Having earlier released Dramarama: Spooky - The Complete Series [ITV] [Network] [DVD
], those princes amongst men at Network DVD have now released a volume (perhaps rather optimistically labelled 'Volume 1') of Dramarama proper, featuring a selection of episodes spanning the programme's seven year run. Also included as Special Features on Disc 2 are two dramas that were transmitted separately but then later rescreened as Dramarama episodes. Here is a very brief synopsis:
*Dodger, Bonzo and the Rest (Original transmission date: 28 May 1984)
Kids at a children's home fight against their home's threatened closure. This justifiably popular episode spawned its own spin-off series.
*Snoop! (25 June 1984)
A young reporter is sent on an assignment and learns the importance of scepticism.
*Mr. Stabs (2 July 1984)
David Jason and David Rappaport are both wonderful in this supernatural fantasy.
*On Your Tod (23 July 1984)
Ben (Gary Oldman) battles with the ennui of being fabulously wealthy.
*Pig Ignorance (22 September 1986)
Starring Dexter Fletcher as a young offender sent to work at a local city farm.
*Jessie's Place (25 September 1986)
Jessie and Joe bond despite their different backgrounds and get on board Thatcher's enterprise culture.
*Frankie's Hat (30 December 1986)
Sonia visits her older sister, Frankie, and they take turns whinging at each other.
*The Horrible Story (13 April 1987)
Two boys' attempt to exclude a third from their fun night out is thwarted by the latter's cleverness.
*My Friend Julie (27 April 1987)
A musical episode. The friendship of two girls is placed under strain by their love for the same boy.
*Rosie The Great (24 July 1989)
Young ornithologist Robert and his friend Rosie join with their island community in defending their way of life.
*School for Clowns, part 1
*School for Clowns, part 2
Ken Campbell plays Professor Molereasons in this play for younger children which Campbell himself adapted from the German original. First transmitted as part of 'Theatre Box'.
*Mr. Magus is Waiting For You
Four kids battle a Merlinesque figure and his absolutely *fantastic* black cat who completely steals the show. First transmitted as part of (schools' series) 'Middle English'.
Image Gallery (with production/publicity photos from all the stories on disc 1 and the first two stories on disc 2)
There are no subtitles available on the discs.
The episodes vary considerably, both thematically and in terms of quality. Taking three at random to review more fully:
*On Your Tod (1984, written by Donald and Polly Churchill, directed by Peter Duguid)
18-year-old Ben (Gary Oldman) is rich but feels bored and useless. He spreads his money around, insofar as he has parties nearly every week, so a great many people are actually benefiting from his wealth. At one of his parties, a boorish gatecrasher, having helped himself to copious handfuls of food, tells him that he's a parasite since all his money comes from stock market investments rather than an honest day's graft. Instead of bodily throwing him out for being an ill-mannered puritan bore, Ben takes what he says to heart and resolves to do more to help others - though his pursuit of this goal ends up creating even more noise pollution and irritation for his neighbour. Still, his neighbour happens to be a policeman, so perhaps he's performing a public service after all. This is actually quite an engaging little episode, with a thoughtful script and excellent performances.
*My Friend Julie (1987, written by John Herriman, directed by John Michael Phillips)
Oh dear. What can one say? Absolutely excruciating 22 minutes where two girls alternately wail some soppy nonsense about being in love with the same guy. Essentially the same refrain each time with slight changes of lyrics. Bizarrely, the supposed Adonis they are both after is always facing away from us, so we only ever get to see the back of his head. (Which is, actually, quite funny if you imagine him suddenly turning around and looking like the elephant man.)
*Rosie The Great (1989, written by David Stafford, directed by Michael Winterbottom)
From the ridiculous we go straight to the sublime. A young lad, Robert (Steffan Morris), a true nature boy who loves watching the terns that come to nest on his island, and his friend Rosie (Catrin Pickworth), are distressed to discover that the government are planning to build an air base on their island home of 'Longsea'. All the characters in this episode are superbly acted, and the performers are obviously having a lot of fun. The formal head of the island (wonderfully played by Bill Wallis) is completely and utterly venal, itching to sell out his community in return for some bauble. Everyone in authority is remorselessly satirised, before, at last, a satisfactory solution to the political problem is eventually found. The hollow sham of democratic politics having been exposed, the harmony of things is restored through an anarchistic repudiation of 'progress', and we go back to where we started with the young lad watching his terns. A perfect 25 minutes, intelligent, well-paced and at times hilariously funny (the Longsea 'National Anthem' has to be heard to be believed!). My personal favourite on this release.
So, 4 out of 5 as an *average*, but at its best Dramarama is completely brilliant, and this collection is very definitely worth getting.