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Sudden Wrench, A (1982)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Sudden Wrench, A (1982)
BBC1, tx. 23/3/1982
60 minutes, colour
DirectorJon Amiel
ProducerAlan Shallcross
ScriptPaula Milne

Cast: Rosemary Martin (Christine); Dave Hill (Terry); Sasha Mitchell (Polly); Jesse Birdsall (David)

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Fed up with staying at home doing housework, Christine decides to take up plumbing, installing a new central heating system in her house. She gets a job as a plumber's mate on a building site and is eventually accepted by the men.

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Paula Milne's first single drama came after ten years writing for popular series such as Crossroads (ITV, 1964-88), Angels (BBC, 1975-83), Coronation Street (ITV, 1960-) and Juliet Bravo (BBC, 1980-85). 'A Sudden Wrench' has a double meaning, referring to the effort bored housewife Christine makes to get herself out of the domestic rut in which she finds herself, and also to the new career - plumbing - on which she embarks, at the age of 43, in an attempt to reinvigorate her life.

Although by 1982 many Play for Today (BBC, 1970-84) dramas were being shot on film, 'A Sudden Wrench' was recorded on video, giving it a visual quality resembling much of Milne's previous work, rather than the grainy social realism of Jim Allen's 'United Kingdom' (tx. 8/12/1982) or Mike Leigh's 'Home Sweet Home' (tx. 16/3/1982), both of which appeared in the same season. An early directorial assignment for Jon Amiel, who went on to direct Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective (BBC, 1986) and a number of Hollywood movies, 'A Sudden Wrench' lacks something as compelling drama, despite its short running time, although the inclusion of some montage sequences to pop music accompaniment helps enliven it at key moments.

All the same, 'A Sudden Wrench' made an important intervention, along with Janey Preger's 'Under the Skin' (tx. 19/1/1982), in the previously masculinist Play for Today series. While the feminist message may occasionally seem laboured, especially in the consciousness-raising 'Women Against Apathy' talk given by a feminist speaker at Christine's daughter Polly's school, Milne was writing for the ordinary housewife represented by Christine rather than women already committed to the cause. As such the drama represents an important departure in the writer's work, paving the way for her examinations of women in a man's world in the eight-part Driving Ambition (BBC , 1984), which also featured Rosemary Martin in the central role, Chandler and Co. (BBC, 1994-95) and The Politician's Wife (Channel 4, 1995).

Lez Cooke

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Video Clips
1. Happy Talk (1:19)
2. Women Against Apathy (3:17)
3. Let's get physical (2:51)
4. Job done (3:16)
Did I Say Hairdressing? I Meant Astrophysics (1998)
John David (1982)
Milne, Paula (1947-)
Play for Today (1970-84)