This BBC Sunday Night Theatre presentation, broadcast on 15 April 1951, was an adaptation of Charles Terrot's historical novel about the early days of the Salvation Army. Producer Michael Barry scaled down the story to focus on two young women dispatched towards the latter part of the 19th century to introduce the Salvation Army into a bleak northern town.
Despite the 'scaling down' this was no small production, with 50 characters, a real Salvation Army band, filmed inserts and even a riot staged in the studio.
Shout Aloud Salvation was an ambitious project by an ambitious producer who was the newly appointed BBC Head of Television Drama and helped shape the medium in its formative years. The script contained 65 cuts and 35 mixes and fades before it went into rehearsal on the studio floor, with both Terrot and Barry working on the show and meeting with Salvationist historians to ensure authenticity in costumes, the routines of early evangelist meetings and period songs, for up to six months before transmission.
The mood of the play is set in the opening sequence of a "plain grey Britain against a darker background." The grimness of a Victorian industrial revolution below the sunlit leisure of Victorian prosperity is captured as the camera settles on 'The Miserable.' The description from the original teleplay script describing 'The Miserable' as "a creature of the slums of the last century. Probably conceived and born in intoxication. The face is a dehumanised grey mass. The flesh hangs in folds. The eyes are glazed disks, so vacant as to be almost opaque. The body is a shapeless bundle of stinking rags. The creature is crouched beneath a wall under a lamp that suggests we are outside the entrance to a railway station. Two girls stand beside it. They wear the bonnets and costumes of the Salvation Army of 1880-81. They have suitcases and each carries a large tambourine. The one bending over the creature is Janine Mayhew, a slim figure with short, curly hair. The other is Maud Harding, a fair pretty girl."
Janine was played by Virginia McKenna (pictured above with 'The Miserable'; actor Patrick Keogh), who, only a few months before, had shot to fame in the West End as a talented new actress. Also appearing in the 1951 adaptation was British character actor Leslie Dwyer who went on to appear in over a hundred television productions including Doctor Who, You're Only Young Twice, Coronation Street and Hi-de-Hi!, Lewis Casson (husband to the legendary actress Dame Sybil Thorndike and later knighted for his contribution to the British theatre), and Nicholas Hannen.
Critical reaction to Shout Out Salvation was unanimously positive with the Manchester Guardian proclaiming that the play "was the proof that the television 'blood and thunder' drama is fascinating." The Evening Standard called it the "Most successful of original television plays." However, there was criticism of the play's conclusion and Michael Barry acknowledged that it had been over-ambitious. It was amended for a new production five years later by George More O'Ferrall.
Published on April 5th, 2020. Written by Laurence Marcus (Sources: The Television Annual for 1952 & http://www.britishtelevisiondrama.org.uk/?p=319). for Television Heaven.