The play deals with an elderly woman, Edna (Patricia Hayes), who wanders through life in an alcoholic haze without a home, a job or any money. A rambling, pathetic yet defiant woman, Edna sleeps rough and begs for food and shelter and the drama follows her progress as she moves from hostel to hostel, going to a psychiatric ward and then prison along the way.
Edna, the Inebriate Woman was directed by Ted Kotcheff and written by Jeremy Sandford, who had previously written Cathy Come Home and researched the play by living rough himself for two weeks prior to writing. The film was the only notable acting role of British actor Vivian MacKerrell, the real-life inspiration for the character Withnail in Withnail and I.
At the 1972 British Academy Television Awards, the play won the Best Drama Production category, with Patricia Hayes receiving the award for Best Actress.