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

Sleeping Dogs To Welsh Innocents

Between October 1967 and April 1969, The Wednesday Play delivered fifty evenings of unrivalled entertainment to the masses. Although somewhat falling short of their best (which, remarkably, had been delivered in the space of one entire season as opposed to a steady accumulation of absolute and unquestionable "classics"), the series still sustained the prestige of a quality vessel for drama which seemingly knew no limits, and practically eclipsed the success of Sydney Newman's ITV brainchild Armchair Theatre.

Pitchi Poi
The introduction of new producers Graeme Macdonald, Irene Shubik and Pharic Maclaren (working from the BBC Scotland studios and delivering one notable Scottish play per season for the remainder of The Wednesday Play) served to "mix-it-up" as it were, injecting new blood into the production structure of the series and ensuring that the content and presentation never remained stale or stilted. The capacity of the series to entertainment, surprise, court controversy and blur the lines between drama, comedy, comedy-drama and drama-documentary continued unabated, with the more notable successes of the seventh and eighth seasons of The Wednesday Play proving to be Pitchi Poi (another presentation under the banner title of The Largest Theatre In The World), Robert Muller's Death Of A Private (providing a dramatic powerful role for Dudley Sutton), the conclusion of Nemone Lethbridge's delightfully comic trilogy in An Officer Of The Court, David Mercer's Let's Murder Vivaldi, John Mortimer's comic offering, Infidelity Took Place, a moving portrait of unrequited homosexual attraction in Spoiled (a magnificent performance from Michael Craig), J B Priestley's Anyone For Tennis? (a marvellous example of the sort of play The Wednesday Play would never normally be associated with, but turned on its head in terms of content and presentation to the extent that the play became a wonderful send-up of the very characters and viewership it was never disposed to serve), the delightful Scottish play The Lower Largo Sequence and Jean Marsh's moving and heart-wrenching performance in A Bit Of Crucifixion, Father (which concerned itself with a large Catholic family and the dilemma facing the matriarch when she has to choose between her own continuing well-being and an abortion).

On The Eve of Publication

A Beast With Two Backs

Death Of A Private

Dennis Potter delivered two controversial and high-profile plays in the form of A Beast With Two Backs (set in the Forest of Dean and concerning a brutal death seemingly at the hands of a roaming bear) and Son Of Man (an exploration of Jesus the Man as opposed to Jesus the Messiah, and the first play Potter was justly proud of having produced), and joining such august company was the start of a wonderful David Mercer trilogy, On The Eve Of Publication (which examined cross-generational relationships and the power of one man), the story of which would continue in the 1970 plays The Cellar And The Almond Tree and Emma's Time (the last of which afforded Michele Dotrice pride of place as the woman in a late controversial writer's life and her isolation following his death). Fay Weldon's wonderfully cynical view of cigarette advertising in Smoke Screen, and Ann Beach's memorable portrayal of a relative Welsh innocent in Blodwen, Home From Rachel's Marriage were also notable fixtures over the course of fifty remarkably consistent editions in the series.

Shubik and Macdonald's production expertise had fostered a rich variety of plays which commanded audience attention and sustained critical acclaim, which enjoyed perfect visual realisation at the hands of directors of the prestige of Roderick Graham, Waris Hussein, Gilchrist Calder, Moira Armstrong, Kenneth Loach and Herbert Wise. However, over the course of these plays, audience figures had markedly risen and fallen in accordance with the relative level of controversy associated with the content, and, as The Wednesday Play steadily became a victim of its own success, disconcerting rumblings within the BBC Television hierarchy were planning to bring this high-profile series to an end…unless a solution could be found.

© Matthew Lee, 2004