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3 March 1969: Armchair Theatre, episode 446: The Story-Teller

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Jan. 1st, 1970 | 07:00 pm

This was one of a long-running series of television plays, each lasting an hour, and shown on ITV.

"The Story-Teller" was shown at 8:30 pm on Monday 3 March 1969.
Written by William Corlett
Directed by Piers Haggard
The shooting script shows that filming was scheduled for 14 December 1967, so this was not shown until more than a year after filming.

The TV Times synopsis

"A strange young man gate-crashes a private party with a disturbing message for the guests. But is he worth listening to? He mustn’t be allowed to spoil the party.

The young man, Brian, has something about him that is not quite of this world. No one knows how he comes to be at the party, and his conversation is far removed from the usual brittle and frivolous chat.

Jan, already feeling a bit detached from the swinging scene because of her heavily pregnant condition, is buttonholed by the young man, and finds him increasingly difficult to ignore.

He seems to have divined from the start that she is troubled by fears she can’t quite describe, but which have much to do with the child she expects very soon.

Brian is posing all the questions that she dreads … questions she knows her child will grow up to ask one day."

Michael Gothard played Brian, and Frances White played Jan.

A more detailed description of the play, based on the shooting script, can be found here.

The Story-Teller picture
Picture from the TV Times.

The Story-Teller text

From: “Armchair Theatre: The Lost Years” by Leonard White

"A year after his debut for us with The Scallop Shell, William Corlett said of this next play, 'I’ve tried to point out that people should sometimes take stock of themselves. I’ve known quite a few people like the characters I’ve written about, girls who worry about their right to bring children into the world, and young men who search for the truth.'

The ratings for that particular week were interesting, showing that ATV’s series The Power Game came top of the Top Twenty, beating even Coronation Street. Our own ‘difficult’ production, The Story-Teller, slipped somewhat, [presumably compared to Armchair Theatre from the week before] but still did better than The Avengers and Softly, Softly."

This particular production illustrated sharply the differing reception reported by the critics on the one hand and the viewers on the other.

The critics were at best luke-warm or ‘kind’:

Sylvia Clayton (Daily Telegraph, 04/03/1969) – 'Dramatically it was wooden …'

Michael Billington (The Times) – 'A fairly elaborate contrivance to make a simple point.'

Mary Malone (Daily Mirror) - The Night They Called for the Extras

'Reacting extras have even been known to contribute gestures if the director is feeling generous. When plot and dialogue are so racy that even the stars cannot muster enthusiasm what is a director to do but throw it to the extras – and like trained seals they reacted, a dozen glances to the left, a dozen to the right, as well trained as a chorus (or should it be a choir?) as the play ascended in a cloud of mist on to some plane beyond mortal ken.'

Nevertheless, in the TV ratings for the week, The Story-Teller was number 13 in the table, with 6.4 million viewers.

Unfortunately, according to Lisa Kerrigan at the BFI, "The Storyteller" appears not to have survived.

IMDB entry

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