Brian Sibley Radio Plays

Brian Sibley has written and broadcast a good deal about cinema, especially the animated film.

His voice became familiar to radio listeners through Radio 4's film programme Talking Pictures, the movie quiz, Screen Test, and some magazine programmes such as The Afternoon Shift and Kaleidoscope.

He did the radio series Disney's Women and David Puttnam's Century of Cinema for Radio 2, and It's Magic for the World Service.

His writing for radio includes the well known dramatisation of Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings", which he shared with Michael Bakewell, C.S.Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, two Tales of the Bizarre by Ray Bradbury, and Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan and Gormenghast, which won a Sony Award.

It's odd that in the original broadcasts of the Tolkien epic, Michael Bakewell alone was credited with the adaptation. I think this was corrected in repeat broadcasts.

Brian has written the official movie guide on the films of Lord of the Rings, and a number of other movie-related items.

He has written some books : Three Cheers for Pooh, Shadowlands, The wisdom of C.S.Lewis, and a biography of the Rev. W. Awdrey (the train man, friend of Teddy Boston) who wrote the Thomas the Tank Engine books.

He is a member of the Magic Circle, and lives with his partner, a magician, in South London. He collects books, videos, and movie and magic memorabilia.

Brian's website can be found at:



1970s *Miss Hargreaves (Frank Baker), dram, 90m
1981 *26 x 30m Lord of the Rings (Tolkien),dram, with Michael Bakewell
1982 *Gormenghast (Peake), dram
1982 *Titus Groan (Peake), dram
2004 *The Pilgrim's Progress (Bunyan), dram, 2 x 60m
2004 *The Northern Irishman in C.S.Lewis
2006 *It's too late now
2011 *The History of Titus Groan, dram, new version
2014 *The Illustrated Man (Bradbury), dram
2014 *The Once and Future King

Brian Sibley has dramatised a large number of tales for radio. I am collecting information for this page. Please email if you can help.

Originally a novel by Frank Baker, who adapted it himself as a stage play for Margaret Rutherford. The radio version was the work of Brian Sibley, who made an elegant job of it. Constance Hargreaves is an imaginary woman, invented and documented by two young men during a holiday in Ireland. They conjure her up on the spur of the moment, only to have her come inconveniently to life, with enormous potential for their embarrassment. Her descent on their segment of English provincial society gives her ample scope for sophisticated mischief; and her eventual return to the shades is beautifully managed. Jean Anderson plays this eerie old girl with great relish and aristocratic authority - she creates with her voice a world of privilege and cultured eccentricity. ...Donald Campbell

Dramatised with Michael Bakewell in 26 half-hour episodes. With Ian Holm and Michael Hordern. Debateably the best radio drama of all time. It is a rich and varied performance; you can listen to it whilst driving to work, when you can't have the book in your hand. It sticks quite closely to the text, and though it isn't perfect, the production will keep you gripped from episode 1 to episode 25 (sic).

-gripping 26-part epic which I would have found even better without some of the songs. The music was fine; well-written and performed, but I don't like Tolkien's poetry. The film makers evidently agree; the songs never made it into the movie version - N.D.

Sony Award for best dramatisation and best production respectively.

John Bunyan's story about a Christian pilgrim and his journey to discover the nature of faith. It contrasts the physical hardship of poverty and imprisonment with spiritual riches. Neil Dudgeon plays Christian, with Anton Rodgers (Bunyan, the narrator), Anna Massey as Interpreter, Alec McCowen, Peter Bowles, Don Warrington, Graham Crowden and Caroline Lee Johnson. Produced by Pam Fraser-Solomon.

The Northern Irish Man in CS Lewis....2004
9 Oct 2004, Saturday Play 09 October 2004 14:30 hrs 60 min Geoffrey Palmer/James Ellis/Dario Angelone/John Hewitt/Jack Logue/Hannah R Gordon/Doreen Keogh/Stuart Graham/Laura Hughes/Sarah Gordon/Coirie Magee/Patrick Gledhill

It's too late now....2006
R4, 6 Jan 2006, afternoon play. Marks the 50th anniversary of the death of A.A.Milne on 31 Jan 1956. Best known as creator of Winnie-the Pooh, (am I the only one who doesn't like this odious little bear?) Milne would prefer not to be remembered as a children's writer. Some of you will be aware that he wrote a series of witty books of anecdotes entitled The Holiday Round, The Day's Play, etc. Alex McCowen played Milne, Jasper Britton young Milne, Emma Gregory was Daphne and the cast also included Maggie McCarthy and Thomas Helm. Producer - John Tydeman.

The famous trilogy by Mervyn Peake, now supplemented by a fourth volume written by his widow; six one-hour episodes, starting 10 Jul 2011. Classic Serial.

Brian Sibley, one of our most experienced writers (he did 'Lord of the Rings' with Michael Bakewell) has done the new dramatisation.

It was well reviewed in Radio Times by Jane Anderson:

"Everything about this production - writing, direction, sound effects and casting - is spot on".

Cast: (ep. 3) - Luke Tredaway, David Warner, Hogo Hocking, Carl Prekopp, Miranda Richardson, James Fleet, Tamsin Greig, William Gaunt, Fenella Woolgar, Claudia Blakley, Oliver Hallinan, Adrian Scarborough, Gerard McDermott, Jane Whittenshaw, Susie Riddell. Producer Jeremy Mortimer; director David Hunter.

    Best Adaptation 2011:
    The History of Titus Groan dramatised by Brian Sibley
    Producers: David Hunter, Gemma Jenkins and Jeremy Mortimer,R4

Brian Sibley, who knew Ray Bradbury, was responsible for an excellent Saturday Play; a dramatization of "The Illustrated Man"; the first in a short series of sci-fi called 'Dangerous Visions' (R4, 1430, 14 Jun 14). A young man's travels bring him into contact with a vagrant who says that his many tattoos come to life after dark and provide glimpses into the future. This device is used to bring together some of Bradbury's best short stories. Iain Glen played the Illustrated Man, with Jamie Parker, Elaine Claxton and Wilf Scolding; the producer was Gemma Jenkins. (.....ND, 'Diversity' review, Sep 2014. )

One of the biggest radio events for a while was THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, by 'Tim' White, dramatised by Brian Sibley in six one-hour episodes, broadcast in the Classic Serial slot (R4, 1500, beginning 9 Nov 14). Neville Teller's 'The Sword in the Stone' is part of this tale, but this is the first setting of the whole thing by the BBC.

"The Once and Future King" actually consists of four main books: The Sword in the Stone, The Queen of Air & Darkness, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind. In an online interview, Brian describes the difficulty of holding the tale together, because The Sword In The Stone was really written for a younger readership. You have to go from the world of young Wart, with its magic and enchantment, to more serious topics like war, peace, infidelity, bravery and deceit, which fill the later books. White actually produced a fifth book, 'The Book of Merlyn', published posthumously, in which Merlyn comes to Arthur on the night before his final battle and they have a long conversation, looking back over Arthur's life. This provided Brian with the idea of how to tell the story.*

The six plays take place in the few hours before Arthur's last battle, whilst he is waiting for the dawn.. Merlyn and Arthur look back across every aspect of his life; his childhood, all the things they did together, the things he learned when he was turned into a fish and a bird and an ant and so on, and the battle with Madam Mim, and drawing the sword from the stone. And then it goes on to later events: Guinevere, meeting with Lancelot, foundation of the Round Table, and so on. The events are not visited chronologically; we don't hear Wart as a fish until episode 2, and Madam Mim appears as a flashback in episode 3. After Arthur becomes king, the events are more or less in sequence.

Laurence Joyce, writing in radio Times, reviewed the drama very favourably, calling it a tale of vast breadth; the Arthurian legends used as a framework to explore themes of war and human responsibility, both at the kingly and personal level; a world of magic and anachronism in which owls and mustard pots speak. "An oddball masterpiece, enhanced by a dramatic score by Elizabeth Purnell. Paul Ready (Arthur) and David Warner (Merlin) lead a superb cast." The producers were Gemma Jenkins, Marc Beeby and David Hunter. More information on the production, including a fairly complete cast list, can be found on the NOTES page for 2014. (....ND, Diversity Website radio review, Dec 2014)

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

Asterisked plays known to exist in VRPCC collections

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