The British TV show Thirty Minute Theatre, a drama series that featured a different thirty-minute one act play every episode, was host to numerous talent during its 8-year run between 1965 and 1973. In this 1972 episode, titled Under the Age, filmmaker Alan Clarke was brought in to direct a piece written by E.A. Whitehead.
Clarke’s films are often noted for their inexorable violence and uncompromising take on Britain’s working class, and, indeed, Under The Age has violence coursing just beneath its surface. The story concerns Susie, a transgender bartender, dealing with four patrons who stumble into his place of work. Susie grows wary of the two men and the two women, the latter of which are underage, and tension begins to mount and escalate between all of the characters. The film is an early one for Clarke, but it still finds him tackling some of the same thematic ground found in his later work. Even while working with such a limited setting, he still finds ways to infuse a strong and continual intensity in his characters and environment. Clarke may have gone on to create more potent visions of an oppressed and despondent society, but this is still a stark and impressive treasure.