Edna, The Inebriate Woman

1971 | United Kingdom

Written by Jeremy Sandford who, with director Ken Loach, had created one of the most influential dramas of the 1960's, the tale of a homeless mother in Cathy Come Home

In Edna, the subjects that Sandford tackled was no less emotive - vagrancy and alcoholism. In order to give the play an air of authenticity, Sandford lived the life of a tramp - "For two separate occasions of two weeks I submerged myself in that nether world" he later confided. 

Patricia Hayes, better known for her comedy roles alongside the likes of Tony Hancock, Arthur Haynes, Frankie Howerd and Benny Hill as well as appearances in television series such as Till Death Us Do Part and (later) In Sickness And In Health, was deliberately chosen for the role of Edna because of her comedy background. Edna is rude, aggressive and fiercely proud is also, often, very funny. Hayes more than justified producer Irene Shubik and director Ted Kotcheff's choice when she gave an award winning performance as the troubled vagrant who is shunted from one agency to another finding temporary sanctuary in shelters for the homeless, prison and a psychiatric hospital, only to be forced back, each time, onto the streets. 

Hayes deservedly won the best actress award from the Society of Film and Television Arts. The play was voted best production at the same awards, and won the best original television production award from the Writers' Guild and the Critics' Circle award for best television play. 

Seen as an indictment of society's inability to care for its outcasts, Edna, The Inebriate Woman (originally titled The Lodging House) was a stirring piece of televisual drama that was made all the more powerful by Hayes' superb performance of a woman trying to hold on to the last vestiges of her dignity. 

Published on March 5th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus (2001) for Television Heaven.