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Bill Stanton Radio Plays

Bill Stanton was born in Brightside, Sheffield in 1917. He was the second youngest of a family of eight. He trained as a teacher, then volunteered for the Army. After the war he ran a private school with his wife Dorothy. Then he worked for the English Steel Corporation, firstly (1954) as a sales representative. When he retired in 1980 it was as Area Manager for British Steel in Leeds.

A much more detailed biography of Bill Stanton is available on the site run by the Stanton family:

http://www.billstanton.co.uk

and there is also some information on Wikipedia.

This site concentrates on his radio work. In 1960 he had a short story broadcast on BBC radio as the Morning Story; the first of a series. In 1966 his drama-doc, "Young Joey", was broadcast, and it was followed by his first fictional drama, The Compost Heap, in 1969 -the story of an old man who has become a burden to his family. After this he wrote a large number of plays on social issues, drawing on his experience of family life in Sheffield. He taught on weekend courses for aspiring writers for thirty years until his death at the age of 82. He took a degree in English Literature at York University in his seventies; the oldest graduate the university has had.

The radio plays I've traced are listed below. I am grateful for information supplied by Roger Bickerton.

BBC RADIO PLAYS
1966 Young Joey
1969 Milgrip's Progress
1969 The compost heap
1971 A thin man screaming
1972 Twelve Tuesdays to Christmas
1972 The compost heap
1973 Fruits of two seasons
1973 Dayspring is at hand*
1979 A plug for the cabinet*, 15m

Recordings of asterisked plays known to exist within VRPCC collections.

NOTES ON THE PLAYS

MIDWEEK THEATRE

Fruits of two Seasons....1973
04.04.73, Derek Smith/Margaret Ward.

Interesting domestic story; father and mother have a daughter of marriageable age. Father has old-fashioned attitudes: a woman's place is in the home; don't trouble her with what's going on at work....then he's made redundant. Meanwhile the daughter and her boyfriend want to marry. There is conflict - between father and mother and between young and old. The relationships and problems are explored with a deft touch, and the play has a satisfying conclusion.

Dayspring is at Hand....1973
Joe Earnshaw has been married for fifty years; his wife, in the grip of advanced Alzheimer's, no longer recognises him and is unlikely to live much longer. But he knows there are many who have never had the wonderful companionship he and his wife have enjoyed; and he knows that a few years on his own is not too high a price to pay. 24.10.1973, with Wilfred Pickles/Peggy Hughes.


AFTERNOON THEATRE

Young Joey....1966
A documentary about Joseph Chamberlain's first success in politics. He was, if my memory serves correctly, a quaker, in the mid-1800s in Birmingham.

Milgrip's Progress....1969
5 Nov 69; John Baddeley/Eileen Barry/James Irwin/George Woolley.

In MILGRIP'S PROGRESS W, G. Stanton makes a comic figure out of a henpecked middle-class salary-slave. This one eventually fights back at his surroundings (wife, bank manager and boss) after being pushed into action by a breezy working-class technician, a blue- collar man who sells his labour but refuses to sell himself. The plot revolved around a load of steel ingots, and the technical details were handled with a rare authority. (Paraphrase of a review by Paul Ferris, Observer, 9 Nov 69.)

The Compost Heap....1969
13 Sep 69; Wilfred Pickles/George Woolley/Jane Freeman.

A old man fights to retain his independence when his family wants to place him in a home. Neither side pulls any punches. As in much of Stanton's work, the conclusion provides food for thought rather than simple answers, and it's packed with sparky, entertaining dialogue.

A Thin Man Screaming....1971
27 Oct 71; Timothy Bateson/John Baddeley.

The middle-aged, overweight chief clerk in a steel stockholders company has his boat rocked when his departmental manager dies suddenly. Will he inherit the job? There are some obstacles: his lack of ambition, his lifestyle (he lives with his mother and is totally dependent on her) and lack of knowledge of the world. He's not very good with women, either; his number one love is food.

The Compost Heap....1972
13 Oct 72; Wilfred Pickles/George Woolley/Jane Freeman

Twelve Tuesdays to Christmas....1972
5 Jan 72; Janet Whiteside/Patricia Green/Liane Aukin.

An exploration of the relationship between an ambitious man who's a little too fond of the ladies and the women in his life.


OTHERS
A Plug For The Cabinet.... 1979
23 Mar 79; R4. Directed by Michael Bartlett, in the series "Just Before Midnight".

This play starred George Cole as an incompetent DIY-er. It's a play which develops slowly - then disaster piles on disaster. The Bill Stanton website says that it was inspired by Gerard Hoffnung's bricklayer's tale in his address to the Oxford Union. It only lasts 15 minutes but has been repeated many times, including in Germany. A similar (but longer) play is 'The Bright Red One' by Renny Krupinsky (see RK's page), in which a newly purchased car suffers a series of breakdowns, each more serious than the last.




    A PLUG FOR THE CABINET
    A tale of woe about the unfortunate Lucius Tring, an innocent abroad in the world of D.I.Y.

    The play has been written by Bill Stanton, who has definite views on the shape of the short play.


    "When I was a very new boy at radio drama I had the feeling that the BBC would do anything that was good drama, and I wrote a tem-minute play. I sent it along, and Bill Ash said yes, he thought it was very funny, but there was no way they could possibly use it because the BBC has to work on scheduled plots; it has to be a play of given length, and that's the discipline. You have to learn how to write to a given length. Of all the different lengths, fifteen minutes is the toughest.

    Curiously enough, some years ago,. I attended a writers' seminar, and they played us a tape of Tom Stoppard's lovely short play, about the taxi. That's the sort of thing that works at that length. It has to have .... a sort of inevitability about it ..... it has to build up frenetically, as it were, to the point where you hit the climax, and then - that's it - and out! I found it quite a tough discipline".

    Bill agrees that the trap to be avoided is that of thinking up a brilliant idea and trying to squeeze it into fifteen minutes. As for his play 'A Plug for the Cabinet', the inspiration came from a member of his own family...

    "I had a father-in-law who couldn't even replace a fuse. If he'd ever been put in the position of Lucius Tring, he would have ended up in just the same sort of disaster as Lucius did ......"




Nigel Deacon, Diversity website

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