Thirty-Minute Theatre is an anthology drama series of short plays shown on BBC Television between 1965 and 1973, which was used in part at least as a training ground for new writers, on account of its short running length, and which therefore attracted many writers who later became well known. It was initially produced by Graeme MacDonald.
Thirty-Minute Theatre began on BBC2 in 1965 with an adaptation of the black comedy Parson's Pleasure (author, Roald Dahl). Dennis Potter contributed Emergency – Ward 9 (1966), which he partially recycled in the much later The Singing Detective (1986). In 1967 BBC2 launched the UK's first colour service, with the consequence that Thirty-Minute Theatre became the first drama series in the country to be shown in colour.
As well as single plays, the series showed several linked collections of plays, including a group of four plays by John Mortimer named after areas of London in 1972, two three-part Inspector Waugh series starring Clive Swift in the title role, and a trilogy of plays by Jean Benedetti, broadcast in 1969, focusing on infamous historical figures such as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Other plays were broadcast by writers like Charlotte and Denis Plimmer (The Chequers Manoeuvre, 1968), David Rudkin (Bypass, 1972, and Atrocity, 1973) and Jack Rosenthal (And For my Next Trick, 1972).
Thirty-Minute Theatre was cancelled in August 1973. Second City Firsts, also of 30 minutes duration, fulfilled much the same role.