Play For One— a new drama series from BBC Scotland. Push The Boat Out from the Renfrew Ferry. plus radio. television and videos reviewed.
LISTINGS: WEEK ONE 69 WEEK TWO 70
V DRAMA .
One on one
For the first time since Bill Forsyth’s Andrina was broadcast in 1981. BBC Scotland has produced a drama series for Scottish consumption. Mark Fisher has a dialogue about monologues with producer David Blair.
Things are not so healthy in the world ofTV drama. If the proposed closure of the B BC‘s Script Unit in London goes ahead. some poor sucker will be left with the problem of how to deal with the 16.000 or so unsolicited scripts that drop through the letter box each year. And what slim chance currently exists ofgiving that undiscovered first-timer their lucky break. not to mention the valuable nurturing and development of aspiring dramatists. will disappear overnight. The Television Drama Department at BBC Scotland. however. is going against the grain by launching its first series ofplays designed for Scottish consumption in ten years.
Plays For One is a strand of four half-hour. one person plays. written by David Ashton. Donna Franceschild. Jessie Kesson and Ann Marie Di Mambro. They range from the street-wise patter ofa battered girlfriend played by Katie Murphy in Franceschild‘s Bobbin ' and Weavin '. to the lyrical memories of an Aberdeenshire orphanage in Kesson‘s Reunion. Those two plays were commissioned specially for the series. the other two. Ashton‘s Stations and Di Mambro‘s Joe. were originally written for the stage and first performed by Oxygen House and Annexe Theatre (‘ompany respectively.
David Blair. the series producer and director of
Andrew Keir stars as an old soldierin ‘Stations’ by David Ashton - the first offour one person plays.
two of the plays. is cautiously happy that after so long relying on budgets laid down by London. a niche has been found in BBC Scotland‘s own funds. ‘ln this case it‘s paradoxical.‘ he says. ‘because these plays represent not an alternative to major plays. but an alternative to nothing. which is what opt-out Scottish drama has been for the past decade. By and large it was unknown territory: both the fact that we were doing drama not funded by London and that. from the point of view of the guy who purveys the money in here. he could get a lot more television. another quiz series or whatever. for less money.
‘I laving said that.‘ he continues. ‘the four plays probably cost less than a normal hour‘s drama on television. I look at it as us starting out. that‘s the first step we‘ve made. so inevitably it‘s very small scale. We‘re looking at other options now that aren‘t necessarily monologues.‘
Not that this series is in any way second rate. Blair prefers to call them ‘plays‘ as opposed to ‘monologues‘. to emphasise that the craft of the actor and director is as vital to the finished product as the undoubted skills of the writer. In the theatre the audience‘s attention is
automatically focused on the play. whereas on screen there is a continual demand for new images. new angles. new focus. which could easily detract from the quality of the writing. The Play For One series neatly overcomes this danger by the use of unobtrusive camerawork and. in the case of Stations and Bobbin ' and Weavin '. on location filming.
‘Making it work visually is part of the challenge.‘ Blair agrees. ‘lt‘d be very easy just to cover it and say “here‘s the wide shot. here‘s the title shot and this is something that‘s going to speak for the next 30 minutes“. I think it was the right decision to take the two that we did outside. Some ofthe angles 1 was able to achieve in the church in Stations. I‘d never have been able to achieve in any other environment.‘
Blair is committed to the idea ofdeveloping television writers. as opposed to the lazy alternative ofplucking successful dramatists from the theatre and expecting them to adapt instinctively to the demands of the screen. He‘s pleased that all four Play For One writers. for example. are now working on further projects for the BBC. ‘The relationship with the theatre is important.‘ he says. ‘but because of the present climate. we have to be a bit wary. The thing that worries me about the scale of this operation is that the plays are great as long as they don‘t become an alternative to the traditions we‘ve had in television drama. I would hope that if this monologue season develops further. there will be new writers and it will be fundamentally a showcase for new talent. I think there is a danger that people who do not understand production values will say. “well. that‘s great. forget the film. we‘ll take that from the Citz‘. shoot it. and that from the Lyceum and shoot it“. You can cheapen the concept and in a sense you‘re ripping off the people who are paying the license fee. Television drama is one of those terrible areas that everyone complains about the cost. but it‘s something that people aren‘t going to miss until it‘s not there.‘ Play For One begins on B BC] with Stations. Tue 5 Mar, 9.30pm, then every Tuesday at the same time for four weeks.
For many people, the only reason for waking up at all in the morning is the prospect of listening to Brian Redhead’s soothing, geordie tones on Radio 4‘s Today programme. Witty, he never acerbic, Redhead battles with whingeing MPs and calmly steersa i faithful audience through those first i tricky hours of daylight. 1 What a disappointment, then, to tune l into the recent Radio 4 Debate on the British system of policing - chaired by our Brian—only to find that, far from debating the point, there seemed to be
Brian Redhead: a voice to wake-op to.
almost no spontaneous contribution whatsoever. it was the first in the ‘ series, so maybe there is hope for the
(Sun 24, 8pm).
remaining two, the first of which will
: get to grips with John Major's promise
I to make Britain a classless society by
the year 2000. John Redwood MP will
argue that Britain is rapidly becoming
classless and Brian Gould, Shadow Environment Secretary will disagree
himself for a change and Edi Stark's interviewing technique gets some interesting answers (The Achievers Tue 1.30pm).
Alan Bennett's series of Talking Heads is still running (Radio 4, Sundays, 2.30pm), and now his stage hit, Kafka's Dick, is to be broadcast on
Much more entertaining was Richard Demarco - Scottish artist and entrepreneur- who was one in a series of ‘Achievers’ presently being featured on Radio Scotland. He revealed to Edi
I Stark that his only possession is a
beat-up Mini and one of his best friends
I is five years old. Cynics would find
nothing surprising in that, but it was good to hear Demarco speak for
Radio 3 (Sun 24 7.30pm). In it, the long-dead Kafka, his best friend and his father turn up in the north of England, on the doorstep of a suburban house owned by a boring insurance salesman and his sexually frustrated wife. Kafka, itturns out, has an embarrassing personal problem. Ouite apart from being dead, that is. (Miranda France)
The List 22 February —— 7 March 109167