1 9 5 1 (UK)
4 x 180/120 minute episodes
The BBC commissioned this series of monthly standalone comedy-drama plays to coincide with the Festival of Britain, a national exhibition and fair that reached millions of visitors throughout the United Kingdom in the summer of 1951.
The plays were broadcast in the BBC’s Sunday-Night Theatre slot.
Sunday 6 May 1951
The debut play of the Festival Drama series, written by George Bernard Shaw and broadcast on Sunday 6 May, starred Constance Cummings in the title role as the 15th-century French military figure Joan of Arc.
The three-hour production was broadcast from 7.45 pm to 10.45 pm.
Outstanding in a fine cast were Leon Quartermaine as the Inquisitor, Felix Felton as the Archbishop of Rheims and Eugene Leahy as the Bishop of Beauvais.
Richard de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick
Dunois, Bastard of Orleans
Chaplain de Stogumber
Archbishop of Rheims
Peter Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais
Brother Martin Ladvenu
The Way Of The World
Sunday 3 June 1951
This Restoration-era frolic by William Congreve – last produced in London in 1948 by the Old Vic Company – was set in London in the year 1700 and revolved around lovers Mrs Millamant (Sonia Dresdel) and Mirabel (Griffith Jones).
The Final Test
Sunday 29 July 1951
The Final Test was broadcast live on Sunday 29 July (with a repeat live performance the following Thursday) and concerned the final appearance of a well-known batsman Sam Palmer (Patrick Barr) in his last test match.
The conflict came from the achievements of Sam in sport and the aspirations of his cricket-loathing son, Reggie (Ray Jackson) in poetry. In the end, the troubles were resolved in a very human way.
Denys Blakelock co-starred as Alexander Whitehead, a thriving modern poet, with Jane Barrett as Cora, the barmaid heroine.
Written by Terence Rattigan, the play owed a lot to the medium of radio, with much of the action taking place at the Oval cricket ground, with the progress of events in a fictitious test match between England and Australia heard as a television commentary.
Three England players – W J Edrich, Jack Robertson and Alec Bedser – played themselves, as did cricket commentators John Arlott, Rex Alston and Brian Johnston.
The production was remade as a feature film in 1953, with Jack Warner in the role of Sam Palmer and Robert Morley as Alexander Whitehead.
Bill Jarvis (England Captain)
Sid Thompson (Umpire)
John Higgs (Umpire)
W J Edrich
Treasure on Pelican
Sunday 2 September 1951
It was left to J B Priestley to wind up the BBC’s Festival season of drama productions with a satirical comedy featuring eight people stranded on a Caribbean treasure island and displaying the worst sides of their natures.
The treasure-hunting expedition comprised indigent baronet Sir Gilbert Rutland (Basil Sydney), his married-couple servants Edith (Eileen Beldon) and Joe Parsons (Charles Lamb), the financing Croesus, Horace Logan (Julien Mitchell), his secretary, Roberta (Barbara Kelly), technical adviser and ex-naval commander, Dudley Trout (Clive Morton), his French wife (Barbara Couper), and loutish radio expert, Bert Simpson (Roger Snowdon).
When Roberta, the secretary, is advised that she – alone amongst the party – will not receive a share of the proceeds from the sale of the treasure, she administers a devilish drop of poison by asking whether the others can trust each other. Mightn’t one of them try to steal a part of the treasure to get a little bit more?
Priestley twists his characters inside out with complete dispassion for the next two hours. Inevitably lust, hatred and greed become so intense that there can be no solution but for everybody to kill everyone else.
A naval officer (Terence Alexander) eventually acts as a deus ex machina and carts the whole bunch off the island.
Sir Gilbert Rutland
Commander Dudley Trout