Stephen Lacey
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The 1960s
Social realism and The Wednesday Play
in Tony Garnett
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This chapter revolves around the two Wednesday Plays, Up the Junction and Cathy Come Home. The Wednesday Play anthology series has acquired a pivotal role in the history of television drama, providing a showcase for drama that was formally experimental, distinctive to the medium of television, socially and culturally provocative. It was designed as a replacement for two existing play strands, Festival and First Night, as a response to a series of pressures that were being applied to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in the mid-1960s. The best known and most widely debated of The Wednesday Plays in the 1965 season was Up the Junction. Up the Junction is set in and around the eponymous Clapham Junction, and concerns the lives of its inhabitants, notably three young women, Sylvie (Carol White), Rube (Geraldine Sherman) and Eileen. It connects immediately to a contemporary sense of a hitherto unrepresented and socially extended reality—and thus to social realism. One of the main differences between Up the Junction and Cathy Come Home is that the latter has a single protagonist, around whom the narrative is organised (something which gave the film a more accessible narrative shape, from an audience viewpoint).

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