ITV Playhouse: A Splinter of Ice (BFI Southbank)

splinter of ice
Ian Hendry (Tony) and Judy Loe (Clemence)

Fay Weldon’s absorbing play teams a small cast headed by Ian Hendry and Annette Crosbie to explore the problems of middle-aged marriages and the preoccupations of the younger generation.

Tony (Hendry) is a writer and TV personality who has been married to Joy (Crosbie) for twenty years. She is a brittle and bitter woman of forty who regrets not having a child, and her closest friend Bridget (Zena Walker), is also her biggest irritation.

Bridget, a ‘suburban housewife’ with a dull marriage and four children, ‘two with asthma’, and a couple of weeks away puts the smile back on her face when she has a fling with Tony’s agent, Jude (Norman Eshley).

In the meantime, we know that young Clemence (Judy Loe) has got herself pregnant from her affair with Tony, fifteen years her senior, and isn’t keen on keeping the baby. Throw in a bohemian girlfriend for Jude, Julia (Amber Kammer), a randy cat, generational attitudes towards love, commitment, and abortion, and you have a provocative drama which may not feel entirely contemporary in the 21st century, but which still engages audience empathy even if the majority of the characters are dreadful, self-obsessed, selfish and stagnant.

Hendry, Loe and Crosbie in particular shine as the unhappily married couple and the ‘slut’ who the wife first tolerates, then sees as a threat, then realises her usefulness. Walker’s frumpy mother lights up when a chance to relive her girlhood offers itself, while Eshley and Kammer are quietly obnoxious twenty-somethings abjecting themselves of any responsibility.

Utilising several extreme close-ups and some clever scenes with minimal dialogue, we see the unfolding plot from each point of view, and get a measure of what the future holds for each and every character.

3 thoughts on “ITV Playhouse: A Splinter of Ice (BFI Southbank)

  1. I thought that you’d be at this one! It will probably be our top seller of the season. I think that most of the people who left after the first play were Ian Hendry fans.

    I found that my thoughts about what would be the best course of action for these characters to take continually shifted throughout the play – a lack of prescriptiveness that is perhaps rarer in contemporary TV drama. The wronged wife had such a capacity for unhappiness that made me shrink from her, although it did give Annette Crosbie most of the best lines. Jude Loe has always been especially good at using stillness to convey thought and feeling.

    Do try and come to some of the other screenings. They’re all worth seeing in this season.

  2. Watching ‘Over’, I was reminded of a story Stephen Jeffreys told me once. When he was a young playwright his agent Peggy Ramsay would tell him “It’s full of fine writing, dear.” It took him a while to realise that it wasn’t a compliment.

    At times I thought that it would have been more interesting without the words, just watching Barbara Jefford respond to being alone in various environments… but if that had been the case it would hardly have filled our remit of celebrating women TV dramatists!

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