Ladylawsonloses emily

A pensive Emily examines a programme as the clock ticks towards curtain up

Lady Lawson Loses was the name of a melodramatic play presented by the Mission Hall Players to the residents of the Street in December 1962.

In real life no such play exists and Tony Warren explained in the TV Times issue of 30th November 1962 that a fictitious play was used to overcome copyright problems (No such problems existed when RADA - The Rovers Amateur Dramatics Association - presented The Importance of Being Earnest in 1974 as Oscar Wilde had died in 1900 and therefore the play was out of copyright).

The play’s supposed author was either Nugent Hunt (as stated by TV Times) or Edgar Nugent (as stated by Daran Little in the book 40 Years of Coronation Street) whose "real" name was Norman Farrar, a struggling playwright from Preston, however the synopsis of the play and the segments that were seen on-screen were all written by Warren, something that he claimed he and the cast had found great fun.

The episode with the play, transmitted on Christmas Eve, was one of a long line that ran through the 1960s and early 1970s where the programme produced something more light-hearted in an attempt to join in with the Christmas spirit. This tradition waned in the 1970s and ended seemingly forever in 1986 when the BBC’s EastEnders Christmas Day episode gained record viewing figures when viewers supposedly thrilled to the sight of Angie Watts being presented with divorce papers by her philandering husband, Den.

Back in 1962 though TV Times joined in the fun with a competition for viewers to win a prize to travel to Manchester on 4th January 1963, meet the cast, watch the studio recording and join in a somewhat belated party to celebrate the programme’s second birthday (this was undoubtedly a party for publicity purposes only as the cast and crew celebrated the programme’s real birthday as close as possible to 9th December with invitees strictly chosen by the producer, a task that H.V. Kershaw confessed he hated). The rules of the competition were that readers had to "cast" the play themselves by matching a given list of characters from the programme (in effect the regular cast at that time) with the ten characters in the play. A tie-break question where readers were asked to state the reason why they liked their favourite character was also asked. To help readers make their choice the 30th November issue of the magazine printed the following synopsis:

A society drama of the pre-1914 era, set in the Belgrave Square home of Lydia, Doweger Duchess of Bannock.
Lydia's son, Gerald, the seventh Duke of Bannock and the heir to the family fortune, is enamoured of Mrs. Gilda Montefiore, a mysterious house guest, masquerading under the name of Lady Lawson.
Gerald's childhood sweetheart, the Lady Priscilla Dauntsey, is staying at the house in company with the other guests, Captain the Hon. Albert (Bertie) Fitzgerald, Mrs. Savage, the elderly Lady Rhona Philbeach and the Duke of Selina.
In the background move the enigmatic figures of Manders, the elderly butler, and Nelly, the maid.
The burning question is: will Lydia save her son from the clutches of Gilda Montefiore?

The judges of the competition were the editor of TV Times and Tony Warren. The Christmas issue of the magazine revealed that only one entrant - Mrs M.A. Hudson of Newnham on Severn, Gloucester - had correctly anticipated the writers when she named the cast as follows:

Another thirty readers had guessed nine out of the ten and of those thirty, nine of them were chosen by use of the tie-break to join Mrs Hudson in her trip to Manchester, a trip that was eventually made with difficulty in the freezing snowbound winter of 1963 and was pictured in the 18th January issue of the magazine.

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