An opening for better plays
By Eve McAdam
111ILRL seems to be a jack
ing-up of TV drama standards: can this be, already. first fruits of the Pilkington Report?
It is evident the Report has raised the sights of all writers and given the enterprising and clever ones just the kind of encouragement they need to give their best to TV.
The writer is a sensitive plant, wilts without praise and money, and can easily go sour on his medium. If circumstances force him to slave on at anything he despises, he will come to hate himself. which is precisely what was happening before Pilkington came in. But with the Report saying out Intid all the things the writer was saying in private, a minor renaissance has started in script departments and among the freelances.
"Z Cars." always good, surpassed itself upon its return last week. John Hopkins in "On Watch -Newtown" demonstrated even more complex ways of manipulating the documentary technique of this fine series. The complexity of this particular script was invigorating because TV audiences are growing up and out of old ways of story-tel I ing.
Romilly Cavan's "Charley was my Darling" in BBC's "The Sunday Night Play" is another instance of a good writer surpassing herself. Here, too, the documentary technique was effectively used to portray the last hours in the life of a boy about to be hanged.
This turned out to be one of the most moving plays about capital punishment ever seen on TV-arid there have been many good ones (amongst them Ludovic Kennedy's "Murder Story", and Brendan Behan's "The Quare Fellow"). Miss Cavan's most successful character was Barbara, through whom she achieved extraordinary results by Si lence.
Adventure series The BBC gave another woman eriter. Margaret Lane, a chance to show her paces. too, though she was not in the same class as Romilly Cavan.
Miss Lane had her go in the "Adventure" series last Thursday, and it was pleasant for viewers to find a woman in a programme which has become an almost
exclusive male mewl e. But unlike Romilly Cavan. Miss I sine did not try es experiment in give an original slant to the traveller's-tale technique. and thus she failed to do justice to herself and to her subject. Her subject was a peerless one: C. J. P. lonides, the great snake man of Africa. Had no one heard about him. this could have been rated a good programme. But. as everyone knows, an excellent biography has appeared about brides. and when he came to London two years ago. he was widely interviewed and appeared on TV. Miss I.ane's line should have been to present her adventure, her six-week stay with lonides in Tanganyika. from a personal angle, projecting the warmth, courage, and foibles of this lovable eccentric, and at the same time projecting her own part as a snake-catcher in a lively. humorous way, a kind of "The Snake and 1". '
What came over, however. was a cold. impersonal report, devoid of humour. in places of wordy "literary" descrintions ("The snake was like a green rihbon in the trees") and. at times, too, she sounded condescending. She said that during the first few weeks Tonides "talked my head off", and she had to wait "for a second wind" to cope with his flow of words. This seems to imply that Ionides told her a great deal more about snakes and himself than we heard on the programme. Once or twice, it is true, a recording of his voice was heard. but for the rest of the time the soundtrack was devoted to the beautiful. modulated. cold voice of the narrator. Unlike Miss Lane. viewers at no time felt they were having more of trinities than they could take.
New experiments in story-telling we must have, but it sell takes a lot to beat the well-told yarn by the experienced raconteur. Two programmes last week proved this. One was the BBC's five-minute "Sunday Story". in which David Kossoff started "The Stranger". about Tobias. (Where I am concerned. and everyone else, too, I hope he goes on telling it for ever.) The other fine story came in Home's "The Good Pippo", This was a dramatised account of the merry saint. St. Philip Neri, and was the work of Norman Painting in collaboration with Fr. Michael Inay of the Birmingham Oratory.
Sunday's religious programmes were. without exception. full or interest. BBC's "The Sunday 13reak" presented more controversial issues on "the bulge'', and in BBC's "Meeting Point" viewers had a chance to hear the courageous Aneliean Bishop, the Rt. Rev Ambrose Reeves. formerly Bishop of Johannesburg. He talked to an old friend. the African, Oliver Tamils), Deputy President of the African National Congress. Tambo's opinions about South Africa were troubling. He said: "I am pessimistic about the future of the Church in South Africa. It has little chance of survival." But he said. later. "When we Africans have the opportunity to govern we will demonstrate by our tolerance towards the whites. the true spirit of Christianity".
ATV's mounting of a programme on Road Safety in "About Religion". was Sunday's outstandine television. Without boldness and imaginative treatment. this could have been a boring half-hour. But it was so good that it grinned and horrified. it also revealed the motorist to himself in a way that has never hcfore been done.
Two bishops. Bishon Guy and Bishop Holland. of Portsmouth analysed human nature behind the wheel of a car arid made penetrat ing and profound observations which shook me. This is a programme which sheuld be repeated.