I am often contacted by listeners of radio plays who ask me to identify something they heard
years ago from a description (which they supply) of the plot, and ask whether a recording
Hi GT ....It sounds like the play by J.R.Jones.... I remember it as distinctly odd: THE QUICK, THE DEAD AND THE UNDECIDED, from 3 Mar 92. "Starkey has always been the perfect butler, but recently, his standards have been slipping - to a dangerous degree. Comedy by J.R.Jones, with John Warner, Elizabeth Morgan, Bernard Latham. Producer Jane Dauncey. 30m." - ND.
Wow! That is fantastic, why on earth didn't I find you before to ask? Thank you so much. / GT
Hi M.W. .... This sounds like Daunt & Dervish, by Guy Meredith. The male assistant was played by Bill Paterson. I think you'll find it was longer than 5 years ago - or perhaps you heard a repeat?
Hi Christiane - this Only a Matter of Time, by Alan Plater. There was a sequel called Time Added On For Injuries about a year later. They both starred James Bolam and Alun David. You'll find it described on this page:
Dear JE - this sounds like A Dream of Murder, by James Brook. A demonic child, a railway bridge -"he'll be hit by the train, and we can watch...."
JE: "Yes that’s it! I recall the railway bridge bit now! Amazing - that part of the quote brought it all back!"
A story set in Bath, amongst a group of anti nuclear weapons protestors. It seemed to centre around the wife of someone who worked in the weapons industry. I think it dates from early 90s.
(from Morris B)
Dear M - This sounds like "The Loop", by Nick Perry. This is what I wrote about it at the time:
THE LOOP (R4, 1415, 18 Nov 09), by Nick Perry, was a little gem of a play, possibly the best of the year, described on the BBC messageboard as 'faultless'. A man finds himself talking on the telephone to someone in America but ... it gradually transpires that over there, it's fifty years earlier. This bizarre beginning sets in motion a whole train of events which goes around in an enormous circle. Directed by Toby Swift, it starred Ivan Kaye, Edward Hogg, Peter Marinker, Emerald O'Hanrahan, Rhys Jennings, and Melissa Advani. I hope this item is entered for the Imison Award - it would qualify, because it's Nick Perry's first radio play. .......(ND, Diversity Website review, Dec 2009)
The play won a Sony Radio Academy bronze award.
In modern time the bells had been unexpectedly recovered, rehung, and were to peal again at an appointed hour, the first time in 200 or 300 years. At about that time a disused well had been accidentally exposed in a small courtyard. A young man (a sailor?) was warned of the danger, but answered that he already knew of the well, yet how could he, it had only just been rediscovered. But he and the girl had been reincarnated to meet again in accordance with the executioner’s unintended prophesy.
The play has a feeling of a Don Haworth play but I couldn’t identify it in the list of his titles.
These three summaries are from Tony N, 19 Apr 18 - ND
Hi BL - I think this is it ... COPS AND ROBBERS, by Katie Hims. 30 Apr 01, afternoon play, rpt 3 Apr 03. A dry-cleaner's assistant falls for a customer who chats her up and then, on leaving, is knocked down. How can she ever forget him? Marion ...... Amanda Root, The Inspector ...... Philip Jackson, Jonny Valentine ...... Nicholas Boulton. Producer Peter Kavanagh.
Dear SB - originally this didn't ring any bells - but then it occurred to me - could this be 'Timeslip' by Wally K Daly? The date is about right, I think.
.......That's exactly it, your knowledge is extraordinary. I managed to find a basic synopsis - it descended into more of a farce than I remembered but still it provided an amusing hours break.Thanks ..... SB
"I’ve been searching on and off of years for a horror play I heard on radio 4 in the 80’s.
It was winter time, possibly Christmas time; the play involve some motorists who set off on their journeys and end up getting stuck in snow as the weather closes in. I think there were 2 or 3 cars, who were stuck; the daylight starts to fade and as darkness falls they hear strange sounds. One by one they are picked off by a creature who comes out of the night."
Another was a sci-fi time loop story. A traveller from the future comes back to our time after an international scientific teleport experiment to transfer two cities into each other's space goes wrong. Our city is replaced by what turns out to be a nuclear blast area. The husband of the modern-day family gets involved; future traveller rings doorbell ('ding dong'), husband answers it ('I'll get it'); gets involved in an adventure to save the situation and remove the bomb before detonation. The attempt fails! 'Ding dong' 'I'll get it' - we're in a time loop as the traveller goes back to his first meeting with the husband for a second attempt! And so on ...!
(from Pic B)
It is suspected that the boy was abused by one of the teachers and killed himself. However it later emerges that that a different boy was involved with a teacher and threatened to talk about it, and the other boy killed him to keep him quiet.
The boy murderer climbs on to the school roof with the intention of throwing himself off, but is talked down.
sounds like Julie and the Prince by Louis Robinson, a one hour R4 play, produced in Birmingham and directed by Peter Leslie Wilde. The date was 28 Feb 2004 according to your lists......
Sam West narrating, music, lyrical....
ND replies.......not sure about the first one.....the second one sounds like "Autumn Journal", by Louis MacNeice.
....a play about the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse, done like a comedy; a radio 4 interviewer is covering a equestrian show. But she realises that these 4 horsemen are not what she was expecting and things get frightening. For some reason I have the title" Comrades " in my mind ... broadcast date c. 2007.
ND replies .....possibly 'Cavalry' by Dan Rebellato. Four men are preparing for the last battle...
Three questions from 'laurence', UK:
SCHOOL TRIP, PUPIL FOUND DEAD
(a) On a school trip (I think to a maritime museum), one of the pupils is found dead. Investigations suggest he killed himself because he was being abused by one of the teachers, but one person isn't so sure and digs deeper.
It eventually transpires that he was killed by another pupil because he found out another pupil was having an affair with a teacher and threatened to expose them. The play ends with the killer climbing the school gym in a bid to kill himself, and has to be talked down by the dead boy's father.
Ideas, anyone? I thought perhaps 'Swimmer' by Christopher Russell, but it doesn't quite fit.
Dave P replied...I'm pretty sure this is 'Death Drop' by B.M.Gill, 20 Jun 1992.
RESIDENTS' EARS TURNED ORANGE
(b) In a small town, one morning it is discovered that some of the residents' ears have turned orange. An amusing take on sexuality and coming out.
Again - I can't help. Can anyone recall this? - N.D.
A CATHOLIC PRIEST'S MONOLOGUE
(c) A monologue; a Catholic priest bemoans the current state of things - not, as I remember, by Alan Bennett, but it could easily have been.
N.D. reply - It's Wally K. Daly's play, "For I Have Sinned", starring Bernard Cribbins, Aug. 2001.
There were three similar plays broadcast; all of them, as I remember, were on Radio 4 in the "afternoon play" slot; the first two during the 1990s, the third in 2001 or early 2002.
UNKNOWN TITLE, 1950s
....a play concerning at least two men who looked for the word which created the world. The one who found it was struck by a hand holding a sword above his head. (Judith R.)
Ideas, anyone? Possibly Louis MacNeice? ......... - ND.
AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.....
I once heard a great radio play with two characters (man and woman) and an elephant in the room. My am-dram company wants to do it as part of a triple bill, but I can't find it anywhere. It was broadcast in Britain, on the BBC.
Dave P replied...I remember a play from the early eighties called 'All we need is an Elephant' or 'All we need now is an Elephant" which I think starred Bernard Cribbins...
Jim from Canada replied....... probably "A Resounding Tinkle" by N.F.Simpson, 20 July 1960. A suburban couple bicker about the dimensions of an elephant they've had delivered; whether they live in a semi-detached house or a bungalow; about admitting door-to-door comedians, and whether equipping eagles with parachutes and spectacles is a worthy cause......
This play was first performed at the Royal Court theatre, London, on 1 Dec 57. The broadcast play was introduced by Martin Esslin and starred Alison Legatt (Middie Paradock), Deryck Guyler (Bro Paradock) and Betty Hardy (Uncle Ted). Other parts by Haydn Jones, Keith Williams, John Bryning and Kenneth Bright; producer Charles Lefeaux.
PARROT BEING FLUSHED AWAY.....
have you ever heard a play in which a parrot ends up being flushed down the toilet after speaking out of turn? I am looking for that one too.
Very interesting website, by the way...
A.P., from the frozen north.
Reply from Clive Lever and S.W:
I remembered hearing a play about a mynah bird on Producer's Choice on BBC7, and thought it may have been one of Cherry Cookson's choices. I asked Gerard McDermott and he said that he starred in the play in the part of the bird, with Marcia Warren in the role of the wife, and somebody called David in the role of the husband. Armed with that, I found this on the 'Diversity' Cherry Cookson page:
Mon 16 Feb, 11:00 - 11:45 45 mins (29 June 1999) Bodies and Souls By Martyn Wade. Harry's long and tedious marriage to selfish Joyce reaches an all-time low when she begins to experience reincarnation. Her claims that the simplest domestic item contains the soul of a long-lost loved one has Harry reaching for desperate measures. With David Horovitch, Marcia Warren and Gerrard McDermott.
Cherry Cookson- "One of the joys of radio drama is having one of those ideas which couldn't possibly work in any other dramatic form. Bodies and Souls, one of the most popular afternoon plays of recent years, was written by Martin Wade. The theme of this domestic black comedy is revenge; one of the main roles is that of the talking mynah bird who is bought by the husband to annoy his very irritating wife. She has become obsessed by the idea of reincarnation, convinced that everything around them, even the plants in the garden, have been taken over by the souls of various famous personalities. The husband plans his revenge with a visit to the local pet shop. David Horovitch and Marsha Warren join forces with Gerard McDermott as the bird in this entertaining comedy".....
Could this be the second play in this lady's enquiry?
Many thanks, Clive, for following this up for us......ND.
A PLAY ABOUT KING ARTHUR....1985/6?
In 1984/5 I heard a play about King Arthur and his knights and they came back when England was most at need and I seem to remember that they took part in WWII as fighter pilots.
Does this ring a bell with anyone?
Identified! This is from High Fantastical - A series of five magical plays. Play 3: THE PERIL
9 Dec 1987. A legend for radio by Dennis Ashton with the BBC Radio Drama Company. There is a legend that King Arthur will return to save England from great danger. This will happen when George, son of George, is made King. The year is 1940 and the Battle of Britain is at its height.... Directed by Ian Cotterell. Broadcast date: 9/12/1987. (...thanks to Andrew J for solving this one...)
TOTALITARIAN GOVERNMENT IN THE FUTURE
..........a play in the early hours of the morning on the World Service around 10 years ago.
It was a depressing description of life in the UK under some kind of seemingly new government which became increasingly totalitarian. In the end, all undesirables, criminals, etc were rounded up and herded into an increasingly small area where they would presumably finish each other off.
Grateful for any information.
This sounds like "2004", by Wally K. Daly, broadcast in 1996 by World Service. - N.D.
EEL IN A RESTAURANT
I was listening to it on a journey up to Yorkshire. My journey ended but the play hadn't. It was about a preserved eel in a restaurant. Strange, I know but I'm curious to know how it ended. Can't remember the title.
I think this was part of a series by Nick Warburton: On Mardle Fen - The Twisted Eel - N.D..
MINERS TRAPPED UNDERGROUND......
Two miners trapped underground; periodically the oxygen level would fall and the walls would seem to collapse. But they are really twins in utero being born and the collapsing walls represent contractions.
A.S. sent the following comments:_
.........................This would be the play mentioned under your Michael Bartlett listing ... GETTING OUT....1979 - by Christopher Russell, with Ian Holm & James Bolam. Producer: Michael Bartlett; broadcast 5-Jan-1979 . It was in the series Just Before Midnight. When Michael was directing Dirty Tricks (which starred James Bolam's opposite number Rodney Bewes) I talked about it with him. I seem to recall that to get the claustrophobic feeling of the twins in the womb, he had the two actors crouched up on chairs, sitting back to back.
.........Update - a recording of this play has been found - N.D.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF.....
-a boy, in which an old woman cut the strings of children's kites with her big scissors, and decapitated birds, stringing the heads around her as a necklace. The boy was an artist. He came across two old women who urinated into their well before offering him a drink from it.
.....This rang a bell as I'd listened to this just recently, so a quick search came up with ... The Tyger Hunt by Lavinia Murray.
Lavinia Murray's play imagines a surreal day in the life of the young William Blake. With a runaway tiger on the loose, William is out with his sketch pad to capture the magic of a truly enchanting and extraordinary afternoon.
William ...... Barney Clark
Mrs Blake/Mary Capper/Smock race runner ...... Pippa Haywood
Mr Blake/Broadsheet yeller/Innkeeper ...... David Fleeshman
Tol Tiddle Doll/Matchsyick seller ....... Jonathan Keeble
Ann Capper/Corncutter ...... Kathryn Hunt
Dog/Drunk/Bellows mender ...... Seamus O'Neill
Music consultant: Philip Tagney; directed by Pauline Harris.
Last on: 29 Jul 2008 14:15 BBC Radio 4
.......N.W, Cornwall, UK.
A haunted cathedral....1997
The story of a cathedral which was the site of mysterious deaths of boys every 50 years or so - it turned out that a supernatural horror was built into the cathedral ... broadcast 1997.
ND replies.......It sounds like "The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral", 1996, repeated 1997, by Robert Westall. One of my 'top 10' radio plays.
ON ILKLEY MOOR.........c1995?
A radio play in which the scenes were linked by the tune "On Ilkley Moor Ba' Tat", but whistled. I don't usually like listening to whistling, but this was beautiful.....can anyone supply the title / author / date of this play?
ND replies.......This is 'The Colliers' Cathedral' by Robin Brooks; 22 May 1984, with Jon Strickland/Hilda Schroeder. A cross between "Hobson's Choice" and Monty Python's "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch - no exaggeration - and an excellent comedy.
SHOEMAKER ATTENDING TO A NAZI OFFICIAL
A play set just before WW2 and involved a person going to Germany to attend to a member of the Nazi hierarchy. During his stay he finds out intimate physical details about senior party members from their wives. The play ends with Winston Churchill during VE Day celebrations where the shoemaker is being congratulated on having boosted morale with new lyrics to 'Colonel Bogey' mocking Hitler and his cronies.
Secondly, a series set in old Edinburgh, possibly 19th century. I only heard snippets, but the main character was a police officer and he was very friendly with a woman who operated a brothel.
ND replies ..........The first play is "Dear Dr. Goebbels", by Neville Smith, broadcast in 2001. Here's what I wrote at the time:
Philip Morgenstein never realised when he applied for his first job that he would be fitting Dr. Goebbels with surgical boots at his private mansion a few months later. In Dear Dr. Goebbels, by Neville Smith (R4, 1415, 30 Nov 01), something of Goebbels' private life is revealed. Most people have never heard of Morgenstein, but he was offered an honour by Churchill (which he refused because his boss was not offered one) on the strength of the little ditty he wrote making fun of the Nazi leadership and their unfortunate medical conditions, sung by squaddies to the tune of "Colonel Bogey":
Hitler, has only got one ball
Goering, has two but very small
Himmler has something similar
But poor old Goebbels has no balls at all.
The second item is "McLevy", by David Ashton. There have been several series of this excellent 'police drama'.
...........A play set in London on a Sunday morning; a "sound montage". One of the parts consisted of a group of pigeons which kept repeating "cheep bloody cheep". That's all I can remember, other than, as usual for Tinniswood, it was hilarious.
a radio play about the family life of Patrick Hamilton, the Sussex born playwright? (Rope, Gaslight?) - not at all sure when I heard it. I can remember that much of the action took place in a house in Hove and his sister and mother played prominent roles.
- many thanks for your web site.
Details, anyone? I vaguely remember this from a few years ago but can't recall the title - N.D.
I have a play on tape, although not the whole play, probably from Radio 4, which is about a man called Lob, or Robin Goodfellow. It's Midsummer's Eve and an enchanted wood appears in Lobb's garden. His house guests all have one thing in common - they all want a second chance. Entering the wood gives them a new beginning. When they return to Lobb's house, the enchantment wears off.
It is a wonderful play - characters include Dearth - an artist - played by Sir Paul Scofield, Lady Caroline, Matey - the Butler. Can anyone remember the play's title?
Cora Flynn sent the following message: "It sounds like "Dear Brutus" by J.M.Barrie. I can find two performances on radio 4: 15.3.69 and 2.1.87, neither of which feature Paul Scofield, but perhaps Hilary heard a different production on World Service?"
Steve Shaw adds: I now have the BBC World Service production of 3/2/87 of "Dear Brutus" - directed of course by Gordon House- excellent quality- the part of Dearth is played by Bernard Hepton (who went on to tv producing). No Scofield.As usual abridged to fit the POTW one hour slot.
I can't find any version with Paul Scofield, but he did play Oberon in a 1964 Shakespeare Recording Society LP of Midsummer Night's Dream- six sides, subsequently rereleased on tape and then CD.
A PLAY WHERE ALL THE CHARACTERS ARE WORDS, c2000
Julia Bourhill, South Africa
That's an easy one - sounds like David Pownall's "I want to go home" - a fascinating play about the development of language over the last 1000 years....N.D.
A play broadcast (possibly R3 or World Service) to mark the anniversary of the discovery of the planet Neptune on 23 Sep 1846. Details, anyone?
A CONCRETE CLOCK
In 1964 or maybe 1965 I remember listening to a play which was about two people writing to each other in America and England where they were both building a concrete clock.
Is it possible for you to give me more information and maybe where I could get a recording?
To my astonishment I have found a recording of this .... I was recently sent a Nevil Shute play called 'Trustee from the Toolroom', a superb adventure which starts with a yacht being scuppered in a storm. About 30 minutes in, a Congreve clock (not concrete!) comes into the story ..... it stars Simon Lack & Inia Te Wiata. Saturday Night Theatre, 90m, 22 Aug 1964..... a Congreve clock is one where a ball bearing runs around a little track......they're not particularly accurate....N.D.
LURKING MADMAN, UNKNOWN TITLE & AUTHOR, c 1968
When I was a child I remember being terrified by a Saturday Night Theatre play, which I heard when it was repeated the following Monday afternoon.
The plot, such as I can remember it, concerns a man who either experiences a case of deja vue or else relives a dream he had had the night before. A string of incidents take place during the day which seem strangely familiar, culminating in his idea that a woman who is hosting a party will make a grand entrance down the staircase, only to be murdered by a madman who is lurking outside the house when she opens the front door.
Could this be "Somebody's Going to Die", by Edward Bruce which went out on 30-11-68. or "Only Fair to Warn You" by John Hyatt 15-02-69, which was broadcast during the half term holiday?
ND comment- slightly before my time....can anyone help?
I also heard this frightening play as a child. No radio play has ever made a bigger impression on me. I think it is “The Raven” by Alfonso Sastre broadcast on Saturday Night Theatre on the 31st of Dec 1966.
The play takes place in the winter when a group gathers in a house where the previous year the lady of the house had been murdered by a man who had knocked at the door. Everybody has a strong feeling of déjà vu and one of the group comments how snow had fallen on him from a tree just like it had done the year before. After rising tension the woman who had been murdered the year before walks down the stairs and joins the group as if nothing had happened. She asks why everybody looks as if they have just seen a ghost! Then somebody knocks at the door and, although everybody is aghast, the woman opens the door and history repeats itself.....................(many thanks - ND)
THREE TRAMPS DIGGING A GRAVE....
I came in on this play late, but it seemed to be about three tramps who ended up digging a hole to bury themselves in, as they had finally had enough of life. There was a argument about who would fill the hole in. Very funny; wish I knew what it was called and if anyone has it.
.......ND comment......sounds like "Six Feet Under, by Stuart Kerr; 3 Apr 94. The three men are not tramps; they're inmates - or rather, patients, who've escaped from a hospital and are trying to reach Harrogate on foot. But they run out of steam, and decide there's an easier way out. And yes, vrpcc has a recording.
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