Radio Drama Reviews, July 2021
Harry Turnbull

Hardy’s Women - Jude The Obscure
Tainted Love - The Rainbow, Women in Love

Radio 4 Classic serials
Directors Emma Hardy, Nadia Molinari, Gary Brown

Nothing wrong with wheeling out old dependables of course but I wonder whether some of these stories could be updated into a more modern setting (Ducks while brickbats fly).

Of course Hardy’s Women is applying a different spin by taking the story from a female perspective.

In this case it’s Sue - doesn’t really have that tragic heroine ring does it - who takes centre-stage. But it’s not that different - no happy ending! Instead the production focuses on the toil and tribulations of Jude’s unmarried other half.

As for The Rainbow, this was a book I recall studying at grammar school. I don’t know whether my thoughts are coloured by my lack of enthusiasm for Lawrence’s prose or because of the teacher, a large man with a bushy beard who loved to carry around a bamboo cane for thrashing boys while crying out ‘Dear Zeus, what have I done to deserve this?’ .

Even so, I had to refresh myself on the story with a quick search to get a handle on what was happening. I think a much clearer narrator is needed with outright exposition at the outset to introduce the story. And to return to a previous point, I think this would greatly benefit from being set in the here and now.

As on the page, the verbalised prose makes me wonder whether horny-handed sons of the soil are likely to be spouting stuff like, ‘you’ve hair like thistledown, stuck out in straight flaming pieces’.

Dinner With Dylan

Radio 4
Writer Jon Canter
Produced by Clive Brill


Bobaholics. A group of artistic types meet once a year in a restaurant to celebrate the life and work of Bob Dylan, folk singer. On this occasion excitement swells to tumescence as one of the party reveals Bob is to join them for a bite to eat. I hope the Beckett reference in the headline isn’t a spoiler. I’m no fan of the Bobbler but he did recently rise in my estimation when he dismissed those who imbue arcane meanings into his work. One gets so exasperated at some - particularly university lecturers - who forensically examine each syllable of a particular writer as if the meaning of life is hidden within a sentence.

So good on Bob, like Pinter, who disregards the interpreters as insignificant.

Although this was an amusing bit of frippery I was puzzled as to why it claimed the prize Saturday afternoon hour long slot rather than a 45 minute midweek drama.Still, Dylan nerds will love it.

Limelight: The System
Radio 4 for five weeks from May 28

The BBC has finally unveiled its vision of the future in the shape of this project called Limelight. It has been given a Friday afternoon slot with the idea of a soap-style format producing a cliffhanger ending each week.

The episodes are simultaneously available on Sounds but the plan appears to be to attract that OLD chestnut, the YOUNGER audience, for a regular tune in on Fridays. Whether this psychological thriller featuring characters called Dingo and Coyote throwing a few bad boy vibes and ‘innits’ attracted a new audience or merely baffled the current one is one for speculation.

Rhian Roberts, commissioning editor for digital and podcasts says optimistically there is an increased appetite for such ‘unique storytelling’.

The plot itself revolves around a guy sucked into The System, a shady organisation that appears bent on taking down rich capitalists. I think I’ve got that right. Check it out!

Radio 4 Extra Reprise

James Hilton’s Lost Horizon

Dramatised by Barry Cambell
Featuring Derek Jacobi

I was first hooked on radio drama by the still peerless Brian Sibley production of Lord of the Rings in 1981. In the same year this alluring broadcast of Lost Horizon also caressed my listening buds.I was younger then, fresh out of college, possessing a generous head of hair and strode jauntily along, occasionally with a bejewelled beauty on my arm, her skin bronzed by frequent trips to the tanning salon in Platt Bridge, Wigan. How times change - but not the quality of such recordings.

I recall listening to Hilton’s tale of Shangri-La in bed, marvelling at its magical, dream-like quality as I resisted the land of nod.

The years since have not dulled this wonderful excursion into the memory banks and the Tibetan wilderness. (....note from ND - the series was produced by Graham Gauld, which accounts for its high quality. )

Duchess of Malfi

Drama on 3

Featuring Shaun Dooley and Pippa Dixon
Directed by Pauline Harris

A Jacobean revenge classic piped in by the discordant notes of Jimi Hendrix set the tone for this dark journey into the dungeons of the human experience.

The Duchess, recently widowed, is warned by her brothers about future relationships and one senses that this 500 year old story still resonates now, with the idea that male family members should control the honour of a sister.

And by consorting with Antonio, a member of her household. one also thinks of that anxious bird in a gilded cage, Princess Diana, who took that same route to find personal freedom.

To keep tabs on the Duchess the brothers Ferdinand and Cardinal employ Bosolo, allowing Barnsley’s Shaun Dooley to add to his appearances in Drama on 3 productions.

During the story Dooley and musical collaborator Jules Maxwell add a few slices of rock to complement the Hendrix intro that announced the play.

Pippa Dixon excels as a tragic figure who seals her fate by marrying her beau secretly and bearing his children. It all unravels in gruesome fashion.

There will be blood!

HT, 10 Jul 21 and 13 Jul 21

Thanks, Harry, for these reviews .... ND


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