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Mystery, Menace and Seedy Sex
on 2 April 2011
This series must have been a bit of a coup for LWT at the time, luring Dennis Potter away from the BBC for a while. I was early to mid teens and found the first couple of plays - Blade on the Feather, Cream in My Coffee exciting, because I took the atmosphere of mystery and menace and seedy sex seriously at that age. Some several decades later it all seems pretty meaningless.
Blade on the Feather is a typical Potter revenge scenario. Tom Conti appears at the rich country hideaway of an ex-spy (who knew Philby, Burgess and Maclean, naturally), hell-bent on wreaking havoc for the death of his father. Not sure how Tom Conti came to be such a sex symbol in the seventies, but here he is again, in a somewhat evil version of his Mr Charmer routine. What an annoying voice he has! Better were Phoebe Nicholls, Donald Pleasance and Denholm Eliot and this DVD is worth getting partly to see great actors such as these in their prime.
The play itself is a mix of some characteristic Potter elements: political discourse, a mysterious visitor, violence and sex, the nature of good and evil. Potter always seemed attracted by sensationalist, thriller-style plots, but they fit poorly in this instance with the theatrical and overly-mannered dialogue. He only used thriller conventions to good effect when he did it in an ironic, playful way as in The Singing Detective'.
Does it all add up to anything? I am not sure. Blade on the Feather just felt like a piece of 70's nostalgia - as meaningful, or not, as Confessions of a Driving Instructor or Shirley Valentine or the Exorcist or the Stud. (To be honest I think the Stud is much more interesting in many ways then this.)
Cream in My Coffee was better, somewhat in the style of Pennies From Heaven, not as good, but far better than his last few plays. The other plays in this box set I don't recall seeing at the time and have yet to watch on the DVD. I am not sure if I will.