Armchair Theatre was ITV’s flagship anthology series, and this Volume-3 release contains twelve b/w plays initially broadcast between 1950 and 1960.

The 4-disc set is a true gem for collectors of television nostalgia. Armchair Theatre established itself as a showcase for the post-war generation of British writers - mostly touching on sensitive social topics such as the British class system like the play ‘Lena, O My Lena’ starring a young Billie Whitelaw. Though most of the plays seem outdated by nowadays standards. It’s interesting to see how attitudes have changed over the decades, although the obsession with the class system has not changed all that much. Other plays deal with feminist issues or are of a more adventurous nature.

Standout plays on Disc 1 are ‘Now Let Him Go’ by acclaimed novelist J.B. Priestley, in which a famous painter loses his memory and various other faculties during a train trip – ending up in the room of a tavern while those around him have yet to establish who the dying man actually is. Once the riddle is solved, the race is on for the artist’s inheritance and his paintings – prompting not only press to arrive at the inn, but also various family members.

Equally clever is ‘The Criminals’ (starring Stanley Baker), in which four directors are interrupted by a well-known criminal during a board meeting. If they don’t carry out his plans and refuse to co-operate, the directors families will come to harm…

On Disc 2 it’s ‘The Man Out There’ which makes for entertaining viewing. Here, Patrick McGoohan plays a Russian cosmonaut cut off from base and floating in space, with time and oxygen running thin. Due to a freak radio reception, he is linked up with the wife of a Canadian trapper, their cottage being cut off in blizzard weather conditions. She too, is confronted with a life and death situation.

The somewhat unfortunately titled ‘Afternoon Of A Nymph’ is a highlight on Disc 3, in which a would-be starlet (Janet Munro) is invited to a party to meet all the right people and strike up some vital connections to enhance her chances as a budding actress. But will executives see more in her than just a pretty face?

Disc 4 finally shines with ‘Poor Cherry’ by Fay Weldon, a critical look at women’s roles in society starring Dilys Lane, Judy Cornwell and Jane Birkin.
Cherry’s marriage to hubby Brian may have become routine, but her work for Phillip Rick, a candidate in the local election, pushes her out of domestic boredom and before soon Cherry’s home is turned into campaign headquarters. But for how long will the newly found happiness last?

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