Just Before Midnight

BBC radio series of fifteen minute dramas with a twist in the tail
from archive.org

JUST BEFORE MIDNIGHT was a series of 15 minute radio plays that ran on the BBC. It launched on Wednesday January 1st, 1964 on The Light Programme. Richard Imison introduced this new venture in that week's "Radio Times" in these words:

"A man is given 6 months to live and decides to commit murder. A mysterious and unwelcome guest in a family seems to know all their closest secrets. A recurring dream begins to come true. A threatening telephone call sets off a hunt through the London fog. A man is greeted as an old friend by a total stranger. Just a very few of the situations from a new series of 15-minute plays starting this week in the Light Programme.

The idea was born in Spring, 1963; a late night series of short plays to be broadcast every night from Monday to Friday. Each one a complete story - very short, perhaps only a single situation, but with a twist in the tail. Horror? Thrillers? Well, yes, occasionally they could be just that. Comedy? Yes, of course. In fact, the series should contain a little of everything. Established and new authors from all fields of writing should be represented; they should be encouraged to experiment.

Unexplored territory and a lot of hard work lay ahead. The word went out. We were in business. One of the most difficult problems was the sheer volume of material required - 5 plays a week, even when they're short ones, is a lot of plays. Gradually, the number of writers involved in the series grew until over 100 people were at work on ideas and complete scripts. The challenge of the unfamiliar length and placing was even stronger that we had dared to hope. Writers of comedy, drama, short stories, novels, newspaper articles and even technical journals remembered some "short" ideas, not suitable for lengthy treatment, but ideal for just 15 minutes.

A man borrows 10 shillings to back a horse, and hits a winning streak. A husband and wife discuss the end of the world. An elderly lady carries contraband across a frontier in a suitcase. A baby show reveals a macabre situation. Two girls listen to a late night series on the Light Programme and are threatened by intruders. An elderly couple talk in a churchyard.

Good - the scope is getting wider..."

The first series ran until Friday 1 May, 1964 on each weekday night. After a gap of over 14 years, it was resurrected on Saturday 18 November, 1978, this time on Radio 4. The last play, on Nov 4, 1980, was introduced by the author Susan Hill, in the Radio Times's "Preview" section thus:

"I also have personal reasons for listening very closely to the last ever play in "Just Before Midnight" (Friday, R4 at 11.45 p.m.). This series is a victim of the BBC's financial cuts, and its disappearance means a few more doors will be slammed on already hard-pressed actors, not to mention the playwrights.

It has been a widely varied series, the standard of acting and production has been as high as anywhere in radio drama, and it has presented a challenge which has stretched the talents of many good writers. I'm sorry to see it go, and glad to have had the honour of contributing to it".

  1. 1963-03-03 Number 17 (by E. Nesbit) (18.2Mb)
  2. 1964-01-13 The Dare Game (by Rosemary Timperley) (18.4Mb)
  3. 1964-01-15 The Dissolution of Dominic Boot [by Tom Stoppard) (13.9Mb)
  4. 1980-02-15 The Man Who Invented Yesterday (by James Follett) (12.8Mb)
  5. 1964-01-27 Nightmare (by R.D.Wingfield) (8.5Mb)
  6. 1964-02-01 Her Name Was Paula French (by Dan Cooke) (17.4Mb)
  7. 1964-03-03 Remote Control (Nigel Hawthorne) [by Stephen Grenfell] (10.6Mb)
  8. 1964-03-12 The Nightwatchman (by Philip Levene) (18.6Mb)
  9. 1964-03-27 Now and in the Hour of My Dying (by Denis Butler) (10.8Mb)
  10. 1964-04-14 The Invader (by Philip Levene) (18.9Mb)
  11. 1978-01-12 Aladdin (by John Morley) (15.7Mb)
  12. 1978-11-19 A Handful of Crumbs (by Tom Hegarty) (17.3Mb)
  13. 1978-11-24 Tick Tock [by Jill Hyem] (4.2Mb)
  14. 1978-11-26 Research Project [by Paul Ferris] (4.2Mb)
  15. 1978-12-02 Scapegoat [by Peter Whalley] (4.3Mb)
  16. 1978-12-09 Wedding Breakfast [by Brian Lee] (4.2Mb)
  17. 1978-12-23 The Cobweb Kiss (by Peter J Hammond) (17.9Mb)
  18. 1979-03-11 The Bionic Blob (by James Follett) (18.2Mb)
  19. 1979-03-25 Microcosm (by J C Wilsher) [Springbok] (21.9Mb)
  20. 1979-04-07 The Cellar (by R D Wingfield) (18.3Mb)
  21. 1979-04-21 The Devil to Pay (by James Follett) (19.6Mb)
  22. 1979-05-12 And No Birds Sing [by Ted Willis] (25.6Mb)
  23. 1979-05-25 Murder in Mind (by Philip Levene) (17.4Mb)
  24. 1979-05-25 The Bognor Regis Vampire (by JCW Brook) (18.4Mb)
  25. 1979-09-14 The Disposal of Digby (by Philip Levene) (20.2Mb)
  26. 1979-11-09 Wherefore Art Thou? (by Alan Gosling) (unknown file size)
  27. 1980-02-15 The Man Who Invented Yesterday [by James Follett] (4.4Mb)
  28. 1990-04-18 In Mr. Bruin's Time [by Don Haworth] (4.2Mb)
  29. 1990-07-31 M is for Moon Among Other Things [by Tom Stoppard] (13.5Mb)

MP3 files hosted by archive.org.