Alan Bennett’s ‘The Old Crowd" was savaged upon its broadcast, its outwardly simplistic plot and offbeat humour alienating the critics. However, these surface qualities were underpinned by a darkly satirical core. Director Lindsay Anderson dismissed the criticism as a knee-jerk response to the drama’s politicallycharged themes.
Throughout the drama, the dinner party guests who make up the ‘old crowd’ (a term interchangeable with ‘bourgeois’ or ‘middle class’) discuss a world outside beset by riots, rampant crime and disease, leading to a collapse of public services. This bleak portrait would resonate for viewers enduring the ongoing ‘winter of discontent’ that prefigured the demise of the Callaghan government. For Bennett, the election of Margaret Thatcher some three months later would only intensify his gloom, while similar themes of social collapse would dominate Anderson’s challenging feature film, Britannia Hospital (1982).