Way Upstream on Netflix

Rather surprisingly, the BBC’s 1988 film of Alan Ayckbourn’s play Way Upstream is now playing on Netflix.

The film, directed by Terry Johnson, has previously been unavailable commercially or to stream and has rarely been repeated. So its – apparently exclusive – appearance on Netflix is unexpected.

Way Upstream on Netflix

Way Upstream is Alan Ayckbourn’s acclaimed 1981 play set on a cabin cruiser in which a river-cruising break between two couples is upturned when modern day pirates take over the boat, charting a course for Armageddon Bridge.

The film version – although assumed to be a television adaptation, it was actually made by BBC Films and premiered at the London Film Festival in 1987 – stars Nick Dunning, Joanna Pearce, Barrie Rutter, Marion Bailey, Stuart Wilson, Lizzy McInnerny and Veronica Clifford.

Whilst it has its moments, if you’re looking for a completely faithful adaptation of the play – like most filmed adaptations the playwright’s work – you’ll probably be disappointed. Taken just as an interpretation of the play, it still holds an interest.

Way Upstream is available on all Netflix tiers except for the latest ad-supported tier and, like most movies on Netflix, will probably only be available for several months before it vanishes again.

One of the most frequently asked questions to Alan Ayckbourn’s website is which of the filmed adaptations are currently available commercially. Here’s a quick round-up for viewers in the UK.

A Chorus of Disapproval: Not sure why you would stream this if you’re an Ayckbourn fan as it bears so little resemblance to the actual play, but if you enjoy painful play adaptations, then it’s available to stream via streaming channel Chili.yv

Life of Riley (Aimer, Boire et Chanter): Alain Resnais’s final film is available to stream (subtitled) via Apple TV and is still available to buy on DVD / blu-ray.

The Norman Conquests: The 1977 television adaptation of the trilogy can still be found on DVD via the likes of Amazon.

Private Fears in Public Places: Alan Ayckbourn’s favourite film adaptation of his work, directed by Alain Resnais, is available to buy (subtitled) on DVD – although it is now quite an obscure film to find.

The Revengers’ Comedies (Sweet Revenge in North America): This frankly atrocious film is available to stream via Amazon Prime. Even free, it’s probably not worth watching…

Smoking / No Smoking: Alain Resnais’s award-winning and ambitious two-film adaptation of Intimate Exchanges is available to import relatively easily, but be warned it’s in French with no English subtitles.

By Jeeves: Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical based on P.G. Wodehouse’s novel is available on DVD with the best value being The Shows Must Go On box-set (2020) which features nine major West End musicals.

Just for note, the acclaimed BBC adaptation of Absurd Person Singular and the ITV adaptation of The Norman Conquests, whilst not currently available to stream in the UK, have been available in North America on various streaming services for many years.

Currently none of the other Ayckbourn filmed adaptations are available commercially or to stream. Watch this space should the situation change in the future.

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