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The Wednesday Play: A Tap On The Shoulder (BBC Drama, Lee Montague)

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The Wednesday Play

Original Publicity: James MacTaggart, who has taken over as producer of The Wednesday Play, sets the scene for the new season and for its first production tonight which begins with A Tap On The Shoulder.

It all started last summer. BBC Television’s Head of Drama, Sydney Newman, wanted a season of new plays. They had to be exciting and interesting and up to date. Above all, they had to have variety. There was one more tiny detail: there has to be twenty-five of them. Just that. That’s as many Wednesday nights as will stretch from here to June. So we went out to get them. Where do you start? Well, you start with a good story editor; so I got Roger Smith, who has done a lot of work with me as a writer in the past. And as soon as you start collecting a team all those Wednesdays stop leering at you and the whole thing becomes exciting. Soon you call in the writers. You talk about the kind of play needed these days: new, vigorous, entertaining, active. You talk, discuss, argue, sometimes like ordinary human beings in an office, sometimes late into the night. You decide that as well as established writers you need brand-new ones, new blood, new angles. So we commissioned twenty-five new plays, specially written for television.

Tonight’s play is the first. It is written by James O’Connor and called Tap On The Shoulder. He is one of the new writers. This is his first play for television. He spent a long time in prison. He knows criminals. He knows what makes them tick. That is what we asked him to write about. The four villains in Tap On The Shoulder are not the kind of crooks you may have seen in television serials and films. They are not unshaven, broken little men on the fringes of society. They are not slick, smooth masterminds with foreign accents. They are professionals who know their trade. The robbery they commit is the story of our play. It launches a highly original and new writing talent. To help you understand and enjoy the play to the full here are translations of some slang phrases the villains use. To straighten – To bribe. To dwell on the box – To stay put. A kite – A cheque. To Graft – To carry out villainy. A joker – A man. A grand – One thousand pounds. To knock back – To refuse. To cop – To get hold op. Porridge – Doing time. (Radio Times, December 31, 196 – Article by James MacTaggart).

Series: The Wednesday Play Season 2 Episode 1

Cast: Lee Montague (Archibald Cooper), Richard Shaw (Ronnie), Judith Smith (Hazel), Griffith Davies (Terry), George Tovey (Patsy), Tony Selby (Tim), Edwin Brown (George), Mark Elwes (Pub Customer), John Henderson (Clegg), Tom Bowman (Charlie), Rose Hill (Emma Cooper), Charles Rea (Policeman), Noel Johnson (Chief Constable), Michael Mulcaster (Major Domo), Walter Horsbrugh (Bishop), Lucy Griffiths (Bishop’s Wife), Sarah Harter (A Deb), Michael Goldie (Inner Security Guard), John Blythe (First Security Guard), Tony Caunter (Second Security Guard), Michael Collins (Police Sergeant), John Waite (Detective Sergeant Nash), Carmen Dene (First Girl), Christine Rodgers (Second Girl), Harry Tracey (Waiter)

Writer: James O’Connor / Music: Stanley Myers / Producer: James MacTaggart / Director: Kenneth Loach

UK / BBC One / 1×75 minute episode / Broadcast 6 January 1965