Dawn Lowe-Watson was a well-known radio playwright and novelist who died in January 2012. Her plays are carefully-crafted with excellent dialogue and sensitive use of music. Dawn began writing radio plays in the late seventies, and they attracted distinguished casts: SHORT MADNESS stars John le Mesurier & Elizabeth Bell; THE HAVEN has Charlotte Mitchell & Paul Copley; and THE WIND PUMP, set in the Norfolk Broads, features James Laurenson & Charlotte Attenborough. Her last play, FOG AND SHIFTING PEBBLES, was broadcast in late 2005 and takes place in an isolated part of the coast near Romney Marsh.

As to the contents of this page: after a a brief introduction written by Dawn in 2002, there is a list of her radio plays and other work. Barry Pike has contributed a piece about the radio plays. Underneath are some remarks about each play and excerpts from radio interviews.


A word from Dawn Lowe-Watson:

Before writing my first novel I had been a woman's journalist, an industrial editor, an interior decoration journalist, and published scores of magazine stories for all the womenıs magazines in the late sixties, seventies and eighties.

I am the mother of three sons, James, Stephen and Andrew and grandmother to Alwyn and Wilfred. James died in March 2000: Stephen works in IT for Guy's/St. Thomas' Hospitals: Andrew is a pianist and composer. I spent my childhood in Hampstead, Cumbria and Yorkshire. Since my marriage I have lived in Highgate Village, Hampstead Village, Norfolk and Sussex, with many years of holidays spent in Cumbria, Norfolk, Yorkshire and at Roquebrune Cap Martin., Alpes Maritimes.

Place has always been an important influence in my writing - perhaps the first character.

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Produced and directed by Cherry Cookson, Sally Avens and Tim Suter for Radio 4:
Short Madness 12.7.83
The Haven 17.4.84
Private Property - Keep Off 6.1.83
The Wind Pump 11.2.95
The Crossing Keeperıs House20.10.86
Closed to Visitors
Casa Clara7.7.84
Rose at Roquebrune 1.12.83
Return to Go
Father Figure
The Greengage Summer: Dramatisation
I Capture the Castle: Dramatisation
The Locum: Short story
Jasonland: Short Story
Fog and Shifting Pebbles22 Aug 05

Several talks and interviews for Womanıs Hour in the eighties
Literary interview for World Service - subject: A Novel by Jacquetta Hawkes

four episodes for BBC "Triangle";
one play for Yorkshire TV;

The Good Morrow, Sound of Water, Black Piano.
The Good Morrow and Sound of Water won awards.

Biographical information and play listing supplied by Dawn Lowe-Watson.

To give some idea of the amount of work going into a radio play once it's written I have given recording / rehearsal / editing times for some of the plays.

Recordings of all of the radio plays exist in VRPCC collections.

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Dawn Lowe-Watson is an accomplished radio dramatist, especially adept at presenting complex relations between men and women. Her work, broadcast between 1979 and 2005, consists of thirteen original plays and two well-judged adaptations: of Dodie Smith's I CAPTURE THE CASTLE (1996) and Rumer Godden's THE GREENGAGE SUMMER (1998).

Most of her plays examine heterosexual attraction: in SELAH (1980), Prodigies (1980) and THE WIND PUMP (1995) between mature men and much younger women; in ROSE AT ROQUEBRUNE (1983) between a mature woman and a much younger man; in SHORT MADNESS (1982) between a scholarly man and his free-spirited neighbour; in THE CROSSING KEEPER'S HOUSE (1986) between a reclusive rural widower and an Islington antique dealer; and in CASA CLARA (1984) between a couple on holiday; he with a relentlessly shrewish wife; she with a too-demanding female friend. Standing apart from these is the violent encounter in CLOSED TO VISITORS (1992) between a deranged man with a grievance and the frightened woman whose life he threatens.

Despite the family likeness among her plays, Dawn Lowe-Watson does not merely repeat herself. Rather, she rings the changes adroitly on her favourite theme. Both CASA CLARA and ROSE AT ROQUEBRUNE include a holiday romance, aborted in the former, consummated in the latter. Rose's problems weigh less heavily after her night with her young lover and the sense of having evened the score a little with her philandering husband is exhilarating. CASA CLARA is a tougher play with harsher conflicts and a resolution both surprising and heartening.

The couple in SELAH are stranded for the night in a locked church and the play is a virtual duologuein which they dismantle their existing false liaison, edging instead into a truthful detachment offering release to both. THE CROSSING KEEPER'S HOUSE is likewise an extended duologue, defining a transient relationship based on accidental proximity and emotional confusion. Richard Pasco's gentle recluse proves tougher than Jennie Stoller's city slicker.

PRODIGIES is an endearing comedy dealing with a professional pianist, uneasy with his ambitious wife and drawn to an admiring younger woman. His daughter is a gifted cellist whose angst-ridden progress towards an important musical prize provides much of the fun. CLOSED TO VISITORS is the grimmest of Dawn Lowe-Watson's plays, a chilling and unnerving piece in which she extends her range. It suffers from the formula limitation of all thrillers whereby a trapped victim suffers for a time but is eventually rescued in the nick of time, but there's no denying its eerie power. It also has excellent performances by John Duttine and Deborah Findlay.

Barry Pike

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SELAH 2.2.80 60m
A lecturer spends a romantic afternoon with one of his female students...they visit a country church, but it's late, and they get locked in. As the night progresses a few home truths get spelled out. DLW handles the dialogue with her usual flair. An excellent two-hander with John Carson as Edward and Emily Richard as Catherine; Cherry Cookson directed.

PRODIGIES 31.10.80 60min
A concert pianist, often away from home; his daughter a good musician but no genius; will she make the grade - and is this what she wants? And what about the pianist; will the girl on the train be more than a passing acquaintance? With David Buck as Tom, Sonia Fraser as Gabrielle, Elisabeth Lindsay as Isolda, Elizabeth Rider as Sarah, David Bradshawe as Jeremy, John Webb as Felix, Roger Hammond as Peter, Judy Franklin as Cynthia. Reh/Rec Mon 20 Oct 1980 1430-1800, Tues 21 Oct 1000-1800, Wed 22 Oct 1000-1900, Studio B11:Basement, Broadcasting House. Editing Th 23 Oct 1430-1800, Fri 24 Oct 1000-1900. Announcer Edgar Martin. SMs (Studio Managers) Anthea Davies (Panel*), Diana Barkham (Grams*), Bert Coules (Spot*). Pianist Stuart Hutchinson (Pre-record session Wed. 15 Oct in B11; insert tape no: TLN42/006X444)

*For an explanation of the work of the SMs, see article by Bert Coules on the Radio Plays page.

A television personality of declared liberal sympathies proves to be less generous to others when he finds squatters in the Scottish island he owns jointly with his sister and to which he has taken his girlfriend for a supposedly idyllic holiday. "A cogent dramatic presentation of a debate of the ethics of possession and the connections between the morality which allows the private ownership of land and conventional relationship structures" -(Radio Times). With Geoffrey Palmer as Alastair, June Tobin as Josie, Kathryn Hurlbutt as Liz, Steve Hodson as Gavin. Announcer Eugene Fraser. Directed by Cherry Cookson. [Readthrough Wed. 8 December, 1030-1300, Reh/Rec Thurs 9th Dec 1000-1800 and Fri 10th Dec 1000-1900, Studio B10, Basement, Broadcasting House; Editing 23 Dec 82, 1000-1800 and 4 Jan 83, 1000-1300.] Afternoon Theatre. SMs Anthea Davies (Panel), Vanessa (Grams), Anna Nesbitt (Spot).

SHORT MADNESS 5.2 82 & 12.7.83 60m
With John le Mesurier as Thomas and Elizabeth Bell as Maggie. A middle- aged English teacher becomes interested in a person next door who, at first appearance, he has absolutely nothing in common with ... also stars Jill Balcon, Christopher Godwin, Joanna Mackie, Nigel Greaves; directed by Cherry Cookson. Afternoon Theatre. (Reh/Rec Sat 23 Jan 82, 1000-1800, Sunday 24 Jan 1000-1900, Studio B11 (Basement, Broadcasting House), Announcer Christopher Slade.)SMs Anthea Davies (Panel), David Chilton (Grams), Joanie Blaikie (spot).

ROSE AT ROQUEBRUNE 1.12.83 58min
A titled lady, Rose, is on holiday with her elderly mother and there is a young couple in the adjacent hotel room. The man is pleasant and easy-going but his girlfriend is outspoken and tactless. Rose's neutral attitude towards her alters when she finds they are linked in a way that she could never have imagined. With Mary Peach as Rose, Joyce Carey as Evelina, Christopher Scoular as Simon, Elizabeth Rider as Lydia, Pauline Siddle as Jane, and Clive Panto as announcer, taxi driver. Directed by Cherry Cookson. [SMs Carol McShane, Paul Pearson, Vanessa Ellner. Reh/Rec Tues 1 Nov 83 1000-1800, Wed 2 Nov 1000-1900, Studio 6A, 6th Floor, Broadcasting House; editing 8 Nov 1000-1800 H54 and Wed 9 Nov 1000-1800 H54.]

Dawn Lowe-Watson interviewed after writing the five above plays and the novel "Sound of Water":
How do you set about writing specifically for radio?
I thought how good it would be to write for sound radio because you can use your imagination so much. The nice thing about writing for radio is that everybody who's listening hears sees something completely different from everybody else, and so you feel that you're throwing the ball into the court for anybody to catch. I really love writing for radio.
Does it make the words even more important?
Yes; with radio there's almost a poetic feeling to it; perhaps one has to be careful not to get too carried away. The words do matter, whereas with television so much can be said with the raising of an eyebrow and the curl of a lip.
Are you able to be involved when the play is produced? And when they're rehearsing, can you say, "hold on, that's not quite right"?
My producer, Cherry Cookson, lets me in on the understanding that that's what I won't do. I'm put behind the panel, and if I do want to say anything, then I wait until Cherry comes up our side of the panel and then I'll be allowed to say it and she'll go back and talk to the cast about it. But I think the cast would find it very unnerving if an author kept chipping in. There are times occasionally when I'm summoned down into the studio to chat to the cast....I over-write quite a bit; I always tend to be a bit too wordy, and so the thing that one does have to do, and which I usually have control over, is cutting. There's usually some feverish cutting at the end of the second day, when studio time's nearly running out.
What kind of plays have they been?
I write about anything...but I suppose they're all plays about relationships... (interview, radio Carlisle, July 1982)

THE HAVEN 17.4.84 58min
Reh/Rec 9 Apr 84 1000-1800; 10 Apr 84 1000-1900, studio 6A, Broadcasting House. Editing 12 Apr 84, 1000-1800; Fri 13 Apr 84, 1000-1800, H54. Charlotte Mitchell as Beryl, Paul Copley as Silas, David Sinclair as Edwin, Carole Boyd as Cynthia, Hilda Schroder as Shopkeeper, William Hope as Tex, John Bull as Dave, Michele Winstanley as Rebecca. Announcer Eugene Fraser, guitar played by John Bull. SMs Anthea Davies (panel), Diana Barkham (grams), Vanessa Ellner (spot). Production Sec. Amanda Willett.

CASA CLARA 7.7.84 88 min
Since the break-up of her marriage, Clare and her daughter have been looked after by an older woman friend, Elaine. The two women go on a much-needed holiday to Venice, where Clare begins an affair with an unhappily married American - much to Elaine's distress. With Meg Wynn Owen as Clare, Jill Balcon as Elaine, Gary Waldhorn as Teddy, Annabelle Lanyon as Annie, Maggie McCarthy as Gerda. [Rehearse/Record Tues 26 Jun 1000-1800, Wed 27 Jun 1000-1800, Thur 28 Jun 1000-1800, Fri 29 Jun 1000-1900, Studio 6A, 6th floor Broadcasting House, Editing Wed 4 July room H52, Thurs 5 Jul H52]. Directed by Cherry Cookson. Saturday Night Theatre. SMs Alick Hale-Munro (Panel), Diana Barkham (Grams), Peter Marsh (Spot).

Dawn Lowe-Watson:"CASA CLARA is about two women who run a gift shop in Petworth in Sussex. One of them is rather older than the other; a rather claustrophobic, possessive sort of lady, who has taken under her wing the younger one, who has a little girl.....she takes her off to Venice. She's the kind of woman who likes showing things to people, particularly the things she loves, and she loves Venice. This is my ninth play and I suppose I could say that my plays , like my books, are mostly about people's relationships; how people get on with each other and the overtones of this sort of situation". (Woman's Hour interview, R4, July 1984)

A well-known ballerina temporarily retires from dancing to have a baby. She and her husband are horrified when a newspaper publishes a librarian's claim that he is the father of her expected child. With Lorna Heilbron as Natalie, Michael Cochrane as James; also stars Frances Jeater, Gwen Cherrell, Lionel Hunter, Christopher Scott, John Webb, Colin Starkey, Margot Boyd. Directed by Cherry Cookson.

A wonderful setting for a story - a woman is stranded in the snow in the middle of nowhere; she knocks on the door of a remote cottage, and a handsome, well-spoken man answers the door. He lives on his own; could he be the person she has always wanted to meet? With Richard Pasco as Adrian, Jennie Stoller as Laura, Gordon Reid as Coleby, Avril Clark as Valerie, Ronald Herdman as the radio announcer and the van driver; announcer Bryan Martin. [SMs (Studio managers) Richard Beadsmoore (Panel), Bert Coules (Grams), Keith Graham (Spot). Reh/Record M 22 Sep 1000-1800, Tues 23 Sep 1000-1800, Wed 24 Sep 1000-1800, Studio 6A Sixth floor; Editing Mon 29 Sep H52]. Monday play.

RETURN TO GO 58min 29.1.87
A strange little tale about a potential love affair; an unpleasant incident brings together two people who otherwise would never have met. They have more in common than they realise. Reh/rec 19 Jan 87 1000-1800; 20 Jan 87 1000-1900. Studio B10, Broadcasting House. Editing 24 Jan 01, 1000-1800, H54. Cast: George Parsons as Alan, Caroline Mortimer as Jill, Melinda Walker as Kate, Alison Rose as Penny, also with Andrew Branch, Steven Harrold, Sue Broomfield and Kim Wall. Directed by Tim Suter. Producer's assistant Lesley Carr; SMs Diana Barkham (panel), Ros Mason (grams), Ian Harker (spot).

31.1.94. Afternoon Play. By Dawn Lowe-Watson. In rural Cumbria, Reedback Hall, once an artists' colony, is now run as a museum. One afternoon when the hall is closed, a young man turns up asking to be shown around. The curator, Sally, wants to spend some time with her son, but the visitor is very persuasive. Cast: Deborah Findlay [Sally], John Duttine [Frank] and Jill Lidstone [Crispin]. With: Ann Windsor [Pat], Steve Hodson [Policeman 1] and John Webb [Policeman 2]. Directed by Cherry Cookson.

THE WIND PUMP 11.2.95 75min
Set in the Norfolk Broads; a man profoundly affected by his time on the Burma-Siam railway is interviewed - and more - by a young programme-maker. Interesting story and realisation; stars James Laurenson as William, Charlotte Attenborough as Maria, Tina Grey as Tiny, David Thorpe as young William, Patience Tomlinson as Mary; also stars Joan Matheson, Tom Bevan, Ian Masters, Peter Yapp, Deborah Berlin and Susannah Corbett. Directed by Cherry Cookson. [Reh/Rec Tues 12 Jul 94, 1000-1800, Wed 13 Jul 1000-1800, Th 14 Jul 1000-1900, Studio 6, Maida Vale Studious, Delaware Rd, London W9. Edit: 18-19 Jul, H7. Studio Managers: Tim Sturgeon (Panel), Anne Bunting (Grams), Alison McKenzie (Spot)].

Dramatisation of the novel by Dodie Smith. Two sisters living in an old castle; their father a writer but has written nothing for a decade; then two Americans arrive. A convoluted love story. With Amanda Root as Cassandra, Helena Bonham-Carter as Rose. Also stars Haydn Gwynne, Willian du Fries, Stuart Milligan, Jamie Glover, Geoffrey Whitehead, Robert Harper, Ann Beach, Patience Tomlinson, David Timpson and Jonathan Adams. Directed by Cherry Cookson.

GREENGAGE SUMMER....1998..75min
Dramatisation of the work by Rumer Godden. Two sisters, their mother and a younger brother go to stay in France but the mother is hospitalised; the children are put up at a country house, where unforeseen things happen...there they meet Eliot, his temperament an odd mixture of cruelty and kindness, the rather cathartic lady of the house, from whom it is difficult to get much sense, and a servant who falls in love a little too easily...with Ellie Bevan as Cecile, Abigail Doherty as Joss, Keira Jansen as Hester and Luke Newbery as the young brother. Also starred Michael Maloney as Eliot, Claire Marchione, Rachel Atkins, Theo Fraser-Steele, Shaun Baker, Jenny Lee, Brian Parr and Chris Wright. Directed by Sally Avens.

R4, 45 min. Dawn has written an interesting article about this play on our main "Radio Plays" page (articles 18). Here's what the BBC website had to say about it:

........ Dawn Lowe-Watson’s play is set in Dungeness, on the southernmost point of Romney Marsh in Kent, where Owen, a gentle and kind sculptor, lives in deliberate isolation from what he sees as his rather unsuccessful attempts to cultivate relationships.

Owen is not unhappy and at least here he can concentrate on his work. But things change one night with the arrival of the teenage daughter of a musician with whom he used to live. Nina is unhappy that her real father has returned to live in the family home and has run away to be with Owen. She still feels close to her step-father and even fantasises that he is, in fact, her dad. Owen is played by Paul Rhys, Nina by Colleen Prendergast and Monica by Patience Tomlinson. Producer: Cherry Cookson.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity Website.

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