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The best role for a woman I've seen.

So wrote the head of Channel 9 in Sydney and planned with BBC1 to coproduce. Joanna Lumley wrote "It's a brilliant idea . . so compelling."

Refuge is a returning precinct drama series with a 63-page script and summaries of 5 more eps.

Refuge is set in the first women's refuge. In the 1970s wave of feminism Germaine Greer and Betty Friedan were the thinkers and Erin Pizzey was the doer. She was the titanic character who created and ran the refuge and got the law reformed. We were married and I knew her refuge well. In the script she is Mary. There was terror when battered wives and children were hounded into her refuge by raging men and she would stand at the door facing them eyeball-to-eyeball.

She was warm, witty and really quite ruthless. She loved inflaming jobsworths who got in her way. One called her 'a test pilot from a broom factory.' And she took wicked delight in tormenting the poor press baron who backed her and funded her. That was the great owner-editor of the Observer, the late David Astor (in the script he's Robert Valentine). When he threatens to stop the money unless she stops making waves and embarrassing his establishment friends, Mary says "You're in love with me, and the only way you know how to love anything is to control it. But I'm not one of your newspapers!"

The refuge is a place where Mary does whatever she likes. Through its door come all sorts of wives fleeing from all sorts of husbands: hard-fisted binmen; furious shop-keepers; raging bank clerks; brutal executives; sadistic barristers; berserk doctors.

Among the women skirmishes break out. Quick to clasp a storming child or quell a shrieking mother, Mary thinks on her feet and beats everyone to the verbal punch. The seething chaos suits her perfectly. "Got a world of her own in there," fumes the thwarted District Housing Inspector, "Maryland!" I'm gonna stop that woman!" He's trying to have her jailed for overcrowding, but will she turn any woman away?

Like an ER, a prison or a police station, the refuge brings in new characters and new stories: new enemies too - from uptight officials to po-faced lesbo-Marxist-would-be- revolutionaries who can't stand this real revolutionary, Mary. And celebs arrive too - Vanity Fair photographers wanted her image, and The Who backed her and spent time in THE REFUGE.





A FORMAT with a specimen script

Where else but in Hot!!seat are you going to see the Prophet Mohammed grilled by a fearless TV host ? Hot!!seat is Television plus radio techniques, a hybrid format for high quality, low budget, gripping biopics.

All it takes to bring the format to the screen is one fine solo actor in each show. The agent of Sir Michael Gambon and Sir Derek Jacobi likes it enough to give it to them to read.

In most shows it's a historical character who's in the hot!!seat. But in some it could be a living one played by an actor: eg the leader of Isis; or the corrupt head of the Kabbalah cult which is followed by JayZ, Rihanna, Madonna and Guy Ritchie. Guy has had himself circumcised for the cult.

Scenes and characters from the life of a hot!!seatee are conjured with stills. Those characters themselves, like the host, are out of vision. They're heard as pre-recorded voices as in radio drama. The ingredients of any Hot!!seat are a script and:-

  • One fine solo actor in vision throughout.

  • A small set. Probably in TV talk-show style, though it could be varied from show to show to suit the subject: for example, a courtroom; or, for shows about historic villains, a cell; or, for kings, a throne room.

  • Stills or new drawings (a la Face to Face) of the hot!!seatees and scenes and people from their lives. Unseen actors to voice their words.

  • Music, stills and sound fx to build those scenes.

  • An audience's canned laughter, jeers, applause etc. Plus occasional scripted challenges shouted by unseen audience-members.

Who do we put in the Hot!!seat? Who would be your "If only we could get them" figures?

Series can be themed. They could include ones on eg:

Great commanders - Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan, Nelson, Napoleon, Rommel, Zhukov, MacArthur, Patton, Wellington, Montgomery, Petraeus, and Vietnam's hero General Giap. I once asked him about losing 60,000 men to beat the French at Diem Bien Phu and he snapped "That's war. Next question."

Tyrants and dictators - Isis's Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Nero, Caligula, Stalin, King John, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, Pol Pot, Pinochet, Saddam, Kim Jong il, Putin . . .

Revolutionaries - Mandela, Osama bin Laden, Che, Castro, Garibaldi, Ghandi, Cromwell, Bolivar, Pankhurst, Commander Hendai of the Philippines, Toussaint L'Ouverture of Haiti. . .

Feisty women - Boudicca, Catherine the Great, Elizabeth I, Diana, Pankhurst again, Nancy Astor, Sappho, Lady Godiva, Thatcher. . .

Gods, gurus and saints all challenged - Christ, Mohammed (I already have a fatwah on me so let's go for it), Krishna, Buddha, St Joan, Confucius, Freud, Jung, Scientology's L Ron Hubbard . . .

Reformers - Florence Nightingale, Martin Luther King, Jefferson, Wilberforce, Nye Bevin, Shaftesbury, Lincoln . . .

Statesmen - JFK, Churchill, de Gaul, Lincoln, Bismarck, Pitt, King Alfred and (heat up the hot!!seat) the delusional Tony Blair, Boris.

Rakes and Libertines - Messalina, Francis Dashwood, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Casanova etc. The pilot below features such a man from history's hall of infamy; a man who branded his name on our consciousness in 'Sadism;' and who framed it with his own particular perversions or (depending on your taste) delights: "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the Hot!!seat The Prince of Darkness from Provence, the Lubricious Lord from the Louberon, the Marquis . . . de Sade!"


What de Sade says in the following script is taken from his own powerful, disturbing and sometimes bonkers books and letters . . . .

© Jack Pizzey


the HOT!!SEAT format


Series opening titles with theme music - racy and quirky with a hint of menace.

Then the talk-show set, with two chairs. There's a table on which are props which we can't quite make out yet.

Ladies and gentlemen, will you welcome to the hot!!seat a man notorious for his excesses: he is an acclaimed author said to have influenced modern thought; he is a French aristocrat who managed to keep his head when others were losing theirs to the guillotine and who somehow became not a victim of the French revolution and the Terror but a champion of it;

To a burst of music and canned applause from the imagined studio audience, de Sade strides on. He is a vigorous man wearing the clothes of a 1770s aristo. He bows mockingly to us and to the host's empty chair. He turns towards the other chair - the hot!!seat, beside the table with the half-glimpsed props. The pre-recorded sound of the audience is of expectant murmurs with overtones of disapproval. De Sade now prepares to sit down on the hot!!seat. He lowers himself with exaggerated caution as though the seat might burn his bottom and looks out at the (imaginary) audience - and gets a (recorded) laugh. That cues him to a sudden change of mood: he quells the laughter and stares us down. This man is in control.

He turns to face the host's chair:

Donatien de Sade, Monsieur le Marquis, welcome to the show, and to our century. And to our ways of thinking. Tonight I want to weigh your crimes against our morals - against our idea of what is PC, particularly of what is and what is not sexually correct.

SADE (airily at ease):
Weigh away then. My own age found me indigestible. The Devil knows, I tried to enlighten them with my writings but . . .

But they put you in prison for . . .

Dwarfs! Imbeciles! I told them and I went on telling them that nothing in this world could keep me away from my nature . . .

Full script available