1971-1980DramaRoland JofféThe Wednesday Play & Play for TodayTVUnited Kingdom

Roland Joffé – Play for Today: The Spongers (1978)

Set against the backdrop of Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II, the play depicts a single mother’s struggles in this highly polemical and unremittingly bleak diatribe against government welfare cuts from the poor and disabled. The derogatory term ‘spongers’ is used by British tabloid press to describe people who are dependent on welfare support, however the play presents the case of a family who desperately need the help.

The Spongers caused something of a stir when it was broadcast, not least for the opening shot (deftly inserted by director Roland Joffe at the last possible moment before transmission) of outsize cut-outs of the Queen and Prince Philip, over which the title is cheekily superimposed …

… It’s one of the most powerful dramas the BBC, or anyone, have shown, and as such presents the strongest possible case for the “naturalism” that many Play for Today writers were determined to get away from. The ensemble playing is brilliantly done, with interruptions and improvised stutters giving a documentary feel that, while grossly overused (even misused) these days, is wholly convincing here. Joffe’s camerawork is uniformly flat – either huge hand-held close-ups bring us right into the action, or telephoto long shots distance us, as in the final scene, like a news report. It’s entirely the right thing to do – the shabby reality of life at “the bottom of the pile” is presented as a constant, a prison the characters can never escape from with tricksy flashbacks or flights of technical reverie.

2.35GB | 1h 43m | 768×576 | mkv


Subtitles:English SDH


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