The Play on One

The Play on One (Play on One in the final series) is a British television drama anthology series, produced by the BBC Nations and Regions in its studios outside London, and transmitted on BBC1 from 1988 to 1991.

The Play on One
Play on One
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of series4
No. of episodes30 (list of episodes)
Production companyBBC
Original networkBBC1
Original release19 January 1988 (1988-01-19) –
29 August 1991 (1991-08-29)


Date Title Writer Director Producer
19 January 1988 Down Where the Buffalo Go[1] Peter McDougall Ian Knox Andy Park
US Marine Carl is a shore patrolman at the US Polaris base in Scotland, and his marriage to a local girl is failing. In the bars of Greenock and the Holy Loch, Carl and his brother-in-law Willie, who is already separated, arrive at decisions which will change their lives.

Cast: Harvey Keitel, Andrew Byatt, Stella Gonet, David Lansbury, Katherine Stark, Jenny McCrindle, Hugh Martin, Lesley Jackson, Alex McAvoy, Bill Barclay, Craig Ferguson, Pat Doyle, Ron Donachie and Maggie Bell

26 January 1988 The Dark Room[2] Julian Gloag Guy Slater Norman McCandlish
Deb has a secret which is destroying her marriage – she says her baby is delicate, so why does she ignore its crying?

Cast: Susan Wooldridge, Philip Jackson, Julie Graham, Jacqueline Gilbride, Edith Ruddick, Irene Sunters, Belinda Adye, Terry Cavers, Jean Bruce, Maria McAuley, William Blair, Keith Neill, Ian Briggs, Andrew Celli, Stewart Aitken, Paul Samson, Grace Glover, Katy Hale, Eliza Langland, Bridget McCann, Sheila Greer-Smith and Gordon Kane

2 February 1988 Normal Service[3] John Byrne Garth Tucker Andy Park
It's General Election day 1964, and the resources of Forth and Clyde Television are under stress. Too many shows want too many things done too quickly. Some of the design and graphics staff are intent on not getting involved. Others won't survive the strain.

Cast: Kenneth Cranham, Richard Wilson, Martin Cochrane, Frederick Warder, Alex McCrindle, Tony Roper, Katy Murphy and Stuart Davids

9 February 1988 The Dunroamin' Rising[4] Colin MacDonald Moira Armstrong Tom Kinninmont
Sixty years ago Ian Sinclair was a revolutionary leader. Today he is in an old folks' home, but he has not lost his sense of humour – or his appetite for the struggle.

Cast: Russell Hunter, Elizabeth Sellars, Thorley Walters, Hugh Lloyd, Madeleine Christie, Jennifer Piercey, Siobhan Redmond, David Rintoul, Andy Gray, Simon Donald, Irene Sunters and Ida Schuster

16 February 1988 A Wholly Healthy Glasgow[5][6] Iain Heggie Richard Wilson Bill Bryden
'A city of perfectly proportioned sinuous but not over-developed physiques.... a city of non-smoking non-drinking joggers ... a city of reposeful but alert minds.'

Cast: Tom Watson, Gerard Kelly, Paul Higgins, Adam Crowther and Tony Betts

23 February 1988 Unreported Incident[7] David Martin Christopher Baker Norman McCandlish
Jack Lawrence and Jimmy Dunne were once, briefly, enemies at opposite ends of a gun on the Irish border; now their lives have become inextricably mixed. They are together on a chat show whose host wants a sob story with a happy ending, but gets something entirely different.

Cast: T. P. McKenna, Maurice Roëves, David Calder, Tim Brierley, Marsha Hunt, Nickolas Grace, Kika Mirylees, Emlyn Price, Maggie Ollerenshaw, Grace Glover, Malcolm Kaye, Nigel Lambert, Carl Rigg, Andrew Secombe, Alan Downer, Eric Allan, Bill Caddick and Tara Ward

1 March 1988 Airbase[8] Malcolm McKay David Attwood Roger Gregory
Hidden beneath an airbase the elite F-111 pilots live in a secret fantasy world as they wait, primed for the ultimate war game of World War Three. The arrival of the delicious Lieutenant Madeline Kohler detonates a chain reaction of deep rooted antagonism that explodes with cataclysmic consequences.

Cast: Anton Lesser, Clive Mantle, Catherine Russell, David Lansbury, Ricco Ross, Stevan Rimkus and Norman Beaton

8 March 1988 The Party[9] Trevor Griffiths Sebastian Graham-Jones Norman McCandlish
10 May 1968. In Paris the barricades are about to burst into flames as students and police clash. In London the fashionable Left are having a dialogue.

Cast: Andrew Keir, Jack Shepherd, Kenneth Cranham, Oliver Cotton, Gawn Grainger, Robert Walker, Bob Mason, Mary Conlon, Kate McKenzie, Vincenzo Ricotta and Siv Borg

21 February 1989 Heartland[10] Steve Gough Kevin Billington Christine Benson
A welsh farming family whose lives haven't changed for generations are encouraged to borrow, modernise, and build up their dairy herd. Then EEC edicts order them to limit milk production and slaughter cows. But facing ruin, Jack Philips, losing not only a farm and job but a whole history, fights back.

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Lynn Farleigh, Glyn Houston, Mark Lewis Jones, Martin Glyn Murray, Hugh Fraser, Paul Humpoletz, Jane Horrocks, Gemma Heritage, Mike Hayward, Hubert Rees, David Quilter, Geoffrey Evans, Bill Bellamy and Gareth Morris

28 February 1989 These Foolish Things[11] Elizabeth Spender Charles Gormley Andy Park
Gutrune's romance with newspaper editor Nick Verney is hampered by the fact that he is still in love with the wife from whom he is separated. She finds that in affairs of the heart, advice is the last thing she needs.

Cast: James Fox, Lindsay Duncan, Ciaran Madden, Michael Keating, Anthony Dutton, Tom Knight, Alex Kingston, Nina Cowan, Eva Lohman, Chloe Salaman, Charlotte Attenborough, Michael Howe, Andrew Seear, Katherine Fahy, Frannie Parkes, Michael Fitzgerald, Andrew Barr and Edmund Dehn

7 March 1989 Govan Ghost Story[12][13] Bryan Elsley David Hayman Aileen Forsyth
Old memories are awakened in a terrifying and dangerous way when Jock encounters a strange little girl in the high-rise block of flats where he lives. Who is she? What does she want?

Cast: Tom Watson, Fletcher Mathers, Julia Wallace, Denise McDonald, Jim Twaddale, Jackie Farrell, Finlay Welsh, Alex Howden, Mamie Stirling, Stewart Ennis, Chanel Stringfellow, Matthew Costello, Paul Samson, Pat Ross and Subash Singh Pall

14 March 1989 The Shawl[14] David Mamet Bill Bryden Susanna Capon
Miss A, troubled by problems, consults a clairvoyant. Can he solve her problems for her by summoning the spirits? Or is he just a fraud, out to steal her money?

Cast: Nigel Hawthorne, Brenda Blethyn and Karl Johnson

21 March 1989 A View of Harry Clark[15] Daniel Boyle Alastair Reid Tom Kinninmont
Harry Clark is a social worker on the verge of cracking up. His job is to help other people: who is there to help him?

Cast: Griff Rhys Jones, Elaine Paige, Laura Claire Duerden, Benjie Lawrence, Charlotte Coleman, Adrian Murphy, Ian Hart, Jake D'Arcy, Mary Ann Reid, Louis Emerick, James Culshaw, Al T Kossy, Mitzi Meuller, Sandra Gough, Iain McColl, Ian Sexon, Grace Kirby and Jill Balcon

28 March 1989 The Gift[16] Colin MacDonald Sandy Johnson Andy Park
Robert and Gordon, two talented teenage footballers from Wick, are invited to Glasgow for a week's trial with a big club. It is their first taste of professional football, but both the game and the city upset their expectations.

Cast: Duncan MacDonald, David Campbell, Del Henney, Clive Russell, Andrew Barr, Tommy Docherty, Jim Baxter, Pauline Thompson, Aline Mowat, Derek Anders, Bill Riddoch, Maggie McRitchie, Richard Cartledge, John Murtagh, Matthew Costello, Christopher Connor and Alan Tall

4 April 1989 Clowns[17] Gawn Grainger David Maloney Tom Kinninmont
Arthur is about to celebrate his 80th birthday and his family is gathering for a party. It is a time for celebration, but also for family tensions and a reassessment of how we all spend our lives.

Cast: Harry Andrews, Angela Down, Stephen Moore, Quona Minster, Robbie Engels, Alex Davion, Elizabeth Chambers, Ann Curthoys, Geoffrey Whitehead, Anne Kristen, Michael Keating, Jenny Twigge, Jenny McCrindle, Sam Miller, Christopher Elwell-Sutton, Richard Bell, Daniel Rodgers, Julia Marshall, Penny Sharp, Wendy Bishop and Simon Rodgers

11 April 1989 Biting the Hands[18] Rona Munro Carol Wilks Norman McCandlish
Linda and Gail are Hell's Belles – an alternative comedy double act. When success begins to beckon, they must decide whether to change their act or keep doing what they believe in. Are their principles justified – or are they just 'biting the hands' that feed them?

Cast: Judith Sweeney, Louise Beattie, Anne Kristen, Ewan Stewart, Stephanie Fayerman, Andrew Robertson, Tony Roper, Billy McElhanney, Audrey Jenkinson, Hilary MacLean, Douglas Anderson, Kerry Arthur, Marcus Railton, Kenny McFadyen and David Tennant

18 April 1989 A Master of the Marionettes[19] Guy Hibbert Pedr James Michael Wearing
Teddy Rose's passion is security – selling alarm systems to prosperous yet fearful suburban homes, one of which he and his family inhabit with conspicuous success. Then one Saturday morning a violent street encounter starts a chain of events, which calls into question his every assumption and changes his life for good.

Cast: Kenneth Cranham, Kenneth Colley, Carol Drinkwater, John Duttine, David Bradley, Noel Collins, Lennox Greaves, Sean Chapman, Elaine Donnelly, Peter Hughes, Lloyd McGuire, John Cunningham, Richenda Carey, Peter Yapp, Simon James, Matthew Hutchings, Lydia Hutchings and Alison Gorton

25 April 1989 Unexplained Laughter[20] Alun Owen from the novel by Alice Thomas Ellis Gareth Davies Tom Kinninmont
Lydia is unlucky in love and retreats to the Welsh countryside with her friend Betty. But the beautiful scenery holds its own humour and passion.

Cast: Diana Rigg, Elaine Paige, Joanna David, Jon Finch, Robert Gwilym, Cindy Holden, Robert East, Emlyn Price, Howell Evans, Patricia Kane, Moir Leslie, Anna Linstrum and Miriam Margolyes

26 July 1990 Changing Step[21] Antony Sher Richard Wilson Andy Park
Spring 1917: the privileged world of Sorn Castle is upside down, its stately rooms full of amputees from the Western Front. While the local aristocracy makes a first attempt at nursing, a romance blossoms.

Cast: James Convey, Susan Wooldridge, Eleanor Bron, Antony Sher, Sandra Voe, Jason Boyle, Terry Cavers, Helena Gillies, Sheila Donald, Fenella Kerr, Laurence McCann, Ewan Marshall, Ralph Riach, Margaretta Scott, Geof Armstrong, Jim Brogan, Jean Bruce, Brown Derby, Colin Duthie, John Wilson Goddard, Peter Hull, Brian Quinn, Garry Stewart and Dex Warren

2 August 1990 The Wreck on the Highway[22] Colin MacDonald Sandy Johnson Norman McCandlish
Washed up country-and-western singer John McGuire is broke and his family is emigrating. He and grandson Billy share the same dreams. They run away together in search of John's wealthy American ex-co-star Betsy Hall.

Cast: Tam White, Lynn Anderson, Ryan Quinn, C P Grogan, Duncan Duff, William Steel, Rachel Robertson and Angus MacInnes

9 August 1990 Killing Time[23] Kevin Elyot David Attwood Hilary Salmon
When Martin meets Harry he doesn't know what to expect. Is it love the boy is offering or a one-way ticket to heartbreak?

Cast: Pip Donaghy, Aidan Gillen, Harold Innocent, Hilda Fenemore, Ivor Roberts, Patrick Cremin, Ian Bailey, Bill McCabe, Chas Bryer, Geoffrey Greenhill, Lewis George and Stephen Morris

16 August 1990 Obituaries[24] David Conville David Blair Aileen Forsyth
In a nursing home for the elderly, White and Apcar compete for the privilege of shaking the Royal hand. The Daily Telegraph is the battleground, the obituary columns the challenge. As the game progresses it soon becomes clear that both are in deadly earnest.

Cast: Ian Carmichael, Ronald Fraser and Polly Hemingway

23 August 1990 Separation[25] Tom Kempinski Barry Davis Paddy Higson
When Sarah , a crippled New York actress, telephones Joe, an agoraphobic writer living in London, Joe's life is radically changed. She wants to perform his only hit play in an off-off-Broadway production. Through a series of transatlantic telephone calls they become strong friends, but when Sarah arrives in London to meet Joe for the first time, his terror almost destroys their developing love affair.

Cast: David Suchet and Rosanna Arquette

30 August 1990 Yellowbacks[26] Malcolm McKay Roy Battersby Peter Broughan
Britain in the very near future: in an abandoned hotel, a young female doctor and a middle-aged scientist are interrogated separately. The question which their captors need to find the answer to is, 'Where is Martin Pitt ?'

Cast: Janet McTeer, Roy Marsden, Bill Paterson, Tim Roth, Imelda Staunton, Kenny Ireland, Ciarán Hinds, Luke Hanson, Linda Henry and Jonathan Phillips

25 July 1991 Misterioso[27] Alan Plater John Glenister Norman McCandlish
When Rachel discovers that the man she had always thought of as her father is not a blood relation, she embarks on a quest of self-discovery: a journey which leads her to London and the midnight moody world of jazz clubs and a man whose signature tune seems to be Misterioso, a bittersweet blues tune by Thelonious Monk.

Cast: Suzan Sylvester, Jack Shepherd, Hugh Ross, Eilidh Alexander, David Michaels, Paul Stacey, Sharon Duce, Keith Marsh, Margery Mason, Angela Douglas, Gawn Grainger, Angela Morant, Gabrielle Reidy, David Jackson, Valerie Buchanan and Rachel Ogilvy

1 August 1991 Gas and Candles[28] Jimmy McGovern Alvin Rakoff Norman McCandlish
A black comedy about two pensioners striking back as they struggle to survive in a high-rise flat. A tin of salmon triggers a chain of events, which changes their lives. The key to this intriguing tale is the identity of 'Mr Shah '.

Cast: Edna Doré, Bert Parnaby, Leslie Sands, Simon Oates, Richard Brain, Rod Culbertson, Mark Lewis Jones and Kenneth Bryans

8 August 1991 Escape from Kampala[29] Wycliffe Kato adapted by Margaret and Eric Leclere Roy Battersby Aileen Forsyth
Uganda, September 1977: Wycliffe Kato is arrested at Entebbe airport and taken to Idi Amin's notorious Nakasero prison. Against enormous odds, Kato and his cellmates devise a daring escape plan.

Cast: John Matshikiza, Rudolph Walker, Oke Wambu, John Adewoll, Leo Wringer, Eddie Nestor, Thomas Baptiste, Hepburn Graham, Valentine Nonyela, Tunde Babs, Christian Dixon, Stephen K Amos, Jabu Mbalo, Raymond Johnson, Ilario Bisi-Pedro, Dorothy Brown, Joy Elias-Rilwan, Ian Roberts, Reginald Tsiboe, Chris Gilbert and Troy Fairclough

15 August 1991 And the Cow Jumped over the Moon[30] Donna Franceschild Penny Cherns Aileen Forsyth
In the women's cancer ward of a large Glasgow hospital, Eddie, the wisecracking hospital DJ, brightens the daily routine for former nightclub singer Andrea and her fellow patients. They share hopes and dreams for the future, which is unpredictable and provides a few surprises.

Cast: Phyllis Logan, Elaine Collins, Anne Downie, Ida Schuster, Andy Gray, Billy McElhaney and Joseph Charles

22 August 1991 Out of the Blue[31] Graham Alborough Nick Hamm Barry Hanson
Alan makes films in the warehouse studio where he lives, with the help of his friends. But when Alan falls in love with a beautiful young girl and decides to create the perfect romance between them, life begins to imitate the film fantasy, which has become an obsession for him.

Cast: Colin Firth, Catherine Zeta Jones, John Lynch, Cathy Tyson, Dexter Fletcher, Wendy Morgan, Jonathan Kydd, Dominique Atkins, Bill Cashmore, Tina Deen and Daniel Strauss

29 August 1991 Effie's Burning[32] Valerie Windsor Nigel Evans Tom Kinninmont
The medical burns unit sees a lot of strange cases, but none stranger than Effie, who claims her burns are the result of spontaneous combustion.

Cast: Paula Tilbrook, Phyllis Logan and Gordon Jackson


  1. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: Down Where the Buffalo Go
  2. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: The Dark Room
  3. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: Normal Service
  4. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: The Dunroamin' Rising
  5. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: A Wholly Healthy Glasgow
  6. ^ BBC – The Play on One – A Wholly Healthy Glasgow
  7. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: Unreported Incident
  8. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: Airbase
  9. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: The Party
  10. ^ BBC – Radio Times – Play on One: Heartland
  11. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: These Foolish Things
  12. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: Govan Ghost Story
  13. ^ BBC – The Play on One – Govan Ghost Story
  14. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: The Shawl
  15. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: A View of Harry Clark
  16. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: The Gift
  17. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: Clowns
  18. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: Biting the Hands
  19. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: A Master of the Marionettes
  20. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: Unexplained Laughter
  21. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: Changing Step
  22. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: The Wreck on the Highway
  23. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: Killing Time
  24. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: Obituaries
  25. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: Separation
  26. ^ BBC – Radio Times – The Play on One: Yellowbacks
  27. ^ BBC – Radio Times – Play on One: Misterioso
  28. ^ BBC – Radio Times – Play on One: Gas and Candles
  29. ^ BBC – Radio Times – Play on One: Escape from Kampala
  30. ^ BBC – Radio Times – Play on One: And the Cow Jumped over the Moon
  31. ^ BBC – Radio Times – Play on One: Out of the Blue
  32. ^ BBC – Radio Times – Play on One: Effie's Burning

External linksEdit