TV Cream

Play For Today

Gangsters

Immensely popular play by Philip Martin exploring the Birmingham underworld, in particular the ‘Blackbird Run’ of illegal immigrants. Maurice Colborne is an ex-SAS officer being tailed by the brother of the man he just emerged from the nick for killing (played by writer Martin). A claustrophobic atmosphere and excellent climactic lorry-top chase and showdown underneath Spaghetti Junction make this an unusual Play for Today, to say the least, more in line with contemporary popular film styles than the ‘austere’ aesthetics of the stereotypical ‘serious’ television drama. (Though see 1973’s The Operation and 1979’s Vampires for similar pop-styled PfT fun.) Saeed Jaffrey and Paul Barber are among the strong cast. Martin found so much material while researching the play in Birmingham that couldn’t fit into one play, but got the chance to use it when the BBC commissioned two series based on the play’s milieu.

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