3 v DDCUMENTAR
Barbed- wire love
Relationships can be fraught
' enough without politics getting in ' the way. Sue Wilson previewsA Love Divided. a new Channel 4 documentary about love in a dangerous climate.
While it‘s accepted that the course oftruc love rarely runs smooth. most ofus think ofthe bumps being caused by problems like jealousy or insecurity. In some societies. however. falling in love can mean risking arrest. abuse. violence and :ven death. A new (‘hannel Four series. A Love
Jerusalem. Johannesburg. Belfast and Berlin - cities whose inhabitants are divided by political. cultural. religious and racial pressures.
Each programme centres on a ‘mixed‘ couple — Arab-Jewish. black-white. Catholic-Protestant and East-West — illustrating how the issues we hear about on the news actually affect the people who live with them. In Israel. for instance. the ‘Palestinian problem‘ (which ironically. was what brought Etti and Farouk together— they met at a demonstration against the West Bank/Gaza Strip , occupations) meant Etti was attacked by her neighbours for living with an Arab. Farouk lost his job and was forced to move out of the city to his family village. There is no civil marriage in lsrael. so one of them would have to change religion in order to marry. With no sign of an end to the Middle East‘s problems. they face an uncertain future. Did they ever question whether it was all worth it'.’ ‘I don‘t think that really comes into it.‘ says producer Margaret Williams. ‘Ifyou‘re in
Divided. looks at love and life in four such places — ‘
' Damp ﬁne
1974. Harold Wilson was PM, there were a couple at general elections, Gary Glitter made a comeback. and Scotland tailed to quality tor the second round oi the World Cup on goal difference. Just anotheryearthen, except torthe quiet stirrings Ola new . sitcom that was so downbeat it made Steptoe And Son look like The Gang Show. Yorkshire Television‘s Rising Damp,
happily restored tO our screens this
week on Channel 4, introduced us to
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love with someone. it is worth while. lfyou‘re doing what you believe in. you don‘t start questioning it because other people attack you. I think if anything. the pressures have made the bond between the couples stronger.‘
In some cases. the programme makers themselves got a taste of the kind of problems they were investigating. ‘ln Berlin. for instance. we were initially working in the East before the Wall came down. and we had to shoot clandestinely. it was basically just Ron (Ron Orders. Williams‘ co-producer) and I with the equipment, hiding in doorways, filming with the camera concealed in a bag. We were chased by the Stasi a couple of times. which was quite frightening.‘
The situation in Germany. ofcourse. has changed radically since then. as it has in South Africa. and the programmes have ended up with a balance between places where things are improving. and those like Israel and Ulster where the obstacles seem as insurmountable as ever. although this was unintentional. ‘When we chose Berlin we didn‘t know the Wall was going to come down. and when we decided on Johannesburg we had no idea that Mandela was going to be freed.‘ explains Williams. ‘We were hoping to have the
Farouk and Ehi trorn Jerusalem: A Love Divided
. same influence in Belfast and Jerusalem. but so far
it hasn‘t happened. We chose these cities simply because they seemed to us to give a good idea of different cultures. societies. religions: all the
things which can divide people.‘
The programme on the Belfast couple was in some ways the most problematic of all to make. ‘lt took a long time to find anyone in Belfast who was prepared to do it.’ explains Margaret Williams. ‘We eventually met a couple through a personal contact. who agreed to take part because they felt why should they hide. cover up that one was a Catholic and one a Protestant? But shortly before shooting. her father said he didn’t want them to do it — anyone taking a chance like that in Northern Ireland is at huge risk of reprisals — so we could only go ahead ifwe didn‘t show their faces. It doesn‘t affect them so much in their daily lives— nearly a third of marriages in Belfast are mixed — but if there‘s a situation where someone doesn‘t like the look ofyou. and you‘re on television. you‘re putting yourself up as a target. lt‘s ironic. really. that the only place where we couldn‘t say who the couple were is the one closest to home.’
; A Love Divided begins on Channel 4 on Monday 3 f June at 9pm.
Rigsby, a characterthat deserves to be
recognised as one at the iinest ever
creations of the halt-hour comedy
l genre. Leonard Rossiter's portrayal Oi
. the sell-styled aristocrat Oi bedsitter
I land, misanthrope and bigot against
i anything and everything, ranks with the
I best, including his own Reggie Perrin.
' Rigsby’s delusions of grandeur, his
' pomposity, his delight in baiting
I long-haired student Alan (Richard Beckinsale) and the black intellectual
' Philip (Don Warrington) proved
l irresistable with viewer's in the 70s.
’ The humour has aged well despite occasional lapses into racism
; (although never as crude as in Love Thy
, Neighbour or On The Buses). Rigsby’s
I obsession with the lading violet Ruth (Frances de la Tour) is still slightly
touching, with the seediness at a middle-aged loservery much to the lore. Like the best sitcoms, it occasionally avoids the easy one-liners to allow tor a bit at character development and subtlety.
Writer Eric Chappell gave up working as an auditor tor the electricity board a lew months before penning this. Despite a string at TV sitcoms since (Only When I Laugh, The Bounder, Duty Free, Home To Roost, Singles, etc) he has yet to match the chemistry Ol Rising Damp, its well-observed humour made all the more poignant by the subsequent deaths Oi its stars Leonard Rossiter and Richard Beckinsale.
Rising Damp is on Channel 4 on 6 June at 8.30pm.
68The List3l May—13June 1991