Six-part show On The Margin, which aired from September 9th to December 14th, 1966, featured satirical, political and musical sketches written and performed by Bennett, who had risen to fame as part of the legendary Beyond The Fringe revue show, which also featured luminaries Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller.
Bennett was joined by a regular cast including John Sergeant, later to become the BBC’s chief political correspondent, and Virginia Stride, best-remembered as the seductive Liz Champion in BBC weekly drama series Champion House (1967 – 8). The series also featured Yvonne Gillan, Madge Hindle and Roland MacLeod.
Despite proving a popular and critical hit and getting two repeats in 1967, the second seeing the show move from BBC2 to BBC1, On The Margin is now known mainly as one of the high-profile losses of the BBC’s wiping policy.
Only one filmed insert remains to represent the series visually. However, a number of audio excerpts are also known to exist and these have been compiled by BBC Audiobooks for an exciting new CD scheduled for release in October.
Alan Bennett’s On The Margin, due out October 8th, will at least give a taste for what the show must have been like. No details of the track titles or running time have yet been revealed but an idea of the type of comedy to expect can be gleaned from BFI Screenonline’s guide to the show:
“Each instalment featured a mixture of sketches (some foreshadowing Bennett’s subsequent television dramas, others mocking television clichés, such as documentaries about working-class Northern writers and discussion programmes featuring pretentious critics), the quasi-soap ‘Streets Ahead: Life and Times in NW1’ (about a supposedly upwardly mobile Camden couple) and, more unexpectedly, serious poetry and music slots incorporating readings by Michael Hordern and Prunella Scales and archive footage of music-hall stars. This personalised nostalgic element distinguished On the Margin from other sketch shows, with Bennett’s satirical swipes at contemporary Britain integrated with his entirely genuine love of its cultural heritage.”
Alan Bennett’s On The Margin is currently available for pre-order on Play.com, priced £5.99.