Play for Today: Penda’s Fen (1974)

UK, 21 March 1974
series 4, episode 16
16mm film, colour, 4:3
mono, English
Series: Play for Today (1970-1984)

A British fantasy television play written by David Rudkin and directed by Alan Clarke.

Plot Summary

The teenage son of a middle class pastor has of angels and the pagan King Penda. He also has “meetings” with the composer Elgar, all of which forces him to start questioning his religious beliefs.


Director: Alan Clarke
Producer: David Rose
Script: David Rudkin
Script Editor: Tara Prem
Film Cameraman: Michael Williams
Operator: Ken Morgan
Film Editor: Henry Fowler
Radiophonic Sound: Paddy Kingsland
Sound Recording: John Gilbert
Sound Mixer: David Baumber
Costumes: Joyce Hawkins
Make Up: Jan Nethercot
Special Effects: Cliff Culley
Animator: Bernard Lodge
Designer: Michael Edwards

Jennie Hesselwood (Mrs Arne)
John Scott (Sir Nicholas Pole)
Spencer Banks (Stephen)
Georgine Anderson (Mrs Franklin)
John Atkinson (Reverend J. Franklin)
Ron Smerczak (Joel)
John Richmond (headmaster)
Ian Hogg (Arne)
Roy Preston (Brott)
Ian Gemmell ((Harry)
Ivor Roberts (Cooke)
Joyce Grundy (Mrs Gisbourne)
Moray Black (sixth-former)
Christopher Douglas (Honeybone)
Frank Veasey (council workman)
Elizabeth Revill (nurse)
Graham Leaman (Sir Edward)
Helena McCarthy (Mrs )
Pat Bowker (Joel's girl)
Joan Scott (the lady)
Ray Gatenby (the man)
Geoffrey Staines (King Penda)
Geoffry Pennells (demon)
Martin Reynolds (angel)



  • Sight and Sound vol.8 no.9 (September 1998) pp.18-22 – illustrated article (Alan Clarke: In it for life by Howard Schuman)
  • Time Screen no.7 (revised) p.27 – credits, synopsis
  • TV Zone no.72 p.20 – note
  • Vertigo vol.2 no.5 (Summer 2003) pp. 47-48 – illustrated article (Mongrel nation by David Rudkin)
  • Vertigo vol.3 no.1 (Summer 2006) p.8 – illustrated article (Penda's Fen by Victoria Childs)


  • Alan Clarke by Richard Kelly (ed) pp.68-74 – chapter (Angels and incubi: BBC Birmingham and Penda's Fen (1974))
  • English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby p.357
  • Of Mud & Flame: The Penda's Fen Sourcebook by Matthew Harle & James Machin (ed)