A history and interpretive analysis of play for today, (BBC1, 1970-84)

May, Thomas William (2023) A history and interpretive analysis of play for today, (BBC1, 1970-84). Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral thesis)
may.thomas_phd (04921382) volume 1.pdf - Submitted Version

Download (10MB) | Preview
Text (Doctoral thesis)
may.thomas_phd (04921382) volume 2.pdf - Submitted Version

Download (6MB) | Preview


My thesis is a history and interpretive analysis of Play for Today (BBC1, 1970-84) (PfT). It is important, as this prestigious strand of one-off dramas has yet to receive any in-depth longitudinal studies.

I have used a mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis: informed by my having watched or read Camera Scripts for over four-fifths of PfT. I have used archival sources from the BBC Written Archives Centre and digital archives, alongside selected oral history testimony regarding PfT from its practitioners.

PfT has been valued as emblematic of a TV ‘Golden Age’, and an equally lost era of cultural democratisation in Britain. It made artful uses of video and film aesthetics, harnessing both to create vivid, human-centric one-off dramas that were generally highly valued by critics and audiences for their toughness and variety. PfT represented London and Northern Ireland frequently, and also Scotland and Northern England more from 1974. However, PfT generally neglected Wales and the North East of England. Its representations of non-metropolitan Britain were variously downbeat and upbeat, reflecting deep unease at, or approval of, aspects of contemporaneous social change. PfT represented working-class men especially richly in the mid-1970s, when it was also often male-centric, but it included significantly more women writers from 1977-82. In its later years, PfT built on its earlier deep insights into masculine workspaces to include varied feminist dramas, which critiqued male violence. While it had relatively few Black or Asian creators, its many gay dramatists and anarchistic Jewish playwrights contributed to its humanist range. PfTs like In the Beautiful Caribbean and Even Solomon were more representationally advanced than BBC-TV’s discussion programmes.

My findings reveal an original history and interpretive analysis of PfT, in its many varied contexts. They are of considerable interest to TV historians and also TV drama practitioners today.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: television, drama, theatre & film, representation within TV drama, humanism
Subjects: V300 History by topic
W400 Drama
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Arts
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2023 14:45
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 14:45
URI: https://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/51628

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics