Tony Whitehead
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‘A long time in the womb’
The TV films
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This chapter draws attention to Leigh's 1977 play—and its TV adaptation—Abigail's Party. Abigail's Party was just one of the nine feature-length productions which Leigh devised and directed between 1973 and 1985. The success of these plays meant that most British viewers were made aware of Leigh's work, long before the arrival of High Hopes in 1988, even though few of them would have had the chance to see Bleak Moments during its limited London run. Leigh recalls of those heady days of British television drama that one could get eight or nine million viewers in one evening. When Leigh describes his TV years as “a long time in the womb,” the comment is double-edged; he acknowledges that he was protected by the BBC as well as waiting to be fully born as a filmmaker. Public awareness and appreciation of Leigh's work were high by the mid-1980s, then, but his ambition was still to make another feature film for the cinema.

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