Dennis Potter dying of cancer but still 'full of life'

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Dennis Potter, Britain's most controversial playwright, is dying of cancer and has only months live, it emerged yesterday.

Potter, 58, whose widely-acclaimed television successes include Pennies from Heaven and The Singing Detective, has known since last summer that he is dying of liver cancer.

He reveals the terminal illness in an interview with Melvyn Bragg for Channel 4's Without Walls series, to be shown next month, in which the writer is said to be 'feisty and energetic' despite his illness.

Potter, a former Sun leader writer, has had a lifetime of suffering from psoriasis, a debilitating skin disease, which inspired The Singing Detective. He has often praised his devoted wife of 35 years, Margaret, 60, for standing by him during the worst rigours of his affliction.

She said yesterday, from their home on the outskirts of Ross-on- Wye: 'We are still trying to absorb it. There is a TV programme soon which will tell all about it. We are not up to saying more at the moment. It is just too upsetting.'

Last night Kenith Trodd, a BBC producer who collaborated with Potter on many of the projects, summed up his work: 'Without any doubt whatsoever, with the greatest respect to all the other major television writers, Dennis Potter is several pairs of heads and shoulders above the rest in his ability and achievement.'

Potter's wish that his two final pieces of television drama, Karaoke for the BBC and Cold Lazarus for Channel 4, which he is just completing, should be broadcast, will be granted. The programmes will be screened as a tribute.

Waldemar Januszczak, Channel 4's arts and music commissioning editor, who was present during the Without Walls interview, said that Potter was still working and looking forward enthusiastically to the two new films. 'The shocking thing is how full of life he is,' Mr Januszczak said. 'He is full of energy and brimming with life.'

Without Walls

9pm, Tuesday 5 April