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TV Drama

REFUGE

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.