It was a bolt out of the blue, when we ran a post about a 1980’s sitcom “Streets Apart” an email popped up from the writer telling us it was nice to see that people still remembered it, as it was a long time ago and despite it’s success at the time had never been repeated apart from a brief run on UK Gold.
That writer was Adrienne Conway, who kindly agreed to talk to us about her work.
BCC: You started your career as an actress popping up in various bit parts through the 1970’s, then onto a role as Francoise in the comedy Under The Bed in 1977. Are there any other roles we might know you from ?
AC: I was known as Adrienne Frame, for most of my early acting career. At 17, Ken Loach cast me in, “Up The Junction”. I had a nice little part that of Joy. This was my first part. I had studied part time at a Method drama school. Ken Loach then cast me as Cathy’s young sister -in- law, in Cathy Come Home. (I still get little repeat fees for it)
I worked in theatre -mainly comedy. Films. (I have no idea why Under the Bed is listed! it was a nothing, silly film.)
On television, for ITV. Danger UXB. I played opposite Sammy Davis Jnr. in One More Time, directed by Jerry Lewis. But the scene was cut and one doesn’t get a credit if that happens.
At that time I had to turn work down as they clashed. This is all late 60’s into 1975.
In hindsight I should have been moving on in theatre, building my career, but I was enjoying my life in London in what was, such an exciting time to be young and pretty.
I was also was type cast, playing funny little cockney girls and started to resent it. The directors I worked with wouldn’t see me in a more adult role. I didn’t want to tour and the work began to dry -up. (as it does for so many women)
BCC: In 1988 you turned to writing with Streets Apart, straight onto BBC1 no less. What inspired you to turn your hand to writing?
AC: I always loved comedy. And enjoyed making people laugh. I had thought about writing for some time, but thought one had to have been to university. Then read of sitcom writers like John Sullivan and Johnny Speight. A lot of the press at the time took up the fact that I first conceived Streets to play in it myself.
I continued to persue my acting career. At that time it was very hard for an actor to move over from drama to L. E. I wanted to be in a long running series like ‘The Liver Birds.’ I spent a few years in L.A. where I went with the view to find work, but fell in love with an English man!
Back in the UK.
I started to write with another actor, but that didn’t work out, but he introduced me to a writers group Player Playwights, where I met Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran. I went for about 2 years trying out little plays and learning more what not to do. Lo and MO used to try out all their new work there.
BCC: Streets Apart ended in 1989 you came back with another hit in 1991, the one off “A Slight Hitch” EDITORS NOTE: At this point Adrienne tells us a fascinating story that about changes at ITV we’ve put this in the Slight Hitch Post because it would be better told in it’s own right.
BCC: Why do you think Streets Apart never gets repeated, like many other successful sitcoms?
AC: I don’t know why it’s never repeated, it sold all over the world. Australia took it twice, but I know they prefer longer running series. It’s never been put on DVD either, when I see some truly awful shows are.
BCC: What do think about the current sitcoms, is the sitcom struggling or beginning to fight it’s way back?
AC: I like some of them, but they often run on too long. The days have passed when we had very long running series like, On the buses, because audiences are far more sophisticated now. We don’t’ tune in to hear a catch phrase used. I think that it goes round in circles. there will always be a winner in a bunch of mediocre stuff. Now shows are made by commitees and accountants. The power has gone from the individual producer who believes and has the power to run to run with the show. I received no input at all with Streets Apart.
BCC: Do you think you are likely to have another go at sitcom?
AC: To be honest NO, I don’t think I have the energy. I much prefer to write for film, theatre, TV drama or perhaps comedy drama. The sitcom is by and large a young person’s media.
BCC: We’ve asked everybody this question, your favourite sitcom you wished you had written ?
AC: I think it would be Cheers or Frazier, sophisticated humour, wonderful characters. They are timeless and I still enjoy watching them.
Adrienne Thank You, for talking to British Classic Comedy