The 75-minute special is set against the deliberations of the Wolfenden Committee, established by the then Home Secretary to look into the law relating to Homosexual Offences and Prostitution in September 1954.
Consenting Adults follows the diverse members of the committee as they struggle towards their radical conclusions.
Its principal recommendation – the decriminalisation of homosexuality – remains a turning point in British social, legal and cultural history, even though the legislation took another ten years to come to the statute book (and even longer in Scotland and Northern Ireland).
The film unravels the inherent drama of the situation, using the transcripts of the original committee hearings, the rich cast of committee members, witnesses, contemporary court cases and fictionalised moments in the corridors of power.
But the public drama is mixed with the more private but equally compelling personal conflict between Wolfenden and his son, Jeremy, then a brilliant undergraduate at Oxford.
Committee chairman John Wolfenden, played by Charles Dance (Bleak House, Fingersmith), thought homosexuality “an abomination”, but he knew that his own son Jeremy, played by Sean Biggerstaff (Oliver Wood in Harry Potter), was an active homosexual.
Despite his personal views he led the committee to conclude that the law should not interfere in the private lives of consenting adults or enforce any particular pattern of behaviour. It was a triumph of reason over instinct.
The drama, written by Julian Mitchell, is directed by Richard Curson-Smith, produced by Robert Dawson-Scott and executive produced by Colin Cameron for Lion Television Scotland.
Wednesday 29th August 2007 9pm-10.20pm
Monday 5 September 2007 9pm-10.20pm; rpt 2.25am-3.45am
Friday 7 September 2007 10.10pm-11.30pm; rpt 1.45am-3.05am
A trailer can be viewed on the informative microsite dedicated to the film.
An interview of writer Julian Mitchell and actor Charles Dance, who plays Wolfenden, conducted by Mark Lawson for BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, can be downloaded here.
The film is part of a BBC Four season on homosexuality intitled Hidden Lives.