Play for Today: Dinner at the Sporting Club, directed by Brian Gibson.  Starring John Thaw, Billy McColl, Maureen Lipman, Jonathan Lynn, and Ken Campbell.  63 minutes.  1978.

“I married a ladies raincoat manufacturer, not a sportsman”.

Maureen Lipman and Jonathan Lynn as a bored and sniping couple are on the sidelines of this sharp and compact play featuring John Thaw as a boxing promoter and Billy McColl as his prizefighter, acceptable to the sporting club fraternity because he isn’t ‘chocolate’.

This is a sparkling character study in many ways – here’s the marvellous Ken Campbell propping up the bar in suit and bow tie, wondering whether to take a flutter on the boy.

“They get enough money for a down-payment on a bungalow out in Ongar and they’re satisfied”.

An on-the-surface romantic view of the boxing ring soon evaporates into the loss of hope in seedy surroundings as McColl’s fighter fails to reach his potential.

Gloriously un-PC, too, with lines like ‘He doesn’t drink, funny being a Mick’. Thaw and McColl are good, and this has a definite whiff of realism with the blood, sweat and tears of the fighting ring.

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