Man in a Side-Car was first broadcast by the BBC as a Play for Today on 27 May 1971.

The cast included:

GERALD – James LaurensonEDITH – Gemma Jones
TOMMY – David Collings
MRS MERCHANT – Sheila Beckett
DAVID – Geoffrey Matthews
HELEN – Yvonne Gilan
DR SLOCUM – Walter Horsbrugh
GILES – Jonathan Lawson

Director: James MacTaggart
Producer: Graeme MacDonald
Designer: Stuart Walker

Man in a Side-Car: Author’s Note

I’ve forgotten every stage of writing Man in a Side-Car except its initiating image: the photograph in a newspaper of a young, pretty and already celebrated novelist, with her husband behind her elbow and a baby (or a cat) at her feet; that, and a subsequent report in probably the same newspaper that the marriage had broken up amicably. I suppose there were the routine drafts on drafts, but I don’t recall even the usual memorable moment of completion. There was some fuss, though, when the play was sent out. Kenith Trodd, who had been involved in all my previous plays, first as script editor, then as a producer, had left the BBC, probably in one of their periodic purges of talent, and no one there was sufficiently taken by Man in a Side-Car to offer it, except in a cursory way, to this or that director until Anne Scott, who had worked with Kenith Trodd and myself, rescued it from another producer’s desk and brought it to the attention of James MacTaggart. To Anne Scott, then, my double thanks.

Because, in retrospect, the most important fact about Man in a Side-Car (for me, anyway) is that James MacTaggart directed it. We’d already worked together, some years before, on a small play of mine called Pig in a Poke, and got on sufficiently well to hope that we would again, some day. With Man in a Side-Car we went from getting on to friendship – we drank quite a few drinks together; had one or two small quarrels; and laughed a great deal – and professionally, had moved from clearly defined roles as author and director to rather more than trusting collaborators. So when I read through the play the other day to check it out for publication, I was still quite unble to separate the text from my (seven or so years later) vivid recollection of James’s realization of it. In fact, it now seems so inextricably his work as well as mine, that in offering it up I feel that I am withholding rather more than simply half. But then Gerald Savory or someone like him wiped the tape, of course. And now James is dead; and all I can do is dedicate the lesser half to his memory, in gratitude and continuing admiration.

PUBLISHING INFORMATION

Man in a Sidecar is now available as a Faber Contemporary Classic in Simon Gray: Plays 2. To order a copy on special offer at 25% discount please contact Faber using code GRAYPLAYS. Or check out the plays section of our bookshop.