Monday, 9 February 2015
Up The Junction (1965)
Up The Junction has three lives; a source novel by Nell Dunn, this Wednesday Play directed by Ken Loach, and a feature film adaptation directed by Peter Collinson some three years after this broadcast.
Dunn's novel was based on conversations she overheard among women around the Clapham Junction area and this fragmentary style is seized upon by Ken Loach in his play. It's a groundbreaking piece which contributed towards the legalisation of abortion in 1967.
Bearing that impact in mind, its understandable that the drama is includes several documentary (or faux documentary) elements, including an interview with a doctor, who talks of the need for a change in the law, to prevent fatal back street abortions and George Sewell's unscrupulous and racist tallyman speaking directly to camera as he conducts his rounds.
This mix of the factual and fictional, whilst adding to the fragmentary nature, can be a little confusing as characters drop in, say their piece and drop out again. But for Loach and his collaborator Tony Garnett this was a vital device when considering the scheduling of The Wednesday Play strand, which came after the nightly news. They believed that the programme merited a say on contemporary, current affairs.
It's documentarian style gives the piece its deeply authentic credentials and the enjoyable lively and raucous air keeps it fresh even today, fifty years on although the language and promiscuity that so shocked some critics (Mary Whitehouse somewhat inevitably chief among them) at the time naturally appears very mild now. Nevertheless, you do genuinely feel like you're in the middle of the action depicted, brushing shoulders with real people rather than watching a play and that's a remarkable achievement both then and - perhaps even more so - now.
Up The Junction is available on the excellent boxset Ken Loach at the BBC, along with many other great TV plays Ken helmed. But some aren't as lucky and remain languishing in the BBC vaults unwatched. To get the BBC to consider repeating some of these classic Wednesday Play's and Play For Today's please sign the petition I started here