Dennis Waterman in 'Play for Today: Joe's Ark' (1974)
Written by Dennis Potter, this is a pretty grim tale all about a pet shop owner and his terminally ill daughter Lucy.
Set mainly in the South Wales Valleys, it questions pet shop owner's lifelong religious beliefs. Although the shop owner is a devout churchgoer, he is unable comprehend how God might allow his daughter die. Actor Freddie Jones is superb as pet shop owner Joe (pictured).
Dennis Waterman stars as Bobby, Lucy's estranged brother. Bobby has fallen out with the pet shop owner Joe and makes his living with a poor entertainment act (including a cheap strip routine) far away from his hometown.
What is interesting about this production, is firstly that it was filmed around about the same time as when Dennis Waterman was starting in 'The Sweeney'. It is also nice to see the South Wales valleys as a location, albeit raining as usual. Not sure of the exact location but my feeling is near the Rhondda somewhere.
An interesting production, well worth a look but it's grim theme of terminal illness and Welsh valleys weather makes this an uneasy watch.
6/10 - terminal illness and certain death is a tough subject to 'enjoy' but the undercurrents of doubt in religion, over enthusiasm to help, nosey villagers and family feud make this an interesting hour. You also see Dennis on stage with an out of tune guitar. You'll not be overwhelmed though.
For those who've not seen this, at time of writing it is on a well known video sharing site and can be sought.
I've just watched Joe's Ark. I have to disagree with our industrious leader and give this 10/10.
This is Dennis Potter at his very best. It's grim, uncomfortable to watch and pretty depressing all the way through. That's why it's worth watching.
The pet shop is clearly a religious reference to Noah's Ark, animals kept safe inside from the rain outside. Joe, the pet shop owner, locks himself away from the world. Most of the play takes place on a Sunday with a backdrop of Welsh Protestantism. Joe seeks answers from his faith, but can't find a godly answer to justify his daughter's illness. The play is clearly a religious critique. While Noah's Ark was a place of protection in the bible, Joe's Ark cannot protect the aspiring Lucy - played superbly by the late Angharad Rees - from the inevitable fate of terminal cancer. Neither can her brother Bobby, played by Dennis Waterman, her middle class English boyfriend, the local priest or doctor.
I've always been a fan of Dennis Potter. His work really makes the viewer think quite deeply. Play For Today was a superb series and despite this short film being over forty years old now, it is much better than most modern TV dramas.
Like jno, I'd be interested to find out where in Wales this was exactly filmed. It may be somewhere in the Rhondda valley, or possibly Ebbw Vale. The valleys have changed considerably since 1974 and many of the industrial buildings shown in the film would likely no longer be there. Dennis Waterman is seen racing over the old Severn Bridge in Chepstow too.
I am sure I have seen his some years ago, it rings a bell, but I couldn't have told you DW was in it.
I love depressing programmes, well depressing to most, but to me they just capture actual real life.
I know televison is a form of escapism, but you do need to counter that escapism by showing good programmes that show real life, these types of programmes also show people who are going through events like this for real that they they are not on their own.
I also like watching programmes which are set away from London and the usual big cities.