This blood-curdling plea for understanding ends the first episode ot‘ (‘o/(l lxtmrus. Set in AD2368. Potter‘s final statement presents an agonised vision ot' a tonne world in which the cryogenically li‘o/cn head ol' 2()th century screenwriter Daniel Feeld (played by Albert Finney) has been thawed out so that others can begin to plunder his memories for commercial gain. In this scene. repeated at least three times in the tour-part serial. it is clear Potter is using Feeld as a mouthpiece to make his own feelings very public. Potter had a hatred of literary biography and this is his anguished plea from beyond the grave not to make him the latest cog in what is now an insatiable publishing machine.
‘I despise biographiesf Potter told me when I interviewed him in the early 90s. "l‘hey're hidden novels . . . People want to know “ls this true?” which is a very curious question to ask about a play.’ He stated he was concerned - ‘not in any del'ensiye way‘. but as a writer — that
Potter reached the parts other television dramas could not reach: Eastenders on acid, it you like.
everyone thought the key to understanding his work was in his own autobiography. ‘when ljust know that that is not the case'. He thought people had ‘lost sight of what t'iction is'.
In ('n/(l Lamrux. the hatred has become a tear that once the writer is dead. others will exploit his lil‘e for their own commercial gain. If this is the metaphor behind the serial‘s grotesque image of a writer‘s head plugged into someone else‘s machine and systematically drained ol memory. it could smack of literary paranoia — but the biographical bandwagon is already rolling over Potter's grave.
liven before the ﬁnal plays have been broadcast. a ‘quickie' biography has appeared in the shops and now Potter‘s own estate is to press ahead with an ‘ot'l'icial‘ one against the late writer‘s wishes. literary biographies are guaranteed money-spinners. and dead writers sell best because they cannot answer back. Much ol' Potter‘s work was” concerned with the theme ot‘ betrayal. and one wonders what he would have had to say about a situation where those closest to him have opted to dredge up the traumas ot his private life for the sake of a few dollars more.
It this is to be condemned. perhaps we should not let it cloud ouriudgements ol‘the l'inal works too much. since in anyone’s estimation these are remarkable personal testatnents — not to the biographical ‘l'acts' ot' Potter’s life. but to the indomitability of his spirit. They are truly ama/ing in their range and control -— an astonishing det'iance ol‘death. .»\s the song in the karaoke machine might say when Potter‘s last plays are transmitted. ‘Don't Look Back In Anger". .\'or even in sorrow. Just watch in wonder.
Karaoke begins on li’l§('/ on Sunday 28 April. with repeats on ('liunne/ 4 from Monday 3‘) April: ('u/i/ l.u:uru.s begins (Ht ('ltunne/ 4 on Sunday 3/) May. with re/ieuts ()It BIK'I from .lImu/uy 27 May. Potter's .\’('I'l‘/?I.\“/i)l' t/ie serials ure pu/i/is/Iet/ by l-‘u/ier A" Faber (II [7.99. xi video (if. the Hit/tout Hill/s interview uml Potter’s .lle’litgeurt l.eeture ut the /()‘).i’ Edinburgh Television Festival is released by
Channel 4 Video at £14.99. ./()/III ('(mk is author (if/)ennis l’otter: .-l Lite On Screen (Mane/tester
University Press. l995t.
DENNIS POTTER FEATURE
Sattron Burrows and Albert Finney in Karaoke (top) and Diane Ladd in Cold Lazarus (above)
The List l‘) Apr-2 May I99613