After the Funeral

1960 | United Kingdom

Morgan and Dave want their Welsh grandfather to live with them, but for different reasons-in which the mutual dislike between Morgan's wife and Dave's fiancé plays an important part. 

When Alun Owen's play 'After the Funeral' was read by Sydney Newman, head of drama for ABC Television, and William Kotcheff, the television director, they were so taken by his conception of Wales and the Welsh, they decided to see for themselves. Owen took them to his home town, Cardigan, and to the villages of his childhood, which he used as the background to his play. Then he took them to meet Welsh-speaking actors in Cardiff and Swansea. Three of them were asked to take leading parts in the play - Hugh David, Margaret John and Rachel Thomas. Despite the gloomy title, After the Funeral is entertaining and, in parts, funny. Owen makes telling comments on those who pride themselves on Welsh ancestry and anyone who indulges in race snobbery. 

The story concerns two brothers, Dave and Morgan Roberts, who quarrel on the day of their mother's funeral. They each offer a home to their grandfather, Captain John Roberts (Charles Carson), an eccentric retire sea captain of 80. The plot turns on their reasons for inviting the old man to share their homes. Dave wants him because he loves him and because his home is in Liverpool, the captain's home port for 20 years. Morgan wants him because the old man is a "character" speaks "beautiful Welsh" and would impress his circle at the Welsh university where he is a lecturer. For Morgan is ashamed of being "Liverpool-Welsh," tries to conceal it and has taken great pains to learn Welsh, so that he can carry off his claim to be a true Welshman. Morgan was played by Hugh David who Sydney Newman would, just a few years later, want to cast in the lead role of Doctor Who - a part that David would turn down. 

Margaret John, a dark-haired Swansea girl, takes the part of Ailwen, Morgan's wife, in her first TV appearance. She went on to appear in numerous TV productions but is perhaps most famous in recent years for her role as Doris, the surprisingly blunt and sensual elderly neighbour of Gwen and Ness, in the cult BBC TV series Gavin and Stacey. Rachel Thomas plays a spinster aunt, Blodwen. Englishman William Lucas (Dr James Gordon in The Adventures Black Beauty: 1972-74) plays Dave while 23-year old Stockport born actress Sylvia Kay plays Dave's girlfriend, Vera Bryant. Kay later became familiar to television viewers as Penny's mum, Daphne Warrender, in the BBC sitcom Just Good Friends. After The Funeral was Alun Owen's second play for the Armchair Theatre strand (coming between No Trams to Lime Street and Leno, Oh My Lena). Owen would later write the celebrated screenplay A Hard Day's Night - which starred The Beatles. Broadcast on Sunday 3rd April, 1960 between 9.5 and 10.5pm. 

Published on November 26th, 2018. Adapted from a TV Times article published April 3rd, 1960. Original article Cecilie Leslie.