The lingering spectre of a mining tragedy awaits a pair of boys held back at a school detention. RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES looks at Shadows: After School.
BROADCAST: 10 September 1975
STARRING: Gareth Thomas, Rhys Powys, Lyn Jones
WRITER: Ewart Alexander
DIRECTOR: Audrey Starrett
Shadows: After School Review
Held back for detention by their strict sports teacher/careers master (Thomas), pupils Poodle and Seth (Powys and Jones respectively) find themselves locked in at their school in a Welsh mining village.
Seemingly trapped and isolated, the pair are subject to a series of supernatural happenings, which seem related to past events at the local coal mine. The pair begin to experience the sounds and sensations of working below ground, all transplanted to the eerily deserted school corridors and stairways before they experience the very real terror of being caught in a cave-in, and a macabre discovery suggests that they may be needed to put a ghost to rest…
Gareth Thomas’ top-billing is slightly misleading, since he only appears in the opening location filming, shot in a school’s grounds (likely much closer to Thames’ London base than to Wales) before the story proper takes off. From that point onwards, After School very much belongs to the two young leads: They have the task of carrying the remainder of the episode, quite a responsibility for such novice performers and they acquit themselves admirably.
The cave-in is particularly well handled by director Audrey Starrett, and a nod must also go to the studio team who manage to make this sequence work so well on a set at Teddington, transforming a school’s boiler room into a collapsing mine shaft as the scene progresses.
After School contains touches of social commentary which might be considered pretty bold for a children’s teatime programme of the period, and also worth noting is an element of peril only tentatively touched on in the opening episode.
Shadows’ next story would nudge up the fear quotient a little further, and take the show into folk-horror territory…
TRIVIA POINTS: This was the sole screen acting credit for Lyn Jones, but Rhys Powys would win a role in How Green Was My Valley (1975-76) after his debut here. He has more recently carved out a successful directing career.
The first of three Shadows episodes written by Ewart Alexander.
Gareth Thomas would shortly star in HTV’s folk-horror classic for kids, Children Of The Stones (1976).