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The Wednesday Play: Mr Douglas (BBC Drama, Michael Goodliffe)

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The Wednesday Play

Original Publicity: The Wednesday Play with Michael Goodliffe as Mr Douglas: The year is 1761, and the London crowd is out in the streets in force to celebrate the forthcoming coronation of King George III. But in a house in Cornhill owned by Mr Grant, a merchant late of Edinburgh, there is a none-too-welcome guest who once came very close to wearing the crown which the Hanoverian is about to assume. Such is the extraordinary but largely factual situation upon which tonight’s play opens.

The guest, who calls himself “Mr Douglas”, is a run-to-seed middle-aged man who drinks far too much and is also a lecher. But sixteen years ago, before the Redcoats broke the Highlanders at Culloden, he had gone under different and more romantic names: the Chevalier, the Pretender, or Bonnie Prince Charlie. Some streak of masochism has brought him back from his wandering Continental exile to witness the triumph of another “German Geordie”, and his incognito visit brings about a miniature repetition of the classic Scottish pattern of folly and betrayal which brought him down in the ’45.

The author of Mister Douglas is John Prebble, a versatile ex-journalist whose large output has included the script for the enormously successful film Zulu. In tonight’s play he shows that his knowledge of eighteenth-century London and of Scottish history is equal to his knowledge of nineteenth-century South Africa. The ageing Pretender is played tonight by Michael Goodliffe, with Laurence Hardy as his host, Jean Anderson as Mistress Grant, and Claire Nielson as their daughter Alison – upon whom the rather watery royal eye rests. The director is Gilchrist Calder. (Radio Times, November 19, 1964).

One of only three episodes from the first season to still exist.

Series: The Wednesday Play Season 1 Episode 5

Cast: Michael Goodliffe (Mr Douglas), Jean Anderson (Mrs Grant), Laurence Hardy (Mr Grant), Claire Nielson (Alison Grant), Gary Bond (James Nash), Margo Croan (Elspet)

Writer: John Prebble / Producer: Peter Luke / Director: Gilchrist Calder

UK / BBC One / 1×70 minutes / Broadcast 25 November 1964