It’s not every day a suave Radio 3 radio presenter (John Stride) is sent a photo of what appears to be two nubile, fresh-faced young women in front of a gypsy caravan. With no explanation given, this tantalising and anonymous gesture sets in motion a strange play of altogether murky goings-on from John Bowen, the author of Robin Redbreast.
In a state of depression, his wife (Stephanie ‘Juliet Bravo’ Turner) is seemingly convinced the photo is sent by a vengeful woman he had an affair with. He, on the other hand, appears baffled. She becomes obsessed with the idea he’s been playing away, and she drives herself half-mad trying to solve the mystery. She blows up the photo to poster size and feels sure one of the girls has a tattoo. Reinforcing the faint image in black ink to exaggerate the feature, she taunts her husband with a detail which is close to the bone. Pushed to the point of exasperation with his his wife’s unending questioning, he sets out by himself to solve the mystery.
Events are confusing because we’re not sure what he already knows about the photograph and whether or not he’s lying to her to keep the peace. If she knows anything herself, is also unclear. Is she taunting him inadvertently, because of her own twisted paranoia, or because armed with the truth, she’s determined to angrily push him to the brink?
Gypsys with thick, Hardyesque burrs, cross-dressers, beautiful, valium-swallowing wives and saucy hitch-hikers make this a suspenseful, charming and worthwhile member of the Play for Today canon. The presence of wily matriarch Mrs Vigo from Robin Redbreast provides continuity with the earlier play, and Bowen penned a two-part installment of LWT’s Sunday Night Thriller in 1981 called Dark Secret, in which Anne Stallybrass plays a former scientist running a Cotswold restaurant, employing a similarly rustic woman as kitchen help, who turns out to have the same surname.