Keith Williams Radio Plays

picture of keith williams

Keith Williams was born in St. Peter Port, Guernsey, where was a schoolboy at Elizabeth College. However, when war started in 1939, it soon became became obvious that the Channel Islands were going to be occupied by the Germans. With the Nazis due to arrive the children were evacuated. Keith's ship was last out; an old Dutch crate which became marooned in minefields just outside Weymouth. On landing, all children were put on trains.

Keith's train travelled all around the country; no-one wanted them. Eventually, Oldham, the poorest town, took them on. Elizabeth College was thus transported to Buxton, about 30 miles from Oldham.

Keith's first job was as a tax inspector in Guernsey; he took courses in statistics, economics, accountancy and mercantile law. Then he became seriously involved in theatre. Over the years he worked in almost every aspect of the theatre: acting, directing, writing, producing, lecturing, management and consultancy.

He started his acting career being taught by Douglas Emergy at the Oldham Coliseum, combining stage management with playing juvenile leads.

Then he began directing, subsequently setting up his own company. He set up The Dark and the Light Theatre Company which was the first multiracial company in London. He was the artistic director of Norfolk Playhouse, and he was chairman of Newstage Ltd.

He was in demand as a writer, director and producer which resulted in his giving up acting in 1963. By then he had worked on stage and radio with the best in British theatre. He wrote radio plays for (or starred in radio plays with) John Gielgud, Michael Redgrave, Edith Evans, Donald Wolfit, Margaret Lockwood and others. He was a regular staff producer for several years, producing plays by Jill Hyem, Henry Cecil, Jennifer Phillips, Sam Selvon and many other writers.

In a short time he was given executive responsibility for about 450 productions each year, and amongst other innovations, created 'Waggoners Walk', a soap opera which ran for 14 years after "The Dales" ended. He commissioned early works by Tom Stoppard, Andrew Davies and scores of new writers.

This he combined with his writing. Most of his radio work was written in partnership with Johnny Rollason. He is author and co-author of about 70 scripts for TV, radio and films. Some of the radio titles are listed lower down the page.

In 1970 Keith moved into television.

He was head of the BBC script department servicing all parts of BBC TV from 1974 to 1979. Then until 1984 he was head of BBC TV drama, where he had executive responsibility for around 350 films and plays. He also initiated a large number of international co-productions and supervised the production of all but 2 of Shakespeare's plays.

He became freelance in later years,setting up three companies in the early 90s, and as executive producer of Blaze Productions Ltd. he prepared productions of Best Interests, the first four Brother Cadfael films, Punta Rosa, Obsessions, and Inspector Ghote.He served on Drama Juries such as the Prix Italia, Prix Futura, etc. and was a member of the Arts Council New Writing Committee. More recently he went to Damascus yearly to lecture on drama and to produce films. This ended in 2005 when many illnesses assaulted him.

In retirement he moved Warminster where he became a member of the PCC and various other committees at The Minster, St. Denis Retreat.

He was blessed with many gifts which he generously shared. His skill in public speaking was known all over the world, as was his generosity of spirit with business colleagues, friends, family and strangers.

In the studio he was tactful and encouraging; never dismissive or unkind. His sessions were always fun; he made it seem as if you were working with a bunch of friends - but when that green light went on, everyone was focused. If a line was delivered badly he'd find a way to record it again without criticising the actor; acting is difficult, and the last thing he wanted to do was undermine the confidence of someone doing his best. He was kind to colleagues and would all take suggestions seriously, even from young newcomers, to get what he wanted.

He died in May 2015, and I am grateful to his wife Julie (with whom I was briefly in touch in 2014) for sending me information about Keith, plus his obituary from the Warminster Journal, 19 Jun 2015, from which most of the above is compiled.

    Ex-SM Carol McShane adds:
    I remember one occasion when we were recording El Dorado West One by the West Indian writer Sam Selvon. The studio was full of West Indian actors having a lot of fun, and the series was a hoot; very funny. Then three time-and-motion men came into the studio (we were in B10) and they sat in the cubicle to see what everyone did, and to work out much time should be allocated for various kinds of production. They had suits and clipboards, and they sat po-faced through the whole hilarious production, never cracking a smile. I remember thinking 'how on earth can they not find this funny?'

    Eventually their verdict was: half-hour broadcasts would have one day of studio time, one-hour recording would have a day, and 90-minute plays would have three days.

ND, 20 Jun 2016

As actor or producer, Keith was involved in too many plays to list. As writer or co-writer he created the following:

15 Nov 63 Skating on thin air
24 May 64 Three back in a boat (after Jerome K Jerome)
21 Aug 64 It's a Funny World (not a drama - a trip around some of the world's restaurants)
03 Sep 68 The Catwalk

01 Sep 62 The Boy on the Wing
29 Sep 62 It was only a joke
10 Jul 63 Tactic 4
10 Jan 65 The Quarry (5-part serial)
12 May 65 A Poor Player
30 Mar 66 The Officer's Wife
31 Aug 66 One day as I sat ...
19 Sep 66 Escape: Cabbage Boy
29 Jan 67 The Bridge Game (3 stories and 13 parts)
19 Oct 67 The High Way to Action (5 plays about life in the RAF)
11 Aug 71 The Horns
16 Dec 78 Johnnie (Just before Midnight)

Recordings of five of his titles are known to exist in private collections.


In the series 'Just Before Midnight', by JON ROLLASON and KEITH WILLIAMS. R4. 'You don't really want to help me, none of you. You're not interested in that. You want me to stick my neck out for you, that's why you're round here. You don't give a monkey's whether I'm OK.' Terry .......... John Vine, Johnnie .......... Philip Sully, Fairley .......... Frank Windsor, Irishman .......... Joe Dunlop, Producer .......... Michael Bartlett.

THE HORNS....1971
Midweek Theatre. Lt. Prog. A play for radio by JON ROLLASON and KEITH WILLIAMS. Horns can be those of a dilemma. They can be horns on the head of the cuckolded husband. The Horns can even provide the name of the local pub. Here all three apply. Julia Thorpe-Ellis: Diana Olsson, Marcus Thorpe-Ellis: Geoffrey Matthews, Pauline Brett: Jo Manning Wilson, Frank Brett: Jon Rollason, Jimmy Winton: Trevor Martin, Det-Insp Stallybrass: Ronald Herdman. Producer: John Tydeman.

A series of plays each telling how the lives of different people were affected by a cat. 1: The Catwalk, by Keith Williams, in which the cat escapes with his first life. Bob Carrick: Wolfe Morris, Artie Patch: Wilfrid Carter, Eddie Passfield: Leonard Fenton, Rose Passfield: Freda Dowie, Andrew Passfield: Judy Bennett, Sister: Diana Olsson. Producer: Jane Graham.

By Jon Rollason and Keith Williams. A series of plays about life in Air Support Command of the Royal Air Force. Lt. Prog. 1: Down the Rout. Squadron Leader Routledge: George Baker, Charlie Coombs: Donald McKilop, Geoff Berry: Geoffrey Matthews, Barman: David Brierley, Desk Sergeant: Douglas Hankin, Quartermaster Molly Jonei: Margaret Robertson, Fit Lieut Jimmy Campbell Grey: Bernard Brown, Fit Lieut Martindale: Niab. Graham, Jumbo Richardson: Frederick Treves, First alrman: Alexander John, Second airman: Anthony Jackson. Other parts played by members of the BBC Drama Repertory Company. Producer: John Tydeman.

2: The Flying Longhouse

3: Last Flight to Hong Kong

4: The McBain of Gan

5: Well Met At Cyprus

A new serial in three stories and thirteen parts by JON ROLLASON and KEITH WILLIAMS. Lt. Prog. FIRST STORY (in five parts) 1: Opening Bid. Douglas Shemley: Keith Barron, Penelope Shemtey: Penelope Lee, Tony Gaunt: Bernard Brown, Bugs Bushill: Hugh Dickson, Sybil Bushill: Freda Dowie, Lithgow: Peter Fraser, Grenka: Eva Haddon, Air Hostess: Tanya Vigay. Other parts played by members of the BBC Drama Repertory Company. Produced by Keith WILLIAMS.

2: Take-over Bid
Returning from an athletics meeting behind the Iron Curtain, Douglas and his old school friend Tony were asked to deliver a parcel to another old friend, Lithgow. Together with Bugs Bushill they constituted the sixth form 'bridge four' at school. A reunion took place but a mysterious phone call caused Lithgow to dash into the night-clutching the parcel. Douglas Shemley .......... Keith Barron, Penelope Shemley .......... Penelope Lee, Tony Gaunt .......... Bernard Brown, Bugs Bushill .......... Hugh Dickson, Lithgow .......... Peter Fraser, Mrs Dredge .......... Beth Boyd, Publican .......... Frank Henderson, Inspector .......... Alan Dudley, Constable .......... Michael McClain, Producer .......... Keith Williams.

A series of plays, each of whlch tells an exciting or amusing story on the same theme. Cabbage Boy, by Jon Rollason. Keith Williams as producer. Lt. Prog. To Terry the station buffet late on a foggy night is a trap. Outside lies terrible danger. To the girl he meets he is simply a man in trouble. Terry: Jon Rollason, Pauline: Patricia Gallimore, Counterhand: Barbara Assooh, Woodentop: Harold Kasket, Constable: Ronald Herdman, The Woman: Brenda Dunrice, Station Announcer: Rosalind Shanks. Other parts played by members of the BBC Drama Repertory Company. Produced by Keith Williams.

ONE DAY AS I SAT........1966
Midweek Theatre. By Keith Williams & Jon Rollason. Lt. Prog."Entertainment? Show Biz”? When I was managing things at ClauKhton-on-Sea they had something different every afternoon. Mass Bands of the Northern Coops-Band of the Royal Army Pay Corps - the lot! Nobody went to sleep there, I can tell you!" Mr Milt: Richard Goolden, Mr Mack: Leigh Crutchley, Danny Daniels: John Hollis, Luther Montgomery: Ken Parry, Kitty Benton: Joan Matheson, Councillor Jenkins: Hector Ross, Councillor Mrs Povis: Olga Lindo, Councillor Roberts: Michael Kilgarriff, Major Johnson: Geoffrey Wincott, Mr Gibbons: Alan Dudley. Theatre organ music played by Douglas Reeve. Producer: Betty Davies.

Midweek Theatre. By Keith Williams & Jon Rollason. Lt. Prog. Bernard Hopkins: Julian Clover, Gunner: David Charlesworth, Major John: Gare Pitt, Tony Clare: Gary Watson, Waiter: David Cbarlesworth, Eve Grantley: Eva Haddon, Mr Maunder: John Hollis, Inspector Stallabrass: Edwin Richfield, Mrs Shilling: Joan Matheson, Mr Shilling: Noel Howlett, Barmaid: Joan Matheson, Desk Sergeant: Frank Partington, Sergeant James: Tim Seely. Producer: John Tydeman.

Afternoon theatre. 'The hardest work most of you ever do is trying to get work. And what about the spells in between? When an actor's out of a job he's nothing.... Half your life's an absolute waste of time. Hubert Murphy: Keith Pyott, Dell his daughter: Mary Wimbush, Desmond, her husband: Garard Green, Mandy, their daughter: Patricia Leventon, Mark, their son: Anthony Hall, Frank Chesterley: Basil Jones, Jennifer: Eva Stuart, Jimmy Garston: Gordon Faith, Cy Greenhalgh: Gordon Gardner, Stella: Valerie Kirkbright, Lauriston Squire: Allan McClelland, Charles Holland: Noel Howlett, Derek Davies: Hector Ross. Other parts played by members of the BBC Drama Repertory Company. Producer: Betty Davies.

THE QUARRY....1965
A serial for radio in five parts by Jon Rollason and Keith Williams. Light Programme. Part I ... In which Douglas and Penelope buy a picture and are followed. Other parts played by members of the BBC Drama Repertory Company. Penelope Shemley: Penelope Lee, Douglas Shemley: Barry Foster, Receptionist: Margaret Wolfit, Ruth: Isabel Rennie, Paul: Andrew Sachs, Simon Shaft: Roddy Maude-Roxby, Pinder: John Hollis, American: Peter Marinker, Reinke: Frederick Scurecker. Producer: John Tydeman.

    Ep. 2: In which a large sum of money offered for a picture painted after the artist was dead, and a body appears in the living room.

    Ep. 3: In which both wealthy Reinke and penniless Ruth insist on having Meyer's painting ' The Quarry.' Meanwhile Douglas has the picture cleaned....

    Ep. 4: In which the Shemleys' flat Is searched by amateurs and Meyer's painting makes a professional disappearance.

    Ep. 5: In which a picture is destroyed, enemies meet, and all is resolved.

Not a drama... a programme by KEITH WILLIAMS who, with some friends, takes a trip back up the Thames in both the style and direction of Jerome K. Jerome.

Not a drama ...by KEITH WILLIAMS, who takes a trip around some of the world's restaurants-and unearths quite a few unusual as well as unpalatable facts.

Not a drama .... Mr. Williams spent some time with one of the seventy commercial radio stations in Los Angeles-it was thought that his 'English' voice would lend their station a certain prestige. Here he describes some of the extraordinary uses to which his voice was put.

TACTIC 4....1963
Midweek Theatre, Lt. programme. By Jon Rollason and Keith Williams. Douglas Shemley: Michael Bryant, Vincent Bolt: John Wood, Braddock: Vivienne Chatterton, Smith: Terence Hardiman, Commissionaire: Earle Grey, Guardio: Michael Poole, Inspector Armitage: James McKechnie. Other parts played by John Baddeley, Diana Barrington, Anthony Benson, Valerie Kirkbright, Andrew Sachs, Lewis Stringer, James Thomason, Austin Trevor. Producer: John Tydeman.

Afternoon Theatre. Old Evan, once a famous footballer, gets his grandson Joe an offer of a job with his former club in Cardiff. But Evan would have to stay behind in the Midlands. This gives rise to serious misunderstandings between them, in spite of their devotion; but there may be help close at hand. Evan Probert: Dudley Jones, Harry Price: Earle Grey, Joe: John Baddeley, Eric: Hugh Dickson, Gloria: Ysanne Churchman, Mrs Barrington: Hilda Kriseman. Other parts played by Derek Nimmo and Andrew Irvine. Producer: Arthur Russell.

Afternoon Theatre, Home Service. ' So they're university students and we're factory apprentices, so what! They have a Rag, why can't we-what's the difference? Come on, it'll be a bit of a lark.'[A play showing the differences between town and gown - Ed.] Eddie: Sean Barrett, Ron: Anthony Hall, Garth: Nigel Anthony, June: Shirley Cooklin, Mr Barton: George Merritt, Chris Manson: Andrew Irvine, Tony Hooper: Charles Hodgson, Mr Manson: Peter Howell, Mrs Manson: Janet Burnell, Jack Lloyd: Kenneth Hyde, Miss Primrose: Elizabeth Morgan, Detective: Peter Pratt, Police Sergeant: Lee Fox, Police Constable: George Hagan. Producer: Peter Bryant.


Two series (1971 and 1973) written by Rodney Wingfield, of 'Inspector Frost' fame. It is a light comedy about an inept detective, played by Kenneth Williams; not Rodney's best work, but quite amusing. Notes for episode 1, 28 Jul 71:Kenneth Williams, with Richard Caldicot, Josephin Tewson, Aubrey Woods, Caroline Blakiston, Leslie Heritage, John Hollis, Graham Stark, Eva Haddon, Ronald Herdman, Harold Kasket, Jon Rollason, Joanna Wake, Jo Manning Wilson. Script edited by Gerry Jones. Producer: Keith Williams.

    Carol McShane, SM for these productions, adds:
    This was recorded on Friday lunchtimes at the Paris Theatre, Regent St. Keith had asked for me on 'Spot' and put me on stage with my props to get some extra laughs - some of the things I had to do were quite amusing and the audience liked them. As you can imagine, this went down like a ton of bricks with Kenneth Williams.

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