play - In Camera: "Hell," says Jean-Paul Sartre, "is other people", and in tonight's play he sets out to demonstrate this hypothesis. In Camera is a story of three individuals newly dispatched to Hell, utterly dissimilar and united only in their condemnation.

Garcin is a braggart who died before a firing squad for cowardice in Algeria; Estelle is a faithless slut who killed her adulterous child to avoid detection by her rich and elderly husband; and Inez is a Lesbian who wrecked her cousin's life by seducing his wife. Once in Hell - seen as a room with no windows, with bright lights but no switches, and with just three sofas - the trio start working out their everlasting punishment. Since Sartre is the father of modern existentialism, believing that "You are your life - and nothing else," this punishment is simple and utterly hellish. They become each other's tormentors, endlessly going over their lives, masochistically pleading for retribution only to receive sadistic refusals. There is no salvation, either through themselves or through their companions.

As Joseph Garcin, the boasting sham-hero, the distinguished playwright Harold Pinter makes a rare return to his original profession of actor. He has previously worked with Philip Saville, the man who directs tonight's In Camera, when he appeared in his own play, A Night Out. Mister Saville, who handled the ambitious Hamlet At Elsinore, is one of the most perceptive explorers of the television medium, and he experiments with lighting and camera effects to heighten the play's pitiless mood. The cast is completed by one of the brightest talents in the theatre, Jane Arden, as the devouring Inez, Catherine Woodville as the selfish Estelle, and Jonathan Hansen as the valet. Peter Luke is the producer. (Radio Times, October 29, 1964).


Cast :
Harold Pinter (Garcin), Jane Arden (Inez), Catherine Woodville (Estelle) and Jonathan Hansen (The Valet)

Notes & Trivia :
This episode had a running time of eighty-five minutes and was transmitted from 9:25pm to 10:50pm. Story Editor for this episode was Harry Moore. This episode is one of three from the first series of The Wednesday Play which still exists.

Pale Horse, Pale Rider
Transmitted : 11th November 1964
Script : Adapted for television by Fletcher Markle from the story by Katherine Anne Porter
Director : Eric Till

Publicity : Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Tonight's play about the 1918 influenza epidemic was produced in Canada: "A very, very tender and realistic romance," is how Sidney Newman, Head of BBC Television Drama, describes tonight's CBC play, Pale Horse, Pale Rider. Mr Newman recently bought several CBC plays, including Bousille And The Just, shown a few weeks ago. He says this one, a dramatisation of a long story by the real writer's writer Katherine Anne Porter, is a very distinguished work.

Although it is a Canadian production, Pale Horse, Pale Rider has a strong Anglo-American influence: the producer, Eric Till, is an Englishman who went to Canada in 1954 and was trained by CBC; and two promising American actors, Joan Hackett and Keir Dullea, play the leads. The script is the work of Fletcher Markle who spent many years in Hollywood and was a leading radio producer before the second world war. Katherine Anne Porter, the author of the original story, is a Texan, a Roman Catholic, and by now almost the Grand Old Lady of American letters. She has campaigned for President Roosevelt, lived in Paris and Mexico, and been married twice.

She is related to the great O. Henry (Sidney Porter). Her output is small - consisting mainly of short stories, which are invariably stylish, terse, and often deeply symbolic. Her first published collection Flowering Judas (1930) brought her a Guggenheim award and much praise. Later works - particularly her most recent, Ship Of Fools - have met with mixed but generally favourable reception. Pale Horse, Pale Rider is a story about a girl who catches influenza in 1918. As she becomes delirious and recollects in blurred confusion the events of her childhood, a young army recruit finds her and nurses her. (Radio Times, November 5, 1964).


Cast :
Joan Hackett, Keir Dullea, John Drainie, Ruth Springford, Deborah Turnbull and Arch McDonnell

Notes & Trivia :
This episode had a running time of eighty-five minutes and was transmitted from 9:25pm to 10:50pm. This was a filmed production by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.


The Big Breaker
Transmitted : 18th November 1964
Script : Alun Richards
Director : Charles Jarrott

Publicity : Daphne Slater, Nigel Stock and Rupert Davies in tonight's play - The Big Breaker: "She might just as well have stayed on the edge of the water and not got wet at all, than go fiddlin' around, way out of reach of the big breakers". So says Wally Cross of Sybil, his nephew Elvet's wife, and her twenty years of deadly boredom in a small town. But Wally is himself The Big Breaker who comes crashing into Sybil's life. For while recuperating in her house from a mild heart-attack, this ageing yet virile rough diamond comes to the realisation that his erratic and none-too-scrupulous career in Welsh politics no longer means anything. Having decided to live in his own way from now on, Wally, who has always got what he wanted, determines to get Sybil.

This fourth play in the new season of international drama is the work of Alun Richards, Cardiff schoolmaster, novelist, and dramatist whose previous BBC Television productions include Oh Captain, My Captain and The Elephant You Gave Me. In tonight's powerful drama of provincial life, he explores the problem of individual choice under social pressure. For Sybil and Elvet it is really too late. But for the younger generation, there is hope. Making no demands on life, they are better equipped to respond than their elders who are trapped in a life-denying worship of security and respectability. The play has a particularly point of interest in that viewers long familiar with Rupert Davies as Maigret can see him in a completely different role as the Welsh man of action, Wally Cross. In the production directed by Charles Jarrott, Sybil is played by Daphne Slater, while Nigel Stock appears as Elvet, plotting the downfall of his uncle: "County Councillor Wallace Cross … thirty years of public life, thirty years of public malpractice". (Radio Times, November 12, 1964).


Cast :
Rupert Davies (Councillor Wally Cross), Nigel Stock (Elvet), Daphne Slater (Sybil), Edward Evans (Will-i-Willis), Meg Wynn Owen (Josie) and Leonard Cracknell (Nigel)

Notes & Trivia :
This episode had a running time of ninety minutes and was transmitted from 9:25pm to 10:55pm. Story editor for this episode was Harry Moore. Film Cameraman for this episode was Peter Sargeant. Film Editor for this episode was John Griffiths.


Mr Douglas
Transmitted : 25th November 1964
Script : John Prebble
Director : Gilchrist Calder

Publicity : The Wednesday Play with Michael Goodliffe as Mister Douglas: The year is 1761, and the London crowd is out in the streets in force to celebrate the forthcoming coronation of King George III. But in a house in Cornhill owned by Mr Grant, a merchant late of Edinburgh, there is a none-too-welcome guest who once came very close to wearing the crown which the Hanoverian is about to assume. Such is the extraordinary but largely factual situation upon which tonight's play opens.

The guest, who calls himself "Mr Douglas", is a run-to-seed middle-aged man who drinks far too much and is also a lecher. But sixteen years ago, before the Redcoats broke the Highlanders at Culloden, he had gone under different and more romantic names: the Chevalier, the Pretender, or Bonnie Prince Charlie. Some streak of masochism has brought him back from his wandering Continental exile to witness the triumph of another "German Geordie", and his incognito visit brings about a miniature repetition of the classic Scottish pattern of folly and betrayal which brought him down in the '45.

The author of Mister Douglas is John Prebble, a versatile ex-journalist whose large output has included the script for the enormously successful film Zulu. In tonight's play he shows that his knowledge of eighteenth-century London and of Scottish history is equal to his knowledge of nineteenth-century South Africa. The ageing Pretender is played tonight by Michael Goodliffe, with Laurence Hardy as his host, Jean Anderson as Mistress Grant, and Claire Nielson as their daughter Alison - upon whom the rather watery royal eye rests. The director is Gilchrist Calder. (Radio Times, November 19, 1964).


Synopsis :
The action of the play takes place in London in September 1761, at the time of the Coronation of King George III.

Cast :
Michael Goodliffe (Mr Douglas), Jean Anderson (Mrs Grant), Laurence Hardy (Mr Grant), Claire Nielson (Alison Grant), Gary Bond (James Nash) and Margo Croan (Elspet)

Notes & Trivia :
This episode had a running time of seventy minutes and was transmitted from 9:25pm to 10:35pm. Story Editor for this episode was Harry Moore. This episode is one of three from the first series of The Wednesday Play which still exists.


Malatesta
Transmitted : 2nd December 1964
Script : Adapted by Rosemary Hill. Translated by Jonathan Griffin from the story by Henry de Montherlant
Director : Christopher Morahan

Publicity : Wednesday Play - Malatesta: The Italian Renaissance, Europe's first awakening from the long night which followed the fall of Rome, produced an extraordinary type of man. On the one hand a scholar and amateur of the newly flourishing arts, the Renaissance man was often at the same time a calmly ruthless gangster. Tonight's play is about just such a person, Sigismondo Malatesta. He was a fifteenth-century condottiere, or "free-lance" in the original sense, who grew immensely rich by hiring his services as a general to any one of Italy's incessantly warring princes while concurrently acting as a cultivated patron of the arts. Henry de Montherlant, author of the play, finds in Malatesta the direct inversion of his usual type of hero.

In plays like The Master Of Santiago, seen earlier this year on BBC Television, he depicted a man austerely dedicated to his own impossibly lofty code; here he examines a profane saint, equally dedicated to the pursuit of unmitigated power and evil. As the play opens, Malatesta (Patrick Wymark) has returned to his palace in Rimini after suppressing a rising with the utmost savagery. Until the next campaign he can relax in the company of painters and savants; but soon there comes news that his power is threatened by the Pope, and at once the utterly evil side of his character reasserts itself. Starring with Patrick Wymark is Jessica Dunning as his wife Isotta, and the director is Christopher Morahan who directed the earlier Montherlant work for television. The translation from the French is by Jonathan Griffin. (Radio Times, November 26, 1964).


Cast :
Patrick Wymark (Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta), Jessica Dunning (Isotta da Rimini), John Hollis (Sacramoro), Cyril Shaps (Porcellio), Edward Burnham (Basinio), Michael Warren (Cinquedenti), Roger Croucher (Venieri, Lord of Camerino), Norman Scase (Papal Chamberlain), John Glyn-Jones (Pope Paul), Brown Derby (Cardinal Marcanova), Blake Butler (The Cardinal Of Pavia), Dallas Cavell (Scarampa), Neil Robinson (Narni), Jack Melford (Platina), Reginald Jessup (Cardinal Borgia), David Grey (Monsignor Perugia), Judy Geeson (Vanella), Lala Lloyd (Aloysia) and David March (The Narrator)

Notes & Trivia :
This episode had a running time of ninety-five minutes and was transmitted from 9:25pm to 11:00pm. Fight sequences for this episode were arranged by Derek Ware. Costumes for this episode were supervised by Michael Endacott. Make-Up for this episode was supervised by Ann Ferriggi. Music for this episode was provided by Richard Rodney Bennett. Script Editor for this episode was Harry Moore.


The July Plot
Transmitted : 9th December 1964
Script : Roger Manvell. Based on the book by Roger Manvell and Heinrich Fraenkel
Director : Rudolph Cartier

Publicity : The July Plot - Roger Manvell, the author of tonight's play, outlines its historical background: Twenty years ago, on July 20, 1944, the most carefully organised of the many attempts to kill Hitler all but succeeded. A senior staff officer in the German Army, Colonel von Stauffenberg, whose war wounds had left him with a mutilated hand, managed to place a live bomb under a table at Hitler's feet. A provisional government, headed by General Ludwig Beck, stood ready to take over and negotiate at once to bring peace back to Europe. Success would have meant the shortening of the war by ten months; hundreds of thousands of lives would have been saved; and the shape of Europe might well have been very different from what it is today. But the attempt failed in the most tragic circumstances.

Tonight's play, The July Plot, tries to show why. Undoubtedly certain elements of bad luck influenced the conduct of the plotters. But the real reasons for failure lie far deeper and are of a nature that affects us all. The leaders in the attempt were men of the bravest order and of the highest principles, but the awkward question has to be faced: were they too good morally to make efficient and ruthless conspirators against an enemy as tough as the Nazis? Did they, with their differences in age, temperament, and background, understand each other well enough to create a victorious team? A year's research conducted by Heinrich Fraenkel in Germany lies behind the interpretation of events and characters in the play. Every surviving major witness of "the day" helped us to reconstruct this heroic action in its most human terms.

The story is intensely moving, with something of the concentration in action and depth of theme which were characteristic of Greek tragedy. These few men, pitted against the whole machinery of Nazi tyranny, brought their desperate attempt to within a hair's breadth of success. They undertook what they did not only for the honour of Germany but for the honour of all mankind in a world grown sick with violence. The director of tonight's play, Rudolph Cartier, who painted a large canvas of German war-history in his production of "Stalingrad", is mainly restricted in "The July Plot" to one background: the German War Office in Berlin. Richard Henry, the designer, has re-created that vast building, with its corridors, offices, courtyard, stairs, and cellars, exactly as it stood before it was partly destroyed in the last year of the war. Only in the short prologue is Hitler's Headquarters in Rastenburg, East Prussia, shown. (Radio Times, December 3, 1964 - Article by Roger Manvell).


Synopsis :
Introduced by Tom Driberg, MP. The action takes place at Hitler's headquarters at Rastenburg, East Prussia, and at the German War Office in Berlin on July 28th, 1944.

Cast :
John Carson (Colonel Claus Schenk Count von Stauffenberg), Charles Lloyd Pack (General Erich Hoepner), Graham Leaman (A Receptionist), Patricia Denys (Delia Ziegler), Laurie Leigh (Anni Schmidt), Peter Copley (General Friedrich Olbright), Michael Anthony (Colonel Albrecht Sir Mertz von Quirnheim), Joseph Furst (General Fitz Fromm), Peter Claughton (An Adjutant), Cyril Luckham (General-Colonel Ludwig Beck), Mark Petersen (Lieutenant Ewald von Kleist), Clive Russell (Lieutenant Ludwig von Hammerstein), Graeme Brock (Captain Hans Fritzsche), John Lee (First Lieutenant Werner von Haeften), John Abineri (A Colonel), Jeffrey Wickham (A Major), John Paul (Doctor Bernd Gisevius), Barry Keegan (S.S General Count von Helidorf), Thomas Gallagher (S.S Oberfuhrer Piffraeder) and Geoffrey Matthews (The Radio Announcer)

Notes & Trivia :
This episode had a running time of ninety-five minutes and was transmitted from 9:25pm to 11:00pm. Wardrobe for this episode was supervised by Tony Pearce. Make-Up for this episode was supervised by Cecile Fox. Film Cameraman for this episode was Ken Wetsbury. Film Editor for this episode was Robert Rymer. Story Editor for this episode was Rosemary Hill.


First Love
Transmitted : 16th December 1964
Script : From the story by Ivan Turgenev
Director : Mario Prizek

Publicity : First Love: This week's Wednesday Play is very much an international venture - a Canadian production of an English version of a Russian short story. Ivan Turgenev's First Love is a lyrical, gentle piece of work; the study of a boy's first infatuation with a girl older than himself - a girl, moreover, who regards all those who are attracted to her as just so many trophies for her collection. With quiet perception it recounts how the boy Vladimir learns the old lesson that love lights where it will, and that it can be close to cruelty. Its author, best known for A Month In The Country, is often described as a forerunner of Chekhov in that he, like Chekhov, was much concerned with the slow dissolution of upper-class Russian society in the nineteenth century. A landowner and liberal who freed his thousands of serfs, Turgenev was also an extremely sensitive man whose own experience was close to that of the boy Vladimir in First Love; for years he suffered a quite hopeless and unreturned passion for a famous singer of his day. Zinaida, the girl who toys with men's affections, is played tonight by a British actress, Heather Sears. Miss Sears has starred in many films including Room At The Top, Sons And Lovers, and The Story Of Esther Costello, in the stage production of Look Back In Anger, and in An Inspector Calls for television. She is supported by beautifully delicate playing from the Canadian cast. (Radio Times, December 10, 1964).

Synopsis :
A boy finds his childhood slipping away from him as he discovers the difference between infatuation and true love. Ivan Turgenev's subtly-woven and poetic story set in nineteenth-century Russia.

Cast :
Heather Sears (Zinaida), Richard Monette (Vladimir), Paul Harding (Rostov), Jane Mallett (Princess Zasiokina), Moya Fenwick (Madame Rostov), Claude Bede (Doctor Lushin), Ronald Hartmann (Count Malevensky), Christopher Newton (Belovzorov), Timothy Findlay (Maidenov), Gillie Fenwick (Nirmatsky), Jay Shannon (The Hotel Clerk), Gerald Parkes (Guvariov), Jacob Reinglass (Vonifaty) and George Allen (Volodya)

Notes & Trivia :
This episode had a running time of eighty-five minutes and was transmitted from 9:25pm to 10:50pm.


Please note synopsis are taken from the original Radio Times listings for the day of transmission.
© Matthew Lee, 2004