Nuts In May
Play For Today
Devised and directed by Mike Leigh
Available on BBC iPlayer
It was with absolute delight that I noticed that this play was currently available on iPlayer. Fond memories came flooding back of watching it whilst growing up.
Play For Today was a series of British dramas which ran from 1970 to 1984 and the 14 series featured hundreds of stand alone, original tv plays, and also adaptations of stage plays and novels. Some even later went on to be made into tv series including Rumpole of The Bailey and Boys From The Blackstuff.
The two that I remember most, and that stand out for me is the unforgettable Abigail's Party which was originally shown in 1977, also by Mike Leigh and starred Alison Steadman and looked at with a hilarity throughout, social etiquette airs and graces and the class system.
The other is of course the funny cult classic Nuts In May from 1976. Roger Sloman as Keith and Alison Steadman as his wife Candice Marie are a middle class couple who go on a camping holiday to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the suburbs and enjoy some idyllic time amongst nature.
The story starts with them driving to the campsite and as they arrive at their chosen site in Dorset we see them setting up camp and starting their holiday in a quiet tranquil, peaceful area.
Quite a hippy pair in that they make up and sing their own folk songs, Candice Marie writes poetry and paints, they are vegetarian and only want unpasteurized milk. At times though this serves to be a reason to be very self righteous as we see later with Keith's interaction with others.
From the beginning and throughout, contradiction is shown between being at one and soaking in their relaxing environment when as they go on trips doing things like visiting the coastline and castles, Keith, who is rigid by nature, has a strict itinerary of places to visit on each day insisting that nothing will stop him from sticking to his list (he loves writing everything down) This results in him even choosing to take a hazardous car journey when the original road is closed for the day.
We also see as the pair go about their travels, that he is so determined to see everything he plans to, that he goes so quickly through everything, walks too fast that his wife has to hurry to keep up and whilst she asks him to slow down at times so that they can stop to look and take in the beauty and sights of what is around them, they end up missing a lot because of his haste.
He also has a theory that everything should be chewed 72 times and three different types of footwear to be taken out with them for the different type of walks.
Alongside this, whilst at the campsite the arrival of another camper spoils their perceived tranquillity. The newcomer (Ray) has pitched his tent nearby and has the radio on. This bothers Keith and Candice Marie and she asks her husband to ask Ray to turn it off as they want peace and quiet.
In another contradiction it is ok for them to get their musical instruments out and sing one of their songs (they invite Ray over to join in which he does reluctantly and this results in a very funny cringe inducing sing-along)
Throughout the play there is an underlying sense of just waiting for Keith to go into a rant about something .Candice Marie and Ray start to build up a bit of a friendship and lend each other books but Keith doesn't like it, starts to become jealous so when she curiously mentions about Ray’s studies Keith flies into a rage and insists they both go over to ask Ray and proceeds to storm over to his tent. Candice Marie later suggested that Keith should apologise to Ray, which he does, but the unease is always there
The arrival of another couple at the campsite on a motorbike who are without a clue how to even pitch a tent (they have it inside out initially) threatens the peace and quiet further. Their arrival ultimately leads to another hilarious encounter when a fight using tree branches breaks out between Keith and one of the newbie campers called Finger when Keith tells them they can't have an open fire on the campsite as it's against the rules (and Keith is a stickler for rules)
Keith gets upset afterwards and goes off for a walk leaving his wife alone in the tent whilst the other campers are left to wonder what on earth is going on. When he returns Keith tells his wife that they are leaving immediately even though it is only half way through their holiday. They then go off to find somewhere else suitable for the rest of their break away.
As with a lot of the Play For Today dramas, there was an inclusion of moral and social issues, differences in the class system and people's perception of what is right and wrong. Nuts In May does this brilliantly with humour throughout and the acting from the two main characters is outstanding.
It definitely makes you think whilst watching it, who is right in this instance, and a lot of the time is the answer possibly this, sometimes there is no right or wrong. Just live and let live?
I hope the BBC make more (if not all) of these wonderfully classic tv theatre plays available to watch and enjoy again.