On the Margin

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On the Margin
Created by Alan Bennett
Starring Yvonne Gilan
Madge Hindle
Roland MacLeod
John Sergeant
Virginia Stride.
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 6
Running time 30 minutes
Original network BBC Two
Original release 9 November – 14 December 1966

On the Margin was a British satirical comedy sketch show written and performed by Alan Bennett and a regular cast including John Sergeant, Virginia Stride, Madge Hindle and Yvonne Gilan. Guest performers included John Fortune and Jonathan Miller. The show also featured songs and poems by John Betjeman and Philip Larkin.

Each episode featured a mixture of sketches, some prophesying his later television dramas such as the quasi-soap, Streets Ahead, Life and Times in NW1, (about an upwardly mobile Camden couple) and more unexpectedly, serious poetry and music slots incorporating readings by Michael Hordern and Prunella Scales with archive footage of music-hall stars. This personalised nostalgic element distinguished On the Margin from other contemporary sketch shows, with Bennett's satirical swipes at Britain, integrated with his genuine love of its cultural heritage.

It was directed by Sydney Lotterby, produced by Patrick Garland and was broadcast between 9 November and 14 December 1966 on BBC 2. It was repeated twice in 1967, but the tapes were wiped in the 1970s so the main surviving evidence of the series are the scripts. However, a compilation CD of audio extracts was released in 2009. The series was cited by John Cleese as an influence on Monty Python's Flying Circus[1]


  1. ^ "The Pythons" (Cleese, Chapman, et al) (2013). The Pythons Autobiography. London: Orion Books Ltd. p. 107. ISBN 9781409153528. Alan had his own series then called On the Margin, which was absolutely brilliant, except the BBC kindly wiped it so it looks like Python came out of nowhere. Most of our precursor shows were carefully wiped: there's hardly any of Not Only But Also, which was on before Python came out; there's hardly any of On the Margin, which was really funny Alan Bennett stuff. 

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