on 2 May 2011
Although any collection of DVDs featuring the television work of Alan Plater is to be welcomed this two-disc set rates only a qualified recommendation. The first episode of The Beiderbecke Affair (1985) will already be familiar to Plater fans, coming as it does from perhaps his most popular and characteristic series. Coming Through (1985) is an interesting, if flawed, film about the early life and loves of D H Lawrence (Kenneth Branagh, possibly miscast) with Helen Mirren excellent as Frieda Weekley, the married German aristocrat who became his soul mate. But much of the rest is somewhat routine : Christina (1981) from the Flambards series, for example, has lots of horses, a spirited Jane Eyre-like heroine and distinct echoes of Catherine Cookson, whilst The Intercessor (1983) from the Shades of Darkness series is a ponderous tale of the supernatural set in a remote Pennines farmhouse. As for comedy, The Party of the First Part (1978) is a rather mean-spirited, madcap situation comedy which eventually collapses under the weight of its increasingly desperate jokiness (Plater's Achilles heel). Somewhat better is Dawson's Complaint (1975), in which Les Dawson plays his lugubrious self as a 'little man' trying to obtain redress for the purchase of a ball-point pen that doesn't work, an absurd idea that is quite amusingly developed. There is a useful bonus from 1976 in the shape of an interview with Plater and two of his fellow playwights, Colin Welland and Alan Ayckbourn, all of whom talk revealingly and engagingly about their craft. It might be added that the colour quality and picture definition of the various items vary considerably.