Obituary: Michael Wearing

Michael Wearing

As a script editor, producer and head of the BBC’s series and serials department, Michael Wearing was responsible for such era-defining programmes as Alan Bleasdale’s The Boys from the Blackstuff (1982), Troy Kennedy Martin’s Edge of Darkness (1985 and its 2010 film version starring Mel Gibson) and Peter Flannery’s Our Friends in the North (1996).

A passionate champion of writing that engaged with social and political issues, he later showed equal adroitness in adapting classic novels, overseeing memorable TV versions of Middlemarch (1993), Pride and Prejudice (1995), Our Mutual Friend (1998), Great Expectations (1999) and Gormenghast (2000).

Born in north London, Wearing studied anthropology at Durham and while working as a research assistant at Leeds University developed an interest in directing. His production of Max Frisch’s The Chinese Wall won the 1967 Sunday Times Students Drama Festival and was seen at the Garrick Theatre for three performances.

His first professional job was in stage management at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley in Kent, from where he moved to become deputy stage manager at London’s Royal Court Theatre.

There he graduated to directing, his productions including Barry Hines’ Billy’s Last Stand in 1970. The same year he found himself back in the West End as co-director (with Julie Arenel) of Isabel’s a Jezebel, which featured music by Hair composer Galt MacDermot, at the Duchess Theatre.

At the Greenwich Theatre in 1972 he staged Ibsen’s A Doll’s House with Sylvia Sims as Kristine, following it with two David Edgar pieces – the political satire Tedderella and musical Dick Deterred – at the Bush Theatre in 1974.

He joined the BBC’s drama department in Pebble Mill, Birmingham as a script editor the same year and by the end of the decade had made his small-screen debut as a director with Jack Shepherd’s The Underdog.

His first producing credit was Bleasdale’s The Black Stuff (1980), starring Bernard Hill and David Calder, which was later memorably expanded into a BAFTA-winning five-part serial, also starring Hill.

In 1981, Wearing enjoyed further success with Christopher Hampton’s four-part adaptation of Malcolm Bradbury’s The History Man, starring Antony Sher.

After a spell as head of Pebble Mill’s drama output, he moved to London to become head of the newly created serials department, winning his second BAFTA for the eco-political thriller Edge of Darkness.

He worked briefly with Euston Films before returning to the BBC in 1989 as head of serials, departing again in 1998 in protest against managerial changes.

Michael Howard Wearing was born on March 12, 1939. He died on May 5, at the age of 78. He is survived by three children. His daughter Catherine (also a BAFTA-winning producer) died in 2007.