Alick Rowe Radio Plays

Alick Rowe graduated from St. Catharine's College, Cambridge in the sixties; he has been writing since 1969: books, radio and television. I only know first-hand of his radio work: Crisp and Even Brightly is a superb take on the Wenceslas story, and one of the funniest plays I've ever heard; there are other comedies of similar standard (Operation Lightning Pegasus, Totally Gutted, The Shepherd who Couldn't See The Wood For the Trees) and serious plays (The Valley, Boy Bishop)... Below I've listed his radio and other work.

    UPDATE, Oct 2009

    I am sorry to report the death of Alick Rowe at the end of October, 2009. For this brief obituary I have used information from three sources: , the St. Catharine's College magazine, my own occasional correspondence with him, and a snippet from the Hereford Times - N.D.

    Alick Rowe was a distinguished radio and television writer, and one of the best-known alumni of Hereford Cathedral School. He attended St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, from 1961-1963, and then trained as (and became) a teacher before his writing took him to the top. His play "Crisp and Even, Brightly" is well-known to radio drama enthusiasts: a witty send-up of the story behind the "Good King Wenceslas" carol, and almost as popular was his tale of what really happened in the Trojan Horse, "Operation Lightning Pegasus".

    Brought up in Hereford, Alick spent his early years living in a pub. He said once in an interview that his imagination was first stirred by watching the comings and goings on Commercial Road.

    It was at the Cathedral School that Alick became captain of school, captain of rugby, senior under-officer of the CCF, leading actor and president of six societies. At Cambridge he was fully involved in college drama productions. The report from the Shirley Society for 1963 reads as follows:

    "It seems a pity that the dramatic potentialities of the College should be restricted by a lack of equipment and a suitable acting area. But all difficulties were overcome in the production of Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, which Alick Rowe staged at the end of the Michaelmas Term to the despair and confusion of his Supervisor. Technically imaginative, and perhaps in places over-ambitious, it was non-the-less a personal triumph for the producer whose performance as the Father, required by a late change of cast, seemed not to have been at all marred by the burden of producer's problems which were overcome with considerable success."

    The year before he had produced a superb version of N.F.Simpson's "The Hole", cast almost entirely from freshmen, which moved briskly and hilariously from one satire to the next.

    He returned to Hereford Cathedral School with a newly acquired teaching qualification to give English classes and take charge of the Drama department.

    He began writing for radio in his spare time; his first broadcast play was "The Georgian Rake", followed by "Fawcett, Fawcett" (1970) and "The Great Balloon Debate". Eventually the day job had to go, and he found himself writing prolifically for Radio 4 and for television. Richard Wortley mentions Alick in his memoir "Some Reflections on a Lifetime in Radio":

    ............"Alick Rowe has a long CV in the media. Our radio time together took in such fun spoofs as Jeux Sans Frontiers milarkies, topical then, and a one legged football manager saving his team as a substitute goal keeper in a crisis. Great multi-mix crowd noises." His writing, especially the humor, was in the top rank.

    His last work for radio 4 was a set of five humorous short stories about the Trojan Wars.

    Alick was living in Thailand when he died suddenly on 30 Oct 2009.

08.10.1962 The Georgian Rake
01.08.1970 Fawcett ! Fawcett !
31.01.1970 The Great Balloon Debate
05.12.1970 A Passing of Power
16.01.1971 Accomplices*
18.05.1973 Accomplices
22.08.1976 Spin A Loving Thread*
29.12.1979 The Great Balloon Debate (remade)

13.02.1974 No Frontiers for the Captain

13.08.1977 The Valley*
24.02.1979 Spin A Loving Thread*
07.11.1981 Operation Lightning Pegasus*
07.08.1982 Operation Lightning Pegasus
19.10.1985 Odysseus On An Iceberg*
19.12.1987 Crisp - & Even Brightly*
20.04.1996 Valtemand & Cornelius Are Not Well At All*

The Ascent of Rum Doodle, 5 part adaptation, 1972
November - dramatisation from Simenon, 1976
A morbid taste for bones - Ellis Peters, prod. Richard Wortley, c1976
Monsieur Pamplemousse Investigates - 3 part comedy drama*
Violence and the big male voice, by Gwyn Thomas, 2005

Apples and Tea, 1975
Observations on a Jesting Man, 1977
Totally Gutted, 1991*
Arthur Halfshaft-The Man, 1991*
Boy Bishop, 1992*
The Great Orange Outing, 1992*
The Dorabella Variation, 2003*: Piers Productions / BBC
The Shepherd Who Couldn't See The Wood For The Trees, 2003*
Readings: The Horse*: more from Troy, 2006

Asterisked items known to exist in VRPCC collections.

The Master and the Mask, Up School, Refuge for a hero, Just Fine, She-Carole, Packman's Barn. SERIALS:Two people, Claire, Morgan's Boy, A Sort of Innocence, Friday on my Mind. SERIES CONTRIBUTIONS: Harriet's back in town, Emmerdale Farm, The Crezz, The Law Centre, Thomas & Sarah, The Vet, Dangerfield, Peak Practice, Mu Uncle Silas, Rockface. DRAMATISATIONS: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Tripods, A Taste for Death, A Quiet Conspiracy.

Boy at the Commercial, Morgan's Boy, Voices of Danger, The Panic Wall, Trapped, Derek Dungbeetle in Paradise, Derek Dungbeetle and the Lost Lover.

SHORT STORIES in collections:
The Dogs: Introduction 5; The Facts of Life: In between; The Dorabella Variation: Ghostly Haunts; Derek Dungbeetle and the Lost Lover.

compiled from info. supplied by Roger Bickerton and Alick Rowe. Reproduced by permission.


A fifteen year old boy meets an old lady as part of his school's community work scheme. He learns a lot more than he expected. 90m. Very good play; stars Betty Hardy, Stephen Pacey, Douglas Blackwell, Diana Bishop, William Eedle, Peter Craze, John Rowe, Glynis Brookes, Malcolm Reed.

The years stretch flat, all time is late
To be fulfilled the patterns wait.
Now trust the heart and not the head
To spin a loving thread.

Producer: Richard Wortley.

Humorous version of the story of the Siege of Troy. The wooden horse, the thick-as-a-plank muscular heroes, the seductress Helen; they're all there...the scenes with the soldiers inside the wooden horse are wonderful, and the sound effects exactly right. With (as the Greeks): Timothy West as Agammemnon, Shaun Probert as Menelaus, Geoffrey Bateman as Diomedes, Henry Stamper as Achilles, Nicholas Courtney as Petroclus, Hugh Dickson as Odysseus, Ronald Herdman as Philicus. The Trojans: Andrew Hilton as Priam, Neil Stacey as Hector, Joy Harrison as Andromache, Tim Bentinck as Paris, Norma Ronald as Helen, Rosalind Adams as Cassandra, Christian Rodska as Melops. Harpist: Valerie Aldridge-Smith. Directed in Bristol by Shaun MacLoughlin.

Another humorous parody -The title refers to a navigational error made by Odysseus in travelling from one part of Europe to another - he went too far south. This is the story of Odysseus's return after twenty years of trying to find Greece, and comfronting his wife's 112 suitors. Homer describes the scene : '... so did Odysseus' party chase the suitors pell- mell through the hall and hack them down. Skulls cracked, the hideous cries of dying men were heard, and the whole floor ran with blood.....' Alick Rowe's version is more plausible; listen to this and learn what really happened. With Hugh Dickson as Odysseus, June Barrie as Penelope, Stephen Thorne and Christian Rodska as the Chorus; the crew by Neil Stacey, Eric Allen, Alex Jennings, Telemachus by Timothy Bentinck, Eumaeus by David March, Eurycleia by Margot Boyd, and the Suitors were Andrew Hilton, Geoffrey Bateman, Patrick Malahide, Mark Straker, Angela Phillips; also starred Melinda Walker, Polly Wilson, Gilly Bond, Paul Nicholson, Maggie McCarthy. Directed in Bristol by Shaun MacLoughlin.

A local football team is faced with a bizarre new management including a middle-aged striker with a wooden leg. The sound effects of his running for the ball are wonderful. An excellent comedy with Timothy Bateson as Tommo, Geoffrey Mathews as Cyril, Terence Edmond as Shafter, Norman Jones as Nudger; also stars Stephen Thorne, Tessa Worsley, Elizabeth Kelly, Norman Jones, Richard Pearce, Paul Downing, Alice Arnold, Mark Straker, Nigel Carrington, David Bannerman, Stephen Garlick, Nicholas Gilbrook, James Simmons, Alan Barker. Directed by Richard Wortley. SMs David Greenwood, Ian Harker, Colin Guthrie.

A fictional tribute to the Herefordshire musician and bon viveur Arthur Halfshaft. Produced by Shaun MacLoughlin.

Peregrine Henbane: Frederick Treves
Gloria Munday: Renee Ashton
Dr. Gristle: David March
Rev.D.S.E.Ray: David King
Agnes Day: Catherine Furshpan
Flos Campi: June Barrie
Nunc Dimtiz: Bill Wallis

Saturday play, 55m. Echoes of a great composer, and a chance meeting on a lonely hillside in Elgar country. Rpt. Nov 2005, R4.

R4, afternoon play, 24 Dec 03, 45m. Joel the shepherd is obsessed with his sheep; he has little time for his wife and no time for his mother-in-law. Then one night the ladies receive a visitation. Joel is not impressed with the effect it has on his meals or his sheep. This is a splendidly daft comedy where the sheep get most of the good lines, and one can guess from the performance that they had fun doing the recording. Stars Sarah Lancashire, Thelma Barlow, James Fleet, Judy Cornwell, Julia McKenzie, Polly James. Directed by Celia de Wolff.

- by Alick Rowe, from the novel by Gwyn Thomas (R4, 1415, 12 Sept 05) was a comic tale of passion, set in South Wales in the 1930s. There is comedy when you meet the members of a male voice choir. I met some recently in a pub; they sang in parts, drank a lot, and told ribald true stories about newlyweds. Alick's play was similarly amusing, but there was a darker side. Jonathan Floyd and Mali Harries starred; Gilly Adams directed.

THE HORSE .... 2006
R4, 27 Nov - 1 Dec, 1530. A Greek conscript and a military commander from the Trojan wars tell five "inside stories" - including what really happened inside the wooden horse. Read by Martin Jarvis, Darren Richardson. There's even a Greek chorus.

Thanks to Alick for supplying some of the details above.

copyright Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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