Don Haworth Plays

Interview with Don Haworth, 1988

Don Haworth is one of our best-known radio writers. He started in 1965 with his play "There's no point in arguing the toss". This was before he was a full-time writer; it was about two youths, and the father of one of them dies on the ghost train at a funfair. It was produced by Alan Ayckbourne for the BBC, and was nominated for the Italia Prize. He wrote it in two nights.

At that time he was working in television, making documentaries. Usually a play takes him about six weeks to write, but it's not concentrated work, and it has to fit in with his other activities. He wrote another successful play, "We all Come to it in the End", soon after the first one, and it's a fine comedy - about a youth growing up, and the people he meets on the way.

He does not claim to be an authority on writing radio plays, but offers the following advice: keep it simple, don't use too many sound effects, keep the number of actors to a minimum, and write the whole of the first draft before showing it to anyone. "Clarity should be the prime aim of all radio, because a lot will be lost. Use effects only to make a vital point...."

It is difficult to find a common theme in his plays, but he is fascinated by people's motivation and their reactions to crises. Listen to his work - everything from hilarious comedies (Events at the Salamander Hotel; We all Come to it in the End) to comments on the morality of war (The Navigator's Log) and inverted folk tales (Dragon).....


06 Apr 67 There's no point in arguing the toss*
22 Jul 68, rpt. 26 Dec 71 We all come to it in the end*
12 Jul 69 A time in cloud cuckoo land*
05 Sep 69 The prisoner*
05 Jul 70 Where is this here building? -by what route do I get there?*
14 Apr 72 The illumination of Mr. Shannon
11 Oct 72 The eventful deaths of Mr. Fruin*
13 Oct 72 The enlightenment of the strawberry gardener*
18 Feb 73 Simcocks abound across the earth
20 May 74 A damsel and also a rough bird*
28 Jul 75 Events at the Salamander Hotel*
19 Aug 75 On a day in summer in a garden*
03 May 77 Fun Balloons*
24 Aug 78 Episode on a Thursday evening (R3)*, rpt. BBC7, 23 Aug 03
30 Dec 78 The last ride of Walter Enderby, motorist & amorist*
29 Nov 81 Talk of love and war*
08 Jan 82 Dragon, rpt. 23 Apr 83*
11 Oct 82 Summer at Appendorf*
08 Aug.84 Daybreak rpt 8 Jun 86*
13 Mar 85 The Inheritance (R3)
18 May 87 Solo across the Atlantic
07 Jun 87 A view from the mountain*
14 Nov 88 An end and a beginning*
08 Mar 89 The navigator's log*
24 May 89 Recce*
17 Aug 89 The Ultimate Invention*
18 Dec 89 Fairy story*
01 Jul 90 Marching*
?? Sep 91 Roscoe's Time*
22 Feb 93 The newsagent & the counsellor*
21 Jan 93 Another dimension*
06 Jun 98 A Visitation (WS)*
01 Mar 99 High in the clouds*
29 May 99 Escapers (WS) *
22 Oct 99 Take two*
12 Feb 00 Challenged*
16 Dec 00 Ernest's Tower*
03 Jan 01 Emma Harper-tussles in a village*
10 Jan 01 Bill Bosun - Speedily to School*
17 Jan 01 Stan Rooker, Night Receptionist*
24 Jan 01 Jack Acorn: Disputed Inheritance* (the last 4 are a series with collective title "Oddballs")
07 Nov 02 Conversation on the London train*
18 Mar 04 A Summertime*

The plays which are asterisked are known to exist in collections within VRPCC.

Nigel Deacon / Barry Pike


There's no point in arguing the toss....1967
A rather novel approach to a funeral....

An entertaining, off-beat love affair. 45m; afternoon theatre. ' What s the chance of you meeting any one person? Millions to one against. And I get in a right panic thinking there was never the remotest hope of meeting you. Then I think, " Well, it did happen and there she is." ' Brian Miller, Mavis Rogerson , Graham Rigby, Vivienne Davies, Paul Webster, Ella Atkinson , Roy Barraclough.Producer Alan Ayckbourn.

Where is this here building? By what route do I get there?....1970
5 Sep 70, rpt. 8 Dec 72. Afternoon Theatre. ' I'd thought the job of a town-hall messenger boy was, as the name implies, taking messages round the town hall - I'd no idea that I'd let myself in for a military career..... Producer Alan Ayckbourn, Leeds. 55m.

5 Sep 69, rpt. 13-11-1972. By Don Haworth. On Saturday 19th April Stanley Warburton embarks upon an outrage that will be irreversible and unforgiveable. He has come to the end of his peg.

Policeman - Sam Kelly
Magistrate - Geoffrey Banks
Stanley Warburton - Colin Edwynn
Mother - Marjorie Rhodes
Potter - Bob Grant
Vera - Heather Stoney
Mrs Cartwright - Eileen Derbyshire
Mr Cubbins - Geoffrey Banks
Alderman Walter Wingle - David Jackson
Onlooker - Harry Markham
Inspector - Brian Miller
Producer - Alan Ayckbourn, Leeds.

We All Come To It In The End....1972
29 Sep 72; afternoon theatre. ...the lack of a resident father can put you on wrong lines altogether on a subject not remotely connected....with Pamela Dellar, Kathleen Worth, Paul Bond, Roy Barraclough, Barbara Mullaney. Produced by Alan Ayckbourn.

By Don Haworth. 11 Oct 72. 'We've everything to live for. The rain has stopped and the birds are returning and all our past lies before us.' Mr Fruin - Graham Roberts, Mrs Thatcher - Eileen Derbyshire, Matron - Penelope Lee. Producer - Tony Cliff, Leeds.

The Enlightenment Of The Strawberry Gardener....1972
By Don Haworth. 13 Oct 72. With Bill Fraser as Bullfrog; Roy Kinnear as Pike.
'My predecessor wasn't the Ombudsman, he was the public's chopping block. I don't stand for it. I hit them. That's why I have this big room, so that I can lay into them. I smash their specs.'

Events at the Salamander Hotel....1975
A wonderful, hilarious play about a hard-up travelling saleman and his cronies who evolve a novel strategy for cutting their accommodation costs when times are difficult....Stephen Thorne is the narrator, and there is a very strong supporting cast including Peter Woodthorpe.

    'We ought to form a stack.'
    'What's that in the name of God?
    'American thing Alvin knows about.'
    ' One guy pays for a room and the rest move in free.'
    ' And why do you call it a stack? '
    ' Double bed. Three guys lie side by side lengthways, then four widthways across them, then three more lengthways. surmounted by another four across.....' But more serious entanglements are to follow. Producer: Richard Wortley.

On a day in a garden in summer....1975
A cluster of dock plants comment on the goings-on in their neighbourhood. A seemingly quiet garden can give rise to some dramatic events. 19 Aug 75, R3.

Cast: Dick Dock..........Colin Blakely, Jim Dock........Geoffrey Banks, Jack Dock.............Julie Hallam, The Man.........Malcolm Hayes, The Woman........Carole Boyd.

The last ride of Walter Enderby, Motorist and Amorist....1978
Another treat; Walter Enderby is an old buffoon who is opinionated, selfish, a ladies' man, and a master of getting his own way...will he ever get his come-uppance? Geoffrey Beevers plays the hapless young man forced to be his chauffeur. Another memorable play.

Episode on a Thursday Evening....1979
19 Feb 79. The dilemma of two owners of a seedy local cinema faced with a bomb scare and the adverse publicity it will bring to the sale of their property. To evacuate or not? If they could get buildings evacuated on the strength of a phone call they could paralyse the civilised world from a telephone box. "You've got to keep a sense of proportion. There's scores of spoof calls every day. It's a fashionable yobbo's hobby. The big hotels and banks and whatnot don't react any more and we wouldn't here, if it happened again. " Pianist Martin Goldstein; producer Richard Wortley.

The story of St. George and the Dragon, told from the dragon's point of view. Exists in two versions, 60m and 90m. Very good use of sound effects.

A View from the Mountain....1987
By Don Haworth, this play is set in a remote, almost deserted, valley in central Europe and is about Joseph, who, as a boy, accidentally killed a man by rolling boulders down a mountainside. As punishment he is sentenced to push boulders up the mountain for life....International Playhouse -- ABC Radio National, Thursday, March 31, 1994, 2.05pm. .

An End and a Beginning....1988
R4 14 Nov 88. By Don Haworth, with Bert Parnaby as Tom. A monologue. Tom is an affable man in his mid 50s. He has worked happily for many years with a pipe-laying gang. The prospect of early retirement is not something he would look forward to. Producer - Richard Wortley.

The Navigator's Log....1989
One of several plays by Haworth about fighter and bomber crews of the Second World War. This play looks at events from the navigator's point of view, as they drop bombs on German cities in defence of their country. An excellent, thoughtful play drawing no conclusions but telling it as it was. Those with no experience of war and who view the episode with the benefit of fifty years' hindsight should listen to it.

The Ultimate Invention....1989
Pleasant, rather daft play about a new invention which threatens to change everyone's perceptions of travel....this play exists in two versions, one by the BBC, and one by RTE (Ireland). Very entertaining.

Roscoe's Time....1991
Heartwarming tale of a farmworker who makes good. Don't have written details but I seem to remember the labourer is played by Christian Rodska.

-There was an unexpected treat on St. David's Day, with Don Haworth's first radio play since 1993 - High in the Clouds (R4 1 March). It was in the light, humorous style of his earlier work; full of odd characters and colourful incidents and based in a small Lancashire community in the 1930s. Harold and his wife (Christian Rodska and Brigit Forsyth) begin to restore the manor house and use one of the outbuildings as the base for a new craze in the village - gliding. But some of the residents object to gliding on the Sabbath - or on any day. Stephen Thorne made an excellent narrator, recalling his part in "Events at the Salamander Hotel" many years ago, and Polly Thomas directed. (VRPCC newsletter, Spring 99)

Entertaining tale about the local bigwig, played by Stephen Thorne, behaving rather unfairly towards his tenants two generations ago....but the assorted doormats eventually manage to turn the tables.

-Take Two, by Don Haworth (R4 22 October, 2100 hrs.) starred James Bolam as Moses and Tom Baker as The Boss, and was a humorous reworking of the story of Moses and his tablets, broadcast on a Friday evening.(VRPCC newsletter, Autumn 99)

-Challenged (R4, 12 Feb, 1502): was the story of a Pennine farm owned by a widow (played by Brigit Forsyth), and the hostility between her teenage son (Matthew Booth) and a hired worker (Paul Copley, sounding very like Christian Rodska). Not memorable, but well written and worth a listen. (VRPCC newsletter, Spring 2000)

-Don Haworth produced four entertaining half-hour plays on successive Wednesdays: (R4, 1130, beginning 3 Jan 01): Emma Harper-Tussles in a Village is typical of Haworth's style; an ex-headmistress writes a column in a local newspaper. She is poached by the nearby radio station, and her gossip programme causes nothing but trouble. We also had Bill Bosun: a bus driver too kind hearted for his own good, and Stan Rooker, a particularly devious night receptionist. Haworth was interviewed by Radio Times in 1987, and said that he considers simplicity the key to success in radio drama. He is essentially modest and reluctant to appear as any sort of oracle, but he has three specific recommendations: avoid using too many sound effects, keep the number of actors to a minimum, and keep the story simple. "Look at the film "Zulu''-that was basically about people charging up and down a hill....the film became a classic". Haworth finds it difficult to detect any common theme in his plays, but is interested by people's motivations and their reactions to crises. He is particularly interested in those who respond to challenges in a positive, combative way rather than a neurotic one. This is perhaps why his plays are so appealing.(VRPCC newsletter, Spring 01)

    Emma Harper: Tussles in a Theme Village....2001
    3 Jan 01. Ex-Headmistress Emma Harper writes a column for a village newspaper. When she is poached by the local radio station, her gossip programme cause controversy, anger and revenge. Emma - Marcia Warren, Sid - David Holt, Mr. Mole - Ian Brooker, Major Drum - Robert Lister, Vicar - Geoff Holman, Mrs. Cowley - Sara Coward, Ms. Spratt - Sharon Muircroft.

    Jack Acorn: Disputed Inheritance....2001
    24 Jan 01. When Fred Melthorpe inherits an estate from his estranged father, he also inherits Jack Acorn, the general factotum. But Jack is not all that he seems and there are unpleasant discoveries to be made. Jack - John Webb, Fred - Stephen Tomlin, Joey - Alex Trinder, Mrs. Simcock - Pauline Jefferson.

Conversations on the London Train....2002
A newspaper editor and the wife of a wheeler-dealer meet on the London train. The man is telephoned repeatededly by his (much younger) boss, who has yet another daft initiative to be implemented... meanwhile, the wife has found that her husband has just sold her Shetland pony to pay the last few quid on another dubious deal. They have both had enough.

Anyone familiar with the way employees are treated today will enjoy this story; a sensitive play by a master playwright. It must be his sixtieth or thereabouts....starring James Quinn as Stan, Christine Mackie as Annabel, Judith Davies as Mrs. O'Coughlin, Matthew Lewney as Brian, and James Cymbal as Jim, the Singing Train Manager. Directed by Polly Thomas. Radio Times: "An ordinary train journey offers a life-changing and heart-warming opportunity to two ordinary people who share their hopes and fears in this light-hearted, gentle story".

A Summertime....2004
Don Haworth returns to a setting he's used before - in "Challenged" - an isolated farm run by a woman. It's February 1939, and she is trying to keep the farm going whilst her husband is away in New Zealand. In the middle of a blizzard and assorted problems, a stranger arrives seeking directions. A tale of unforeseen happiness and its passing. (paraphrased from Radio Times). With Rachel Ibbotson, Julia Rounthwaite, Glenn Cunningham, Stephen Thorne, Christine Brennan. Director Polly Thomas.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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