Fifty years after its first transmission, the BBC’s Play for Today anthology series remains one of British television’s most influential achievements. Between 1970 and 1984, it brought the UK’s best writing, acting and directing talents into our living rooms, challenging audiences and pushing the boundaries of TV drama.
Play for Today Volume 1, released by the BFI on 26 October, brings together seven iconic feature-length dramas from 1970-1977 on Blu-ray for the first time, in a collection that exemplifies the breadth and brilliance of this ground-breaking strand.
The plays in the box set are as follows:
Written by Ingmar Bergman | Directed by Alan Bridges | 1970
The great Ingmar Bergman’s first British teleplay foreshadows his better-known miniseries Scenes From a Marriage in its characteristic examination of a disintegrating relationship.
Shakespeare or Bust
Written by Peter Terson | Directed by Brian Parker | 1973
Brian Glover (Kes) features as Bard-loving miner Art, who, along with mates Ern and Abe, make a poignant, comedic canal-boat pilgrimage to Stratford-upon-Avon in a wistful waterways road movie.
Back of Beyond
Written by Julia Jones | Directed by Desmond Davis | 1974
Desmond Davis, whose career spanned Girl With Green Eyes to Clash of the Titans, directs This Sporting Life’s Rachel Roberts as reclusive widow Olwen, befriended by papergirl Rachel with momentous consequences.
A Passage to England
Written by Leon Griffiths | Directed by John Mackenzie | 1975
Uncle and cousin in tow, Anand needs to get to England from Amsterdam and Brit fisherman Onslow is his best hope. The Long Good Friday director John Mackenzie adds grit to the comedy, penned by Minder creator Leon Griffiths.
Your Man From Six Counties
Written by Colin Welland | Directed by Barry Davis | 1976
From the writer of Yanks and Chariots of Fire comes a tale of the Troubles as, after his father’s death, Belfast boy Jimmy heads for his uncle’s farm. But even in Ireland’s far west, his new start is under threat.
Our Flesh and Blood
Written by Mike Stott | Directed by Pedr James | 1977
Alison Steadman (Abigail’s Party) is set on a ‘natural’ birth while leading her husband (Bernard Hill, Boys From the Blackstuff) against an officious establishment in the satirical shape of Richard Briers’ (The Good Life) Mr Smythe.
Written by John Bowen | Directed by John Glenister | 1977
When an inexplicable photograph arrives in the post, Michael Otway’s world is turned upside down. John Stride (The Ice House) and Stephanie Turner (Juliet Bravo) star in what the Daily Mail called ‘grand guignol in the British manner’.
- 80-page book: Specially commissioned by the BFI, this 80-page book features an overview by John Wyver and a look at the strand’s legacy by Marcus Prince, plus writing on the plays by Rebecca Vick, William Fowler, Josephine Botting, Sukhdev Sandhu, Katie Crosson, Simon McCallum and Vic Pratt.
- Original scripts for all seven plays (PDFs)
- Image gallery