15 SEPTEMBER 1961, Page 14


SIR,—Your television critic, Mr. Forster, last week was kind enough to give a review of my play Wet Fish in which he commented that Miss Stott was wasted in an inadequate art. In the same article he also referred to the low standard of production to be found in television drama. Might I suggest that these two points (With both of which I agree) are not unconnected? My experience with Wet Fish hos been an unfortunate one, the blowing-up of a small part in an attempt to fit it for an actress- with a 'name' being only one of several irritations that were forced upon me by the basic refusal of the producer concerned to consult me. over the pro- duction.

An earlier TV script of mine (Soldier Soldier) was presented last year, and was on the whole well received. I had been able to co-operate with the producer at every phase, my opinions on casting were sought, and certain scenes which the producer or the actors found unsatisfactory were referred back directly to me for modification : and the result was that the final appearance of the play coincided very closely with my original conception. With Wet Fish, however, the only contact the producer (a different one) chose to make was to return the script to me at an early stage to tell me it was too long and would I cut any lines I wanted. After that, I heard nothing from him. I have not so high an opinion of my own work as to believe that a play sent in to the BBC is necessarily the final version—indeed, I have invariably found that suggestions made by producers are well worth paying attention to. So I was appalled to discover that Wet Fish was cast and put into rehearsal entirely uncritically, my notions as to the relative importance, rhythms and meanings of episodes and characters being ignored, or rather never sought.

if the policy of the BBC (I cannot speak for other organisations) is to treat a new play like so much margarine to be weighed, packed and sold without another thought, it is scarcely surprising that Mr. Forster finds plenty, to grumble at. The producer of Soldier Soldier was perhaps an excep- tion to the general rule. The producer of Wet Fish is said to have remarked that he didn't care to 'coddle authors.' I know one author at least he isn't going to have the chance of coddling ever again.