Alan Plater is dead

by Harry on June 30, 2010

When Alan Sillitoe died I experienced a moment of sadness that evaporated when I realized that it was, indeed, Sillitoe, and not Plater, who was gone. But now it is, indeed, Plater. Guardian obit here. A gorgeous appreciation by Tom Courtenay here. Z Cars, Softly Softly, Selwyn Froggitt, Fortunes of War, A Very British Coup (enormously superior to the book), Close the Coalhouse Door, it seems that for decades he was everywhere, words just spilling out. And all those radio plays, including the brilliant Roll Jordan Roll saga — many being replayed over and again on Radio 7. But above even the radio plays there is what for me was his masterpiece — the Beiderbecke Trilogy — a long, long, mood piece with lots of talk in which, by the end of each part, you realize belatedly that nothing has really happened. Brilliant.



ejh 06.30.10 at 12:04 pm

the Beiderbecke Trilogy

Marvellous, they were, and original and impossible to imitate. Imagine trying to pitch them as an idea.


nick s 06.30.10 at 2:36 pm

The three Beiderbecke series were hard to find on DVD until relatively recently, and I ought to buy the box set to refresh my happy memories.

Plater’s sense of the north always seemed different to that of Bennett or Roy Clarke: more political, obviously, but it also reflects his own sensibility as a Durham lad in Yorkshire, looking at the cross-Tees dynamic as opposed to the cross-Pennine one.


Batocchio 06.30.10 at 8:57 pm

I haven’t seen all of his work, but I have seen A Very British Coup several times, and its writing and editing are often masterful. I agree it’s better than the book, most of all in its ending. (I miss its lead actor, Ray McAnally, too.) Thanks for the other recs.


Warren Terra 06.30.10 at 9:18 pm

This, from the linked obit, is very funny to read:

his own juggling and acrobatic act, the Forty-Four Flying Fletchers, in his student days. The acrobatics were minimal, the juggling invisible. The act always began with an announcement that, unfortunately, 41 of the Flying Fletchers had been rendered indisposed with a pulled muscle: “Here are the other three.” Plater and two pals then marched on to the stage in string vests, baggy shorts and false moustaches. When they took their bows after an hour or so of invisible juggling, a hail of tennis balls rained down from the flies. They usually performed with a deaf drummer.

Though I’m not sure it would be as funny to sit through …


Jon 07.01.10 at 11:59 am

I can well understand how you might momentarily transpose Sillitoe and Plater. To be clear, Sillitoe will also be sadly missed. The intervening years have perhaps served to smudge the importance of his early novels, but their quality remains.


Harry 07.01.10 at 1:39 pm

Oh, yes, I didn’t mean to sleight him. Just that Plater has long had a very dear place in my heart, since long before Beiderbecke….


Penny-Ann Singer 09.19.10 at 10:27 pm

Tonight I watched the brilliant Alan Plater’s last work “Joe Maddison’s War” on ITV and as usual it did not disappoint. A beautifully written story, touching and in his usual way, masterful. Thank you Alan, rest in peace.

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