tue 30/11/2021

DVD: Dramarama - Spooky | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Dramarama - Spooky

DVD: Dramarama - Spooky

Eighties ITV kids drama with an edge

This series of supernatural dramas from the early 1980s is the sort of thing that could very easily be parodied – has been parodied, in fact, by everyone from Victoria Wood and French and Saunders to The League of Gentlemen and Garth Merenghi's Darkplace. Every shonky visual effect, every discordant stab of strings as the camera's point of view creeps up behind a character, every window that blows open extinguishing a candle: these are meat and potatoes to sketch writers, and this makes it hard to watch these episodes with a straight face... at first.

Sit down and watch the episodes in full, though, and unless you are an impossible irony addict, quite a few of them will quickly draw you in past the silly facades and into some tidily structured psychodrama. These are very small ensemble pieces, generally featuring two or three actors in a half-hour episode, with the kind of pacing you never see on television now.

 

There's lots of silence, lots of repetition of themes, slow ratcheting up of tension – so even in what seems like a glaringly obvious morality piece like The Danny Roberts Show, the radio DJ's descent into insanity is genuinely uncomfortable, with no easy closure at the end, either.

Lovely use of music, too. There are lots of Radiophonic Workshop style fizzes and zaps such as you might hear in old Doctor Who episodes, but best of all the rippling dulcimers of the haunted-house story The Keeper - written incidentally by great children's author Alan Garner (The Owl Service etc). These dramas ARE preposterous, and dated, too, by definition – but, especially if like me you grew up in this era of kids' TV, there's an edge to them, a genuine weirdness that makes them compulsive viewing.

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