Play for Today (1970–1984)
7 user 2 critic

Hard Labour 

A quiet and put-upon house cleaner breaks her silence.


Mike Leigh


Mike Leigh (deviser)


Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Liz Smith ... Mrs. Thornley
Clifford Kershaw Clifford Kershaw ... Jim Thornley
Polly Hemingway ... Ann
Bernard Hill ... Edward
Alison Steadman ... Veronica
Vanessa Harris Vanessa Harris ... Mrs. Stone
Cyril Varley Cyril Varley ... Mr. Stone
Linda Beckett Linda Beckett ... Julie
Ben Kingsley ... Naseem
Alan Erasmus Alan Erasmus ... Barry
Rowena Parr Rowena Parr ... June
June Whittaker June Whittaker ... Mrs. Rigby (as June Whitaker)
Paula Tilbrook Paula Tilbrook ... Mrs. Thornley's friend
Keith Washington Keith Washington ... Mr. Shaw
Louis Raynes Louis Raynes ... Tallyman




Mrs. Thornley works very hard without notice or appreciation. Every day she keeps her own house clean, attends to her husband and unmarried daughter, Ann, then cleans other women's houses. She looks tired and has little affect. She does have a married son and a daughter-in-law who's chatty and pleasant. Mrs. Thornley's husband works nights, except for Saturdays, when he expects conjugal attention. Ann's worried about pregnancy and talks to her mum about labor and childbirth. Later, Mrs. Thornley goes to confession at her parish church, and she makes an extraordinary revelation. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama


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Featured in Arena: Mike Leigh Making Plays (1982) See more »

User Reviews

Another masterful study of the small moments in life.
9 March 1999 | by freakusSee all my reviews

Like most of Leigh's early works this is all about watching the details of ordinary life. The "plot" as such revolves around a woman (Smith) and the suffering she goes through every day without taking any notice. She bears her hard life impassively and has most likely known nothing else. She is treated miserably by her family and her employer and accepts it as her lot in life as millions of working class women have before her. The ensemble cast is brilliant (watch for a very young Ben Kingsley in a sweet role as a cab driver) and I was particularly impressed with Kershaw's role as the hopeless wreck of a husband.

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Release Date:

12 March 1973 (UK) See more »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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