Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Reviews of Some Women, BBC1 - August 1969. Daily Express

Daily Express 28/8/69
Martin Walsh
Who listens when the judge passing sentence asks the prisoner in the dock: “Have you anything to say?”
Prison visitor and social worker Tony Parker did – and he took his tape recorder to listen for hour upon hour to what women who have spent lives in and out of prison had to say.
But for nearly two and a half years the television re-creation of his interviews, “Some Women,” made but  never shown as a Wednesday Play, gathered dust in a BBC vault while programme controllers argued if it was drama or documentary, or indeed fit ever to be screened at all.
Last night the debate finally concluded. It was shuffled on at the end of the evening’s viewing, cut by 20 minutes – and I suspect somewhat emasculated in the process – and with an apologetic introduction by Mr Parker hurriedly attached.
It was easy to understand the BBC’s predicament. This was no programme that could be safely pigeon-holed and labeled. With actresses playing the parts of real women prisoners, it fitted neither the Wednesday Play nor the Tuesday Documentary. The programme was a moving, often harrowing, commentary on society’s need for scapegoats.
The women just sat there in a Balham bed-sitter, and talked. It was hard to remember that they were actresses – the effect was of the real dramatic truth. The offences were tragically petty; some shillings from the stolen Post Office book, a few pounds from pawning unpaid-for goods.
They seemed to will themselves to be caught. One aging woman who stole for beer money thought she ought to be deported to a leper colony, another always gave her right address when committing fraud because, “I’m no liar.”
Yet it told only half the story of crime and punishment. These women were the little failures, not the big villains, the sad rather than the bad people.
And of the original five interviews one was left behind on the cutting-room floor. The BBC explained it was because of time. But it also just happened to be the one with the least sympathetic character, a lesbian drug-taker.
Get the feeling we were being got at?

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