Under the skin of Dennis Potter

The Singing Detective, Pennies from Heaven Dennis Potter remains one of the geniuses of TV. Twenty years after the writer's death, Michael Newton explores a career built around violent contradictions

In his book A Rumour of Angels, the American sociologist Paul Berger poses an astonishing question. When a child wakes at night and cries out, and its mother comes and comforts him, saying, "There's no need to be afraid it's all right everything is all right," is she telling lies? That question haunted Dennis Potter. In interviews, he shared Berger's answer, that, in ways mysterious to us, the mother tells the truth, everything really is all right.

Yet in play after play, Potter appears to offer the contrary thought. Suffering possesses him; he wants to embrace the hope that the world is beautiful and good, but knows why it is foul and full of sorrow. It would be easier to give up on the beauty,

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