Radio Plays, 2010

16 Dec 2010 R4. By Johnny Vegas and Andrew Lynch. This is a humorous tribute to Les Dawson, who took over 'Blankety-Blank' from Terry Wogan, in the days when it was a prime-time popular show. Johnny Vegas plays Les, and Nicholas Parsons is "Christopher Farson". He's the one who should really get the job.... producer Sally Harrison; director Jim Poyser. 45m.

18 Dec 2010. A monologue based on the famous story by Willy Russell. A middle aged housewife realises that her life is nothing but a claustrophobic suburban routine and that if anything is to be done about it, she must take action. She does.... performed by Meera Syal. I don't like most monologues but this one was extremely good. 90m. Saturday Play.

17 Dec 2010. A non-Maigret tale by Georges Simenon, dramatised by Ronald Frame. Taken from the 1958 novel where the mistress of a nightclub owner in Cannes faces competition for her lover's affections. With Claire Knight, Gayanne Potter, Simon Tait; producer Bruce Young.

Another series about the wily Warwick Hedges and his restaurant in the middle of the fens. The first episode (6 Dec 2010) was extremely funny - the plot centres around a rare bird and an attractive 'twitcher' who is looking for somewhere to stay. Disaster piles on disaster as the old man tries to extricate himself from the mess he has created by offering her a room. With Trevor Peacock, Same Dale, Kate Buffery, John Rowe, Helen Longworth, Claire Rushbrook. Producer Claire Grove. 45m

6 one-hour episodes, beginning 28 Nov 2010: excellent new dramatization by Robin Brooks. Comments from the messageboard were unanimously positive, including this one from "m", posted on 30 Nov 2010:

What a great dramatisation! Enjoyed it immensely - I'd forgotten quite what a terrific yarn this is. A superb production and excellent acting! Very much looking foward to listening to the rest.

Here's what Jane Anderson said about it in "Radio Times", in the run-up to episode 3, slightly edited and shortened:

.......the finest drama that I have ever heard on British radio. It certainly does not hurt to be working with Robert Graves' superlative source material, but this does the production no justice. It is a work of brilliance from the whole team - dramatist, director, actors, music, sound effects. Part 3 sees Emperor Tiberius teetering between a desire to give it all up and indulge his debauched sexual practices on an island, and hanging on to the threads of power that keep his twisted ego alive. As radio dramas go, this is a triumph.

Cast (for episode 3, taken from Radio Times): Tom Goodman-Hill, Tim McInnerney, Derek Jacobi, Harriet Walter, Samuel Barnett, Sam Dale, Hattie Morahan, Christine Kavanagh, Leah Brotherhead, Lloyd Thomas, Tony Bell, Sally Orrock, Jude Akuwudike, Sean Baker, Harry Devas, Claire Harry, Deeivya Meir, Adeel Akhtar, Iain Batchelor. Producer Jonquil Panting; music composed by David Pickavance.

More information about this production - see articles50 .

26 Nov 2010; R4. Another excellent biographical play by Martyn Wade about a little-known English composer who died in 1950 from the after-effects of injuries incurred during the First World War. Moeran's first symphony was well-received by the public, and he was commissioned to write a second. The play goes from there.

It starred Tim McInnerney as Moeran, Kate Binchy as his landlady, Sean Froudist Walsh, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Nicholas Boulton and Geoffrey Whitehead. The producer was Cherry Cookson.

Martyn has also written plays about Gerald Finzi, Percy Grainger and William Baines. See his page for more details.

Jonathan Smith's THE TRENCHES TRIP (10 Nov 2010, R4) concerned a group of sixth formers taken over to the Flanders battlefields and brought out surprising conflicts between students and between staff. Producer Bruce Young; with Christian Rodska and Max Dowler. 'Diversity' drama review, Dec 2010

FIVE DAYS IN MAY was a topical political drama (6 Nov 2010, R4) by Matthew Solon, a fictionalised reconstruction of the events just before the formation of the first coalition government in Britain for 70 years. The play was based on interviews with some of those who were there, and with political journalists. David Cameron was played by Samuel West, Nick Clegg by Nicholas Boulton, Gordon Brown by Gerard Kelly, Peter Mandelson by Henry Goodman, and Ed Balls by John Sessions. It received a glowing writeup by Eddie Mair in "Radio Times". This was an independent production by "Goldhawk Essential", the script by Matthew Solon and the production by John Dryden. 'Diversity' drama review, Dec 2010

    Summary of remarks by Eddie Mair, RT, edited by ND.......

    Six months since the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives began work on their coalition. I approached this dramatised reconstruction warily, but Matthew Solon makes it 'involving'.

    The play is based on interviews with participants and journos. It brings to life the 'behind-the-scenes' accounts, coupled with re-enactments of the key public speeches we're familiar with. The moment Gordon Brown announced his departure was almost as spine-tingling as the real thing.

    There are some lovely moments....Ed Balls obsessing about paying for a coffee round when he should have been focusing on the talks. Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg barking down the 'phone at each other. "I am not Tony Blair" and "I am not Paddy Ashdown". The scene where David Cameron seeks to persuade his doubtful backbenchers is electrifying.

    Especially impressive are John Sessions as Ed Balls (he also does Ed Milliband) and Gerard Kelly as Gordon Brown.

Samuel West was David Cameron and Nicholas Boulton was Nick Clegg, sounding quite like each other as they do in life - N.D..

By Nick Warburton, 2 Nov 2010, R4. With James Fleet, Hannah Pierce. A middle aged man is called to the hospital to attend his ailing mother. Producer Peter Kavanagh. Afternoon Play. Excellent play which was shortlisted for the Tinniswood Award - N.D.

By Christopher Reason. 14 Oct 10. Fictional high-profile court case about a woman being prosecuted under the Protection of Children Act 1978. With Maxine Peake, Neil Dudgeon. Producer Stefan Escreet.

By Christopher Reason. 15 Oct 10. Linked to the play broadcast yesterday. Six months later, the social worker for the case asks why she was expected to take the blame. With Sarah Lancashire, George Costigan. Producer Gary Brown.

10 Oct 10. R4. By Tina Pepler / Christopher Isherwood. Dramatisation by TP of Isherwood's semi-autobiographical novel. Hitler is on the rise; it is 1931. Producer Polly Thomas.

10 Oct 10. Four plays tracing the history of war in Afghanistan. R3. Total duration 2 hours. the plays are: Bugles at the Gates of Jalabad, by Stephen Jeffreys, Miniskirts of Kabul, by David Greig, Honey, by Ben Okrent, and A Canopy of Stars by Simon Stephens. Producer Jeremy Mortimer. Directors Jessica Dromgoole, Indhu Rubasingham and Sasha Yevtushenko.
    Part of BBC blurb from Radio Times, by Claire Webb, edited slightly.....

    Bugles at the Gate remembers the British Army's worst defeat in history when 16,000 soldiersperished fleeing Kabul in 1842. We share the bugler's horror on hearing the news and reading the diary entries of a rare survivor, the General's wife.

    Miniskirts of Kabul is set in 1992; a western woman interviews President Najibullah as he shelters in a UN compound.

    Honey is about a CIA agent who realises the folly of American disengagement.

    In Canopy of Stars, two squaddies discuss chips, football and Taliban insurgents.

By Ed Harris, 14 Jul 10. Afternoon play. A comment from the messageboard read:
    Very good cast, great voices. The play was advertised as a comic fairytale, but I found it quite scary at times. The Troll was awesome! The bit when the brother James told his side of the childhood encounter with the Troll was very touching.
RT: In the middle of a family crisis, Olivia discovers a troll under her mother's kitchen sink. A troll to whom, in the magic days of childhood, she once promised herself as a meal. Cast: Rosie Cavaliero, Ewan Bailey, Jack Klaff, Marcia Warren, Michael Shelford. Producer Jonquil Panting.

By Peter G Morgan. R4, 1430, 12 Jul 10. An excellent play about the dilemna a surgeon faces when a Jehovah's Witness patient starts to die on the operating table. The woman makes a plea for help. Does he give a blood transfusion?

This thought-provoking tale received a lot of comments on the BBC message board, which can be more or less summarised by just two contributions, which I have edited slightly for clarity:
    ......When Jehovah's Witnesses refuse blood, they have taken it upon themselves to understand fully the implications. Therefore they must be listened to.

    ......I see nothing wrong with a professional trying to get someone who is refusing life saving treatment for purely superstitious reasons to see sense.
Cast: Philip Fox, Katy Cavanagh, Golda Rosheuvel, Sam Dale, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Caroline Guthrie. Producers Steven Canny and Jonquil Panting.

23 Apr 10. Afternoon Play by David Pownall, one of our most experienced radio playwrights. A wealthy entrepreneur (played by Vincent Ebrahim) makes a fast buck when Fate decides that a whale has to die on a South African beach. The whale is pickled (not an easy job) and then hawked around for people to see - for a price. There is an astonishing twist at the end.

22 Apr 10. By Michael Symmons. A young man (played by Graeme Hawley) volunteers to test a revolutionary scanner which his 'ex' has designed. It analyses the patient's inner sounds and then diagnoses what, if anything, is wrong. It doesn't always work as planned.

By Leon Fleming. Late Apr 2010. Radio Jersey. For Jenny Swales, late middle-aged and highly skilled in making tea, living alone is not so much a choice as a cruel twist in her circumstances. 25m.

When a young man, Darren, moves in next door and has a building project needing Jenny's approval, she uses it to her advantage.

Jenny - Teri Le Huquet
Darren - Cameron Cole
Jamie - Fraser Martin
Directed by Tom Dingle.
Edited/Recorded by Sara Palmer/BBC Radio Jersey.
Produced by Jersey Arts Trust/BBC Radio Jersey .

22 Apr 10. By Ed Hime. A businessman opens a new zoo. With Kenneth Cranham. Friday Play - an endangered species.

The Six Loves of Billy Binns....2010
R4, 1415, 21 Apr 10. By Richard Lumsden. A man aged 110 years drops a teacup, and it falls slowly, second by second, to the floor. As it falls, the loves of Billy's life flash before him, one last time. Tom Courtenay as Billy, with Alison Pettitt, Tanya Franks, Ella Smith, Joanna Monro, Keeley Beresford, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Walter Lumsden. Producer Sally Avens.

Messageboard comments included:

........the kind of play where you're driving alone in rain and you have to pull over into a lay-bye to listen it out.

.......A stunner. With no warning!

.......very good, Tom was outstanding. The film This Happy Breed came to mind.

........A gem of a play - with Tom Courtenay giving another fine performance in the central role.....

Originally broadcast in 10 parts on the world service last month (Mar 10). By Matthew Solon; dir. John Dryden. This was a fascinating glimpse into the midset of those who have masterminded some of the technical innovations in Silicon Valley, including the creation of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other iconic 'brands'. It was broadcast on two adjacent afternoons at 2.15: 19-20 Apr 10. It was billed in RT as a drama-documentary. Cast included Thomas Lazur, Zafar Karachiwala, Katie Rubin and Cassidy Brown.

There are some film clips associated with the play on youtube. Here are the links:
clip1... clip2... clip3...

One person ("Boccius") on the messageboard commented on the high cost of recording this play in California, and made the point that on radio, it doesn't make any difference where it's recorded. Why waste money going abroad?

The producer, John Dryden, replied:
.......As the producer I can assure you allen that the budget was no higher than a drama recorded in studio here in the UK. Firstly drama studio costs are very high and we didn't use a studio. We recorded entirely on location in a documentary style.

Secondly, the cast, crew and interviewees are all based in California - so it made sense to make it there rather than fly them all over to the UK which would have been much more expensive.

I hope this puts your mind at rest. - JD.

By Joe Orton, 16 Apr 10. Rather unpleasant comedy about adultery and murder. A bit too spiky for me. Phil Daniels, Martin Jarvis; producer Peter Kavanagh. Repeated from sometime last year, I think.

R4, 15 Apr 10. Excellent thriller by Peter Whalley, described as a 'psychological' thriller in 'Radio Times' .This usually means that the person you imagine to be the baddie isn't necessarily the guilty party... A young girl rents the top floor of a Victorian house from a young male landlord. But ... who is he, and what does he want?

Stars Joanne Froggatt. Other actor was not credited in RT. Producer Pauline Harris. ....update - starred Lee Ingleby.....

R4, 14 Apr 10. The Albert Speer play, WALKING AROUND THE WORLD, by Michael Butt, was about Hitler's architect, incarcerated in Spandau prison.

Michael's interesting play gave some snapshots of Speer's life in prison but didn't really reveal what made him 'tick'.

The story was done more thoroughly in 1980 by Jonathan Smith (The World Walk) in a version twice the length. The earlier broadcast described in detail some of the monstrous crimes of the Nazis, and the retribution which had to follow. The 45m version couldn't really show the overall picture; it needed a bigger canvas.

Cast: Patrick Malahide as Speer; Jack Klaff, Mia Soteriou, Daniel Weyman, Nicolas Woodeson, Basher Savage, Patrick Brennan. Producer Judith Kampfner.

For those who missed the play - whilst in prison, Speer worked out a 'world walk' - to keep his mind and body active. He measured up the prison yard, worked out the distance he covered per day, and in his mind at least, walked almost around the world before he was released.

(ND, 18 Apr 10; bbc messageboard)
    Other comments from the mb, edited slightly for clarity, follow. If you see your comment and would like it removed, please send me an email; I do not know how to contact you:

    Quite right - it is ridiculous commissioning new plays where an older one would still have done a better job - and it's unjust to rely on the amnesia of the listening public not to notice.

    To me walking round and round the prison yard (while imagining being on the outside doing a round the world walk) - seems a little like a earthly purgatory - where having done the requisite number of turns ones penitence is done & one is then released to the real world - rather than a Dantesque paradise.

    Dante at least met other people his way and learnt from them - Speer seemed a very solitary soul. Which made this latest play a bit eerie.

      "dorabella"...I am glad to see this make an appearance on the messageboard. I thought this was absolutely one of the best things I've heard on the radio recently. It was intelligent, moving, dealt sensitively with its enormous and terrible themes. The Speer play was humbling in its cleverness and humanity. Far too much gets through into the afternoon slot that really don't deserve to be there. But a gem like this proves radio drama ought to be considered a major art form.

By Jeff Young; 13 Apr 10. Social story; comedy drama. Tensions betweena down-to-earth Liverpudlian and his middle-class Highgate neighbours. With Conrad Nelson, Sophie Thompson, Lauren Mote, Malcolm Raeburn, Maggie Fox, Greg Wood, Dermot Daly. Producer Pauline Harris.

By Francis Turnley. R4 12 Apr 10. A family settles in the countryside to pursue to good life on a smallholding, but is met with resentment and a camapaign of intimidation from the local community. Good old-fashioned conflict in an isolated setting - where would radio drama be without it? Stars Stuart Graham, Zara Turner, Hannah R Gordon, Des McAleer; producer Heather Larmour.

By Bert Coules. A Sherlock Holmes story inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle. R4 1415 5-6 Apr 2010. Clive Merrison again in the title role, with Andrew Sachs as Dr. Watson.
    from the BBC messageboard: ......I see that Clive Merrison is again in the title role. He is absolutely brilliant as Sherlock Holmes - easily the best Sherlock on radio I have ever heard (they include John Geilgud, Basil Rathbone and Carlton Hobbs). Like the equally excellent John Moffat as Poirot, Merrison has made the role his own on radio.

    Bert Coules replied: .....I hasten to second the praise for Patrick Rayner, whose contribution to the shows - and many, many others besides - has been vast and wonderful, and who unfailingly makes my scripts sound much better than they really are.

    Yes, we've had two Watsons: in the Conan Doyle dramatisations the late and much lamented Michael Williams, whom one online commentator called "quite simply the best Watson there has ever been, in any medium", and in all of the Further Adventures his successor Andrew Sachs, who had large shoes to fill and did so superbly.

    More from this exchange on Bert's page.

3 x 55m, Classic Serial, John le Carre. 11 Apr 10 & following Saturdays.The final novel, dramatised by Robert Forrest. With Simon Russell Beale, Alex Jennings, Anna Chancellor, Stephen Critchlow, David Bannerman, Nigel Anthony. Producer Patrick Rayner. Superb - comment is superfluous. This production is available from the BBC on CD for 8.50 from the BBC shop.

24 Mar 10. By Alistair Jessiman. Well written drama involving a plausible psychic detective. The 'psychic' scenes seem almost real. Robin Laing as Thomas Soutar. Producer Bruce Young.

23 Mar 10. Documentary drama about the events surrounding the murder of Lee Harvey on a country road near Birmingham in 1996. Dramatisations by John Taylor. Sian Brooke, Kim Wall, Michael Higgs, Roderick Smith. Producers Alan Hall / John Taylor.

20 Mar. By Stephen Poliakoff. 2 x 55m; 2 Saturdays Plays on adjacent weekends. Interesting social story about an engineering entrepreneur who makes big money.

By Doug Lucie. In two 45m episodes, 15-16 Mar 10. Satire on the preoccupation of the British with weddings. Good writing by this capable and well-known playwright. Producer Heather Larmour.

13 Mar 10. Drama about spiritualism, seances, and getting money from rich people. Based on a true story from the 1800s by A.L.Kennedy. Producer Pauline Harris. Bill Nighy, Robert Glenister. Saturday Play, 55m.

6 Mar 10; the making of the movie "Witchfinder General". Michael Reeves, the young producer, did not get on with 'Vinnie', but coaxed from him a superb performance. Written by Michael Broughton. Nicholas Grace as Vincent Price, with Kenneth Cranham and Blake Ritson. Producer Sam Hoyle.

Interesting Afternoon Play by Robert Frame. 2 Mar 10. America, 1840, set in the new immigrant community. There's an influx of fake money which threatens the local economy. Businessman Allan Pinkerton turns detective and tries to sort it out. Forbes Masson as Pinkerton; producer David Ian Neville.

By Mike Walker; Classic Serial Feb 2010, three 55m episodes. "Angle" from the BBC messageboard commented as follows: The standard of production is higher than anything else that R4 has achieved for years. It makes a very satisfactory and satisfying change from the over-abridged Classic Serials we have been getting for some time. Let's hope that there is more to come.

By Chris Murray, dramatised by David Hare. R4, 20 Feb 10. Sex, scandal and politics. Chris Murray was formerly the British Ambassador in Tashkent, which is capital of the central Asian dictatorship of Uzbekistan. This play documents his amazing story; his attempts to oppose those who engaged in torture , the way it affected his career, and his affair and subsequent marriage to a local belly dancer.

To paraphrase the article in 'RT', Murray believed that he had proof that the Uzbek regime had boiled a dissident to death. He also said that in the run-up to the war on Iraq, intelligence gathered by Uzbek torture victims was being passed to the CIA and from there to MI6 and the FCO in London.

This amounted to rocking the diplomatic boat, upset his superiors back in London, and set in motion a train of events which ended in him losing his job.

It was an excellent, thought-provoking play.

I am including a few comments from the BBC messageboard (edited slightly for clarity). If you see your comment and would like it removed, please email me, I do not know how to contact you.
    'anne-marie': .........."The play was based on the biography and David Tennant's portrayal took me in so very much - how true is it / was it? This man had such high ideals and morals in some ways and such low ones in others. But of course I suppose he's only human and the foereign office came off badly but nowadays the manipulation and goings on behind closed doors are almost normal. I enjoyed it very much."

    'newlach' - This drama was very good, and David Tennent played the role well. At the back of my mind throughout the drama, however, was the thought that once a person decides to become an ambassador he signs away his right to act independently - many countries carry out torture and our government knows it.

    The explanation offered for the injuries sustained to a man who was boiled alive in Uzbekistan was beyond belief - two men fighting over a samovar that exploded. Only 1 of the 23 or 24 charges brought against the ambassador was upheld (and at a later hearing was dismissed).

    ' heatherfeather': " I'd never heard of Craig Murray. But this radio play was fantastic and never dragged. I'm not the biggest David Tennant fan but he did an exceptional job. Very glad that his character's less than altruistic flaws (eye for the ladies) wasn't whitewashed. A topical story and happy that David Tennant could bring a wider audience to it.

    and finally, 'thomas paine':

    "Craig Murray has his own web-site. Find it on google. Well worth a visit for those still keen on freedom."

8 Jan 10. By Elizabeth Lewis. Excellent comedy drama; very very funny. Charlie's ability to write his newspaper column depends on airing facts about his family - information that they would rather he kept to himself. They decamp to Italy to teach him a lesson. He's left with a nutty father-in-law and a tame rat. Stars Philip Jackson as Charlie, with Howell Evans (Hywel Evans?), Manon Edwards, Geoffrey Whitehead, Lynne Seymour. Music by David Chilton and producer Kate McAll; director Gordon House.

7 Jan 10, R4, Afternoon play. The TSR-2 was a Cold War strike aircraft developed by the British Aircraft Corporation for the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the early 1960s. It was designed to penetrate a well-defended forward battle area at low altitudes and very high speeds, and then attack high-value targets in the rear with close-in bomb runs and precision drops. It included a number of features which made it the most advanced aircraft for the role, yet the programme was controversially cancelled in favour of the F-111. Ten TSR2s were built; not all were completed, and only one flew.

The play stars Ewan Bailey, Bruce Alexander, Jon Glover, Joseph Cohen-Cole, John Biggins, Nigel Hastings, Rhys Jennings, Kate Layden, Emerald O'Hanrahan and Piers Wehner. The producer was Jonquil Panting.
    In January 1959 the Minister of Supply announced that the TSR-2 would be built by Vickers-Armstrongs working with English Electric; the initials coming from "Tactical Strike and Reconnaissance, Mach 2".

    Prior to the TSR-2 effort, the British Royal Air Force had deployed the English Electric Canberra bomber, capable of flying at high altitudes and relatively high subsonic speeds. The Canberra carried no defensive weapons and relied on its high performance to allow it to avoid defences, but as the performance of the Soviet interceptors grew, the Canberra grew increasingly vulnerable.

    The introduction of the radar-guided surface-to-air missile changed the situation. They attacked in a straight line from below, and had speed and altitude performance greater than any aircraft. The Canberra, and most other planes were extremely vulnerable to these weapons.

    The solution was to fly lower. An aircraft travelling just under Mach 1 will cover this distance in a little over two minutes, giving the missile site very little time to prepare for an attack.

    Like so many projects, this one was wrecked by the politics. It was scrapped by the Labour government in 1965.

1 Jan 10. By Keats; a new version of the narrative poem. The love affair of the innocent mortal and the snake. Patterson Joseph as the narrator; with Charlotte Emmerson (Lamia), Tom Ferguson (Lycius), Jonathan Keeble (Hermes). Producer Susan Roberts. Original music by John Harle; singer Sarah Leonard.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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