By Eve McAdam
A CURIOUS Easter on TV. Many programmes of sincerity and beauty celebrated Easter in the traditional way, joyfully and uncritically. Others analysed or debated the significance of Easter with such questions as Do you believe in the Resurrection? (Home's Way of Life), Dead or Alive? (Meeting Point). What does Easter mean to you? (The Sunday Break), If I4e came again. would we recognize Christ ? (Let's Imagine).
At this time, the heart of the Christian faith, many may have preferred to give controversial questions a miss, but, as it turned out, these programmes studded the Easter landscape with cliffs and precipices well worth climbing.
The essence of Faster was experienced, however, in those programmes unaccompanied with cerebral if's and but's, as in the two magnificent programmes of music from the BBC on Good Friday. These were Haydn's "Passion" from the Anglican Cathedral of St. David's in Pembrokeshire, and a part of Bach's "St. John's Passion" filmed in the Gothic Church of Friedberg and the Roman Basilica of Eberbach Monastery in Heesen. Of the many church services surely the most beautiful was the Easter Vigil and Mass sent out by the BBC from the Priory Church of Christ the King at Cockfosters, London.
Before lacing up my climbing hoots for the cliffs and precipices, let me say something of the programme. "The Night Before the Execution", by Jack Shepherd, screened by ATV on Easter Sunday. that gave me more satisfaction than all the others because, from a TV point of. view, it perfectly discharged. its function.
After all. the TV religious programme cannot replace the church service, nor can it provide (though it seems to be trying to) a brand of TV Christianity. TV should aim
at something else in its religious programmes. This "Something Else" is not analysed and examined enough by producers who rarely attempt original expression in TV terms of religious subjects. This column has hammered away at the necessity of commissioning writers to work on religious subjects. Jack Shepherd is one of the few writers (Christopher Hollis is another) who seems to be commissioned to work this seam. He has dramatised six religious themes during the past two years, the best of them being "Inquest at Golgotha" and the "Antioch Spy Trihurter'. Last Sunday's piece was his best so far.
Jack Shepherd, who is 43, a Quaker, spent ten years in China as a film producer, and started up TV in Hong Kong. He works closely with his producer, formerly Michael Recldington, these days Gordon Reece, He told me, "We are trying to get away from the old idea of the religious programme which tried to tell people what they ought to think and do. What I try to do is to present evidence, and so stimulate a person to think, question, and make up his own mind."
Shepherd's play was not notable for his portrayal of the two thieves, as he intended, but, in my opinion, for the masterly characterisation of Barabbas, superbly played by Patrick Wymark.
As for the increasing number of discussion programmes in which the Christian religion stands, as it were, on trial, they can be, at times, very moving, and at others, irritating.
Home's "Resurrected Lives" on Easter evening was a spell-binder which would like to hear again. Here a number of people, scientists. business men, housewives, teachers and others, spoke of their faith, or lack of it. Two stories in particular were memorable, that of the Christian Jewess Judith, in the grip of hatred, and of A. C. Bridge, an atheist for twenty years. who was finally ordained a priest of the Anglican Church: it was he who introduced the programme.
In contrast, the TV programme, "Let's Imagine", on Good Friday, was a lightweight, based on the gimmicky idea "If Christ came today, where would He come? What would He criticise and etc." I am allergic to this kind of idea, and found this one particularly unfavourable with its mixture of levity and pomposity. The ubiquitous Tom Driberg. the Socialist M.P., was not at his best when he said if Christ came among us it would not be as a Roy Thomson, nor would he be found in South Kensington or in a religious programme on TV.
Of the plays last week, the two outstanding were the BBC's production of "The Affair" (April 12), Ronald Millar's skilful adaptation of C. P. Snow's novel, and Associated-Rediffusion's delicious and deft comedy, "The Two-seater Bachelor Days" by Paul Jones, now an established TV playwright.