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‘Drama She Wrote’ season at BFI Southbank, September-October 2018

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Lane Lapotaire in ‘Play for Today: The Other Woman’ (BBC, 6 January 1976)

We are pleased to be able to announce details of the ‘Drama She Wrote’ season, held at BFI Southbank this September and October, curated by Dick Fiddy and Billy Smart. The season presents a range of neglected TV dramas by women writers from the ’50s to the ’70s. The full line-up is:

Drama She Wrote: A season showcasing pioneering female writers of the television play.

“Why are you not making drama by female writers?” – Question posed in an open letter to TV execs in 2018, signed by c.80 UK-based female scriptwriters

Following hot on the heels of that open letter, in May 2018 the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain published a damning report highlighting the lack of women writers in the British film and TV industry. Although some TV genres (eg soaps, children’s) have a fair proportion of female writers, in the most critically regarded and prestigious forms (serials and single dramas) the story is very different. This is not a new phenomenon: between the 1950s and 70s the most influential form of drama, the single play, was very much (over 90%) a male preserve. Yet in a male-dominated industry, Fay Weldon, Susan Pleat, Elaine Morgan, Julia Jones and others regularly managed to produce fascinating and intriguing works – examples of which we screen here, many unseen since their original broadcast.

Friday 07 Sep, 18:20 NFT2

Seven Faces of Woman: Choice (ITV/ LWT 1974 Dir Christopher Hodson with Diana Fairfax, Pinkie Johnstone, Gillian Bailey. 50min)

When a married woman decides to leave her husband for a much younger man she incurs the wrath of her family. But is this her only chance of happiness? A beautifully acted, intelligent, adult drama from Andrea Newman, writer of A Bouquet of Barbed Wire, who joins our panel.

+ Panel discussion with writers Andrea Newman and Gail Renard and historian Billy Smart.

Wednesday 12 Sep, 18:20 NFT3

Playhouse: A Splinter of Ice (ITV/ Granada 1972 Dir Derek Bennett with Judy Loe, Ian Hendry, Zena Walker, Annette Crosbie. 65min)

A wonderful cast does justice to Fay Weldon’s absorbing story of infidelity leading to an unwanted pregnancy. Weldon was one of a handful of contemporary female writers who were as prolific as their male counterparts.

+ Then and Now: Over (BBC 1973 Dir Robert Knights with Barbara Jefford. 30min)

A one-woman tour de force from Barbara Jefford, who eloquently delivers Edna O’Brien’s hauntingly poetic prose in a piece that comes across like a dark and dreamy variation of Alan Bennet’s Talking Heads.

Saturday 29 Sep, 18:20, NFT2

Love Story: Third Party (ITV/ ATV 1972 Dir Henri Safran with John Neville, Angela Thorne. 50min)

One of the many themed anthology series that dominated the schedules of its day, ATV’s Love Story (1963-74) had a higher than normal percentage of female writers (16%). Bernice Rubens’ story asks if it’s the alternating game of official and secret love that makes Andrew sparkle…

+ Love Story: Home for the Holidays (ITV/ ATV 1973 Dir Henri Safran with Denholm Elliot, Tracey Hyde. 50min)

Andrea Newman writes of a relationship between a middle-aged man and a 13-year-old girl, which comes under scrutiny.

Monday 01 Oct, 18:10, NFT2

Centre Play: A Kind of Marriage (BBC 1976 Dir Mary Ridge with Jumoke Debayo, Victoria Clottery. 30min)

This Nigeria-set story of a woman’s awakening is written by Buchi Emecheta.

+ Play for Today: Still Waters (BBC 1972 Dir James MacTaggart with Margery Mason, Richard Pearson. 55min)

Written by Julia Jones, this tells of how a row can sometimes clear the air.

+ The Tamer Tamed (BBC 1956 Dir Anthony Pelissier with Judy Campbell, Robert Urquhart. 45min)

Elaine Morgan’s imaginative sequel to The Taming of the Shrew.

Saturday 06 Oct, 15:20 NFT2

Oranges & Lemons: Brenda (ITV/ LWT 1973 Dir John Reardon with Cheryl Hall, June Brown, Leslie Dwyer. 60min)

 Oranges & Lemons was a series of five plays set in London’s Docklands. In Brenda (the only entry written by a woman) Susan Pleat’s script focuses on a clash between a prodigal daughter and her resentful mother.

+ Rooms: Susan (ITV/ Thames 1975 Dir John Nelson-Burton with Jane Wymark, Sylvia Kay, Pauline Yates, Nigel Havers. 2x 25min)

 Rooms was an afternoon series of individual plays each focusing on a different occupant of the rooms in a lodging house. A third of the series was written by women. In Patricia Hooker’s deceptive, powerful play we meet Susan, a bedsit girl with a dark and damaging secret.

Monday 08 Oct, 20:40 NFT2

Play for Today: The Other Woman (BBC 1976 Dir Michael Simpson with Jane Lapotaire, Michael Gambon, Lynne Frederick. 71min)

Kim (Lapotaire), an uncompromising artist unconcerned with the conventions of polite society, disrupts the lives of Robin (Gambon) and Nikki (Frederick). This controversial, radical drama, written by Watson Gould, was slammed by some for its sexual content, and by others for its lurid portrayal of lesbianism.

+ Late Night Theatre: Family Tree (ITV/ ATV 1973 Dir Richard Bramall with Sylvia Kay, Roy Marsden, Emily Richard. 25min)

Pam is concerned when her husband’s ex-wife comes to visit. She seems to be both dangerous and romantic… Is she a threat? Writer Jill Laurimore presents a different view of ‘the other woman.’


Booking is now open.

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