1970s 1980s BBC drama Play For Today

My Ten Plays for Today: Lisa Kerrigan

This is the latest in a series of posts in which we publish the ‘top ten’ or ‘top five’ Plays for Today identified by  a range of writers, researchers and media professionals. The brief was that such lists should not necessarily consist of what were considered to be the ‘best’ Plays for Today but could also include personal favourites, or work which it was believed should be better-known (though, in many cases, these categories overlap). 

My Ten Plays for Today: Lisa Kerrigan

I took the request to write a list of my favourite plays very seriously. A favourite is not the best, or the greatest, but these are the plays for which I have most affection. Looking at my selection I can see some emerging themes; many of these plays relate to women, their bodies and their desires. The roles that women play as mothers, daughters, partners and colleagues also loom large.

Last year I had just returned from maternity leave when I resumed work on the BFI’s plans for the 50th anniversary of Play for Today, and I became keenly aware of the collection of plays in the strand which deal with pregnancy, motherhood and maternal mental health. From my list, Robin Redbreast, The Lonely Man’s Lover, Breath and Ladies all deal with this but they are very far from the most disturbing plays in the series. It seems that there are few things more terrifying than being a pregnant woman in a Play for Today! I would like to see a play where all the female characters from the titles on my list get together, in the style of Carol Bunyan’s Ladies.

There was no space for Penda’s Fen here, but then Penda’s Fen is beyond our earthly lists anyway.


Robin Redbreast (10 December 1970) w. John Bowen, d. James MacTaggart, p. Graeme McDonald

Land of Green Ginger (15 January 1973) w. Alan Plater, d. Brian Parker, p. David Rose

The Lonely Man’s Lover (17 January 1974) w. Barry Collins, d. Brian Parker, p. David Rose

Breath (23 January 1975) w. Elaine Feinstein, d. Matthew Robinson, p. David Rose

Through the Night (2 December 1975) w. Trevor Griffiths, d. Michael Lindsay-Hogg, p. Ann Scott

Spend, Spend, Spend (15 March 1977) w. Jack Rosenthal, d. John Goldschmidt, p. Graeme McDonald

The Spongers (24 January 1978) w. Jim Allen, d. Roland Joffé, p. Tony Garnett

Ladies (27 March 1980) w. Carol Bunyan, d. Diarmuid Lawrence, p. Kenith Trodd

Iris in the Traffic, Ruby in the Rain (24 November 1981) w. Stewart Parker, d. John Bruce, p. June Roberts

King (3 April 1984) w. Barrie Keefe, d. Tony Smith, p. Michael Wearing

Land of Green Ginger

Lisa Kerrigan is a television curator at the BFI National Archive where she selects programmes for preservation, cares for the National Television Archive and works on cultural projects, including Play for Today at 50. The BFI is marking the anniversary with a season of screenings at BFI Southbank in October and November and a BFI Blu-ray box set release. Almost half of the surviving Plays for Today are available to watch for free at the BFI Southbank Mediatheque.

3 replies on “My Ten Plays for Today: Lisa Kerrigan”

Ten plays currently on two votes: Orkney, The Cheviot The Stag & The Black Black Oil, Leeds United, The Lonely Man’s Lover, Just Another Saturday, Through The Night, The Spongers, Blue Remembered Hills, Country, King.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s