“A classic story of the hounded male at the end of his tether, a tether which, Gray suggests, is always shorter, not longer, than we suppose.” Hugo Williams, Times Literary Supplement, 16th October 1992.

Running Late was broadcast by the BBC in October 1992. It won the Golden Gate Award for a Television Feature at the 1993 San Francisco International Film Festival. The cast was as follows:

GEORGE GRANT- Peter Bowles
CLITHEROE – Michael Byrne
MICHAEL MITCHUM – Adrian Rawlins
JAMES GRAHAME – James Fleet
SALLY GRANT – Carole Nimmons
CAROL – Suzette Llewell
DEBORAH – Marcia Layton
GRETA – Anne Lambton
BANK MANAGER – Roshan Seth
DRIVER 1 – Jim McManus
RECEPTIONIST 1 – Lucy Bayler
GIORGIO – Gino Melvazzi
MESSENGER – Vincent Riotta
DRIVER 2 – Jack Chissick
RECEPTIONIST 2 – Susan Lynch
PUBLISHER 1 – Karen Ford

Directed by Udayan Prasad
Produced by Verity Lambert
Executive Producer Richard Broke
Original Music by Richard Hartley
Edited by Barrie Vince

REVIEWS

Steve Grant, Time Out, October 7th 1992:

In 1975 Simon Gray wrote a wonderfully acerbic stage comedy called Otherwise Engaged about an egocentric publisher whose attempts to commune with stereophonic Wagner are continually interrupted by intrusions from the outside world, in the shape of various loved and not so loved one who are invading his ‘space’.

In an oblique was, Gray has returned to the same themes in Screen One: Running Late, his latest TV film, produced by Verity Lambert’s modestly titled Cinema Verity company, and starring Peter Bowles in what may well be his finest ever performance. For those of you who don’t read to the end of this article, I must quickly and highly recommend this drama. I can’t think of many better ways to spend an autumn Sunday evening—and all of them involve Michelle Pfeiffer.

Bowles plays one George Grant, a high-powered egocentric media mega-prick whose idea of a crisis is having to ask his secretary to cancel his credit cards or trying to find a cab ten minutes before a five-star lunch. He’s a familiar figure on the London scene, a tough TV interviewer with too much power and too little time, a man who cheats on his wife and exploits and bullies his colleagues. A monster, but, in Bowles’s hands, never a caricature. Then he receives a message that said wife wishes to see him urgently. It’s a matter of life and death. And how.

There is a twist in the tail of this excellent film, directed by Udayan Prasad, which it would be politic not to reveal (having watched it twice I can say that there are cunning little plotted clues throughout). What’s more important is the increasingly bizarre odyssey that Grant takes through the streets of London, by methods of transport that range from taxi to bus to bicycle to a police speedboat powered by two hooligan rozzers chanting ‘Here we go, here we go.’

It’s a piece that’s both light-fingered and multi-referenced, dark and hysterically funny, with hints of everything from Kafka and Homer to Don’t Look Now and John Cleese’s Clockwise. And Gray, always a master of the comedic, presents us with a splendid array of grotesqueries and signposts: Renee Asherson as a deceptively kindly old lady prone to singing folk songs in the back of cabs; a Jehovah’s Witness motorcyle-messenger boy who thumps Grant as a protest against ‘violent language’; a Jewish pair from Golder’s Green outraged at the way Grant’s teenage, house-sitting daughter has trashed their home; and finally, a remarkable bank manager in the shape of Roshan Seth’s Mr Humphry, a veritable Admirable Crichton of the financial world who wears a yellow rose in his buttonhole and proffers champagne and calming advice on the philosophical and spiritual before reverting suddenly to type.

Critics may say that Gray’s bitten off more than he needs to chew by the end. Defenders would say that this is a wonderfully heady and entertaining way to look at the problems of the successful menopausal male. Very London-media as well—but then, who does it better than Simon Gray?

Maureen Paton, Daily Express, October 12 1992:

“…magnificently funny and chaotic tragic-comedy…Peter Bowles, brilliantly cast as the selfish, paranoid and insufferably vain TV inquisitor George Grant, found himself disintegrating like an exploding hamburger with ketchup shooting everywhere… [His] first venture as a co-producer with Verity Lambert was a triumph for all concerned—especially Simon Gray’s dark arts.”

Jonathan Margolis, Mail on Sunday, October 18 1992:

“Death was [also] the theme of the brilliant Running Late, but you had to get to the last minute of Peter Bowles’s virtuoso performance to realise it. As this is a play which will be repeated endlessly, I don’t want to spoil it by revealing… This manic black comedy…which Bowles co-produced, showed how good a television actor he is when served by a script as fine as Simon Gray’s…The scene in the bank, where Bowles, an obsessive egomaniac desperate to get some cash and having failed the cash point challenge (he forgot his PIN number) was a masterpiece. [The bank manager (Roshan Seth)’s] conversation with Bowles on the subject of love is one of the most profound dialogues you’ll hear in a TV play.”