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'One of Thatcher's Children'

Alan Clarke's vivid images of 1980s Britain

Main image of 'One of Thatcher's Children'

The social division of the 1980s provided a catalyst for some of Alan Clarke's most celebrated work. From sneering skinhead Trevor in Made in Britain proudly declaring that he is "one of Thatcher's children" to Bex, the ultra-violent yuppie estate agent in The Firm, Clarke's dramas laid bare the dark heart of the greed-is-good mentality of the decade.

Instinctively socialist, Clarke deplored the era's growing individualism at the expense of the community and highlighted its effect on the individual through his work. Without resorting to soap box politics, he was able to make some of the most powerful and affecting dramas of the period by focusing on marginalised, forgotten or plain unpleasant characters.

What made Clarke controversial was his refusal to moralise or offer obvious condemnation of awkward characters, preferring instead to allow his audience to draw their own conclusions. By giving voice to neo-Nazi thug Trevor, Made in Britain is able to explore the reasons for his disaffection and ultimately demonstrate that much of Trevor's anger stems from self-hatred. Similarly The Firm, with its affluent thugs, showed that football hooligans were not just mindless yobs, nor was their violence anything to do with soccer - as one of Bexy's firm says: "If they stop us at football, we'll just go to boxing or snooker."

Even the comic Rita, Sue and Bob Too dealt with domestic violence, racism and the growing gap between Thatcher's home-owners and those who were left behind in run-down council estates.

One of Clarke's reported favourite instructions to his actors was "let the pig out, let's have a good look at him, and then let's kill him." The pig represented society's evils - violence, injustice, inequality, wasted youth - and for Clarke, showing what was abhorrent, facing up to the problem, was a major step towards dealing with it.

Justin Hobday

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1986)

Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1986)

Raucous Northern comedy about a man's affairs with his babysitters

Thumbnail image of Firm, The (1989)

Firm, The (1989)

Gary Oldman in Alan Clarke's searing indictment of football hooliganism

Thumbnail image of Made in Britain (1983)

Made in Britain (1983)

Tim Roth's incendiary debut as an intelligent but nihilistic skinhead

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Thumbnail image of Clarke, Alan (1935-1990)

Clarke, Alan (1935-1990)

Director, Writer, Producer