Radio Plays, 2011

ex-R4 forum/ 'beebotron' / R3 drama forum /

The Radio 4 forums are much missed since their closure in April. Could I encourage all those who used to visit the R4 messageboards to start using the alternative forums above? The more people who sign on and contribute, the better they will be. Let the rest of the forum know what you think about current output - and which older programmes you would like to see repeated.

4 Aug 2011

By Mike Walker, produced by Richard Clemmow, directed by Dirk Maggs. After the devastation of WW2, a plan emerges for the economic reconstruction of France and the unification of Europe in an attempt to secure a prosperous future and to avoid future armed conflicts.

In 1950, Jean Monnet worked with the French Foreign Minister, Robert Schumann, to combine the coal and steel industries of France and Germany, setting in place the foundations of the Common Market...

Cast: Timothy West as Monnet, Lesley Manville as Silvia Monnet, with Daniel Weyman, Philip Jackson, William Hope, Jonathan Hyde.

    ADDITIONAL NOTE.....The play ruffled a few feathers. There was a long piece about Monnet and the EU in the Daily Mail, starting with a discussion of the play. It went on to talk about the EU. I have summarised part of this below in more moderate language......

    Today (16 Dec 11) we had 'Beyond Borders' a drama by Mike Walker, about the creation of the European Iron and Coal Community back in 1950.

    How is this related to the EU?

    The Iron, Steel and Coal Community became the Common Market, which became the European Economic Community, which became the European Community, which became the European Union. If Merkel and Sarkozy get their way this will become the United States of Europe, an undemocratic superstate run from Brussels, financed from Frankfurt and ruled by Paris and Berlin.

    Click the link to read the rest of the article.

THE BID....2011
2 Dec 11, Friday Play. A docu-drama about England's failed bid to host the FIFA 2018 World Cup, by Matthew Solon. In the days before the story begins, the BBC had (irresponsibly, according to many observers) broadcast a 'Panorama' programme which was highly critical of FIFA. The story is about the negotiations which took place in Zurich shortly afterwards, and the relationship between the England representatives and the FIFA committee prior to the vote on 2 Dec 2010.

The play is based on interviews with those involved. There are some fictional scenes, added for dramatic effect; the audience has to know where it is....


David Cameron: Chris Villiers
David Beckham: James Hurn
Prince William: James Hurn
Jack Warner: Larrington Walker
Andy Anson: Adrian Rawlins
David Dein/Sepp Blatter: John Sessions
Eddie Afekafe: Jermain Liburd
Chuck Blazer: Glenn Wrage
Mohamed Bin Hamman: Nadim Sawalha
Other parts: Dolya Gavanski and Tracy Ifeachor
Director: John Dryden, for Goldhawk Essential Productions.
    .............Five years planning, £15 million spent, an 18-month intensive campaign, but no dice. Another excellent production by John Dryden of Goldhawk - always stylish, informed, memorable. (paraphrased from Gillian Reynolds' review, Daily Telegraph, 26 Nov 11 - ND)

29 Nov 11. Another welcome series of McLevy, by David Ashton. In the first episode (of 4) the Victorian detective investigates the death of a seamstress, with help from the local brothel keeper Jean Brash.

Cast: Brian Cox, Siobhan Redmond, Michael Percival-Maxwell, David Ashton (as Roach), Iain Robertson, David Rintoul, Tracey Wiles, Jayne McKenna, Victoria Inez Hardy. Produced by Bruce Young. This is series 8.

More about McLevy on the David Ashton page.

Some of the episodes from previous series are available on CD from the BBC shop.

By Pete Roberts. 28 Nov 11; afternoon play. Dave is an architect but for too long he's been designing public toilets. A big chance comes his way - an important new building - and he's determined not to mess the chance.

Meanwhile, Fate is about to supply him with a problem; an unwelcome house-guest who was once a famous pop icon....

Cast: David Shaw-Parker as the musician, with Conrad Nelson, Natasha Byrne, Paul Greenwood, Kathryn Hunt, Adam Billington. Produced by Gary Brown.

25 Nov 11. By Debbie Oates. Very unusual play about a girl who keeps hearing music in her head. It threatens to stop her having a normal life. Then a teacher at her school starts to unlock her mind. Cast: Rebecca Ryan, Elizabeth Berrington, Jamil Thomas, Wunmi Mosaku, Sue Devaney, David Fleeshman, Jonathan Scott, Emma Johnson. Producer Nadia Molinari; music by Carol Donaldson.

By Mike Bartlett, Radio 3, 20 Nov 11. A gay man falls for a woman during a break from his boyfriend. John....Ben Whishaw, M.....Andrew Scott, W.....Katherine Parkinson, F.....Paul Jesson. Producer Mary Peate; director James MacDonald. 90 min.
    ....John, the only character in the play given a name, can't decide whether he is gay or straight. The language is pretty basic and vulgar here and there but not offensively so... it's a good play.

28 Oct 11; an amazing play, dramatised by Mike Walker based on a novel by Mark Danielewski. Will Navidson and his family discover a labyrinth behind a door which suddenly appears in their home. He and his brother investigate its mysterious corridors which grow, shrink and disappear, and a malevolent growling presence seems to be getting closer....

Production details: Cast - Jim Norton, William Hope, Debora Weston, Martin McDougall, Jeff Mash, Richard Ridings, Vinta Morgan, Eleanor Blaney; producer John Taylor; Fiction Factory (Independent) production for Radio 4.

BBC blurb: The narrator in this production is Jim Norton who recently received both an Olivier award for the National Theatre production and a Tony for the hit Broadway production of Conor McPherson's The Seafarer, and is currently appearing again at the National in McPherson's new play The Veil.

The story reminded me of the sci-fi tale "He Built a Crooked House" by Robert Heinlein, which is such a fascinating story that I give a sketch of it here ...

    An architect designs a four-dimensional house based on the 'net' of a 'four-dimensional cube' - a 'tesseract' - having eight cubical rooms, arranged as a stack of four cubes with a further four cubes surrounding the second cube up on the stack). However, the night before the new owners are shown around the house, an earthquake causes the house to fold into an actual four-dimensional tesseract. In the morning they find what appears to be just a single cubical room. Believing the top seven rooms to have been stolen during the night, they go inside to look for clues.

    What they find is unbelievable: the upper floors are intact, but the stairs form a closed loop, in that the stairs from the top room lead back into the bottom room and not to the roof. What is more, there appears to be no way to get back out, because all the doors and even the windows lead directly into other rooms. At one point, they look down a hallway and are shocked to see their own backs....

An excellent series about paralegals; six episodes beginning 17 Oct 11; afternoon play; various writers.

Some details: Frank Twist played by David Schofield, Sarah Gold by Kathryn Hunt. All episodes produced by Gary Brown.

1. By Tom Fry and Sharon Kelly: A pop entrepreneur is arrested on suspicion of fraud.

2. By Tom Fry and Sharon Kelly: A teacher is accused of having an affair with a pupil.

3. By Elizabeth Heery: Frank and Declan stand witness for cases they are unsure about - a situation which could compromise them.

4. By Eve Steele and Ed Jones: A 60-year old photographer is accused of assaulting his financial adviser.

5.By Tom Fry and Sharon Kelly: A right-wing academic is accused of assault.

6. By Tom Fry and Sharon Kelly: A youth is arrested for attempted murder, and Doug tries to bring Shakespeare to the inner city.

By Henrik Ibsen. Sun 16 Oct 2011, Drama on 3. 120 min. Part of Radio 3's 'Conviction' series. Ibsen's study of a religious zealot who refuses to compromise, leading him to risk catastrophe for himself and his family. Faced with possible tragedy for his loved ones, will he persist with his absolutism?

Brand ..... Gerard Murphy
Agnes ..... Morven Christie
Mayor ..... Jeremy Swift
Mother/Voice ..... Ann Mitchell
Ejnar ..... Carl Prekopp
Gerd, Son, Woman ..... Alex Tregear
Doctor ..... Alan Cox
Provost ..... Mark Tandy
Guide, Man ..... James Lailey
Crazed Woman ..... Susie Riddell
Gipsy, Woman ..... Elaine Claxton
Sexton, Man ..... Reg Stewart
Schoolmaster, Man ..... Gerard McDermott
Man ..... Simon Bubb

Music composed and performed by Nicolai Abrahamsen. Directed by Peter Kavanagh.

16 Sep 11, by Julie Mayhew. A play touching on the psyche of those unable to throw things away. Many hoarders and collectors are familiar with the problem of restricted living space. This tale, starring Richard Briers and Julie Mayhew, concerned such a couple; they have lived in a tower block for fifty years and have filled their flat with clutter. A young council worker living next door with his girlfriend has to break the news that the block is scheduled for demolition. As he gets to know them he wonders why they have kept so many useless things.

Jane Anderson, in 'Radio Times' calls the play 'a sublime experience'; the elderly couple convey an intense and passionate love story undimmed by the passage of time. The cast included Joe Armstrong and Edna Doré as the young couple, and the production was by Justine Potter, a 'Red' production for Radio 4.

    Letter in RT, 1-7 Oct issue, 2011, slightly edited:
    ....A masterpiece. The incomparable cast was blessed with a superb script and a tale of such poignancy that it was almost too painful to take in. I was totally enthralled.

    Thank you for such a polished gem.

    S.A, Wolverhampton

12-16 Sep 2011. A very funny parody about the suffragette movement, by the National Theatre of Brent: Patrick Barlow and John Ramm as Desmond Olivier Dingle and Raymond Box. Told by a liberated Little Dorrit. 5 x 12m, Woman's Hour drama.

10 Sep 2011, 2.30pm, by Michael Eaton, 60m. Using official sources, this is a reconstruction of what happened on 11 Sep 2001. George Bush (junior) was promoting his education policy in Florida and his vice-President was in Washington DC. Then a passenger airliner flew into the World Trade Centre in New York. Cast: George Bush: William Hope, Dick Cheney: Stuart Milligan, Donald Rumsfeld: Garrick Hagon. Producer Dirk Maggs, working for independents Perfectly Normal Productions.

9 Aug 11. A third satire about the worst university in the country, by Joyce Bryant. This episode has the Dean of Research Development pushing partnerships abroad. One student has done virtually no work all year and has attended no lectures. His father is a prominent politician abroad, with lots of funds available. Can they persaude him to set up an international research centre for Pier and Wharf ethics? Cast: Sophie Thompson, Jonathan Keeble, Jeremy Swift, Caroline Burns Cooke, Cyril Nri, Marlon G. Day. Producer Gary Brown.

10-11 Aug 11. Occasional series with Richard Briers and Stanley Baxter. William and Sandy are retired actors in a residential home, and their hobby is solving mysteries. The characters are invented by Michael Chaplin, and they have appeared several times in the schedules over recent years. Titles for these two stories:Here Doggie and The Case of the Missing Meerschaum. Other cast members, for the two episodes: Joanna David, Geoffrey Palmer, James Fleet, Honor Blackman, Anne Reid; producer Marilyn Imrie, for independent production company Catherine Bailey Productions.

Start 1 Aug, 10 episodes, Woman's Hour serial. Ernest Hemingway. Set in the First World War; love story but with many violent scenes. Dramatised by Stephen Keyworth. An American ambulance driver for the Italian army becomes romantically involved with a nurse. With Patrick Kennedy, Morven Christie, Carl Prekopp, Alex Tregear; producer Jessica Dromgoole.

RT: .... squeamish listeners beware.

Adapted by Ronald Frame. These are in the 'non-Maigret' series and are excellent tales.

27 Jul 11: In Case of Emergency; A lawyer falls for a jewel thief after assisting her in a court case. Jimmy Chisholm, Lisa Gardner, Sarah Collier, Laura Smales, Kenny Blyth.

3 Aug 11: The Little Man from Archangel; A bookseller's wife disappears after a series of affairs. Steven McNicoll, Crawford Logan, Francesca Dymond, Kenny Blyth, Eliza England, Gavin Kean.

10 Aug 11: The Cat; a husband and wife loathe each other; their attempts at reconciliation wrecked by the sudden death of two family pets. Christian Rodska, Joanna Tope, Irene Allan, Carol Ann Crawford, Mark McDonnell.

The three plays were produced by Bruce Young.

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 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.

6 Jul 2011, afternoon play. London bombings.
    BBC blurb: ....not the best radio play of the year, but certainly one of the most fascinating as it is the true story of a survivor of the London tube train bombings, 7 July 2005. Written by Molly Naylor, it shows how she got back her enjoyment of life after everything had been blown apart.

    Cast: Molly played by Morven Christie, with Bryan Dick, Sam Dale, Susie Riddell, Jonathan Forbes, James Lailey; producer Gaynor MacFarlane.

Shaw's first play, adapted for radio. R3, 23 Jul 2011, 90m. Jarvis & Ayres production. Full of objectionable characters: foul-spoken and rotten-souled Lickcheese (Tim Pigott-Smith), slum landlord Mr. Sartorius (Ian McKellen), Mr. Cokane, a man with strict views on decorum but none on human suffering (Charles Dance). No mention in RT that this was an independent production. Director Martin Jarvis, producer Rosalind Ayres.
    BBC blurb:
    What happens if an Englishman, decent enough in private, shuts his eyes and conscience to the monstrous abuses of the poor by slum landlords, especially if the remedy might affect his own financial security? The theme has resonated down the years.

    Written Widower's Houses 1892 it became an immediate success and remains astonishingly relevant in the present property investment world. Funny, observant, incisive in examining moral dilemmas and business ethics.

    Shaw believed that social and political points are best made via comedy.

CAN YOU HEAR ME?....2011
By Margaret Wilkinson. 27 Jun 11; afternoon play. A very spooky tale set during WW2. A young female radio operator, Anna, stays with a frightening old woman who dabbles in the supernatural. Extremely disconcerting sound effects; the SMs must have had some fun whilst doing the recording. Anna monitors enemy radio broadcasts and passes on troop movements to the Allies. Then one day she hears the voice of her lover on the airwaves. Producer: Nadia Molinari.

Morven Christie..........Anna
Matthew McNulty........Fred
Cesare Taurasi............Carlo
Sarah Parks.....Mrs. Fellows

BBC details, slightly edited: 25 Jun 11; R3, 120m. The Old Vic Theatre's recent production of Terence Rattigan's courtroom drama, directed by Thea Sharrock, with Anne Marie Duff and Niamh Cusack.

2011 is the centenary of Terence Rattigan's birth. Cause Celebre was originally a radio play, produced by the BBC in 1975. Rattigan was fascinated by a sensational murder trial at the Old Bailey in 1935 concerning an elderly architect allegedly killed by his much younger wife Alma and George, their handsome odd-job boy. The popular press had a field day - tales of sex, drugs, alcohol and gore were plastered across the papers. The play follows the course of the murder trial and its impact on Edith Davenport, the morally upright forewoman of the jury. Edith is forced to reconsider her initial condemnation of the life-affirming, morally relaxed Alma.

Joan Webster ..... Lucy Black
Francis Rattenbury .... Timothy Carlton
John Davenport .... Simon Chandler
Croom-Johnson ..... Richard Clifford
Christopher .... Oliver Coopersmith
Edith Davenport .... Niamh Cusack
Alma Rattenbury ..... Anne-Marie Duff
Montagu ..... Rory Fleck-Byrne
Tony Davenport .... Freddie Fox
Irene Riggs .... Jenny Galloway
Judge ...... Patrick Godfrey
O'Connor .... Nicholas Jones
George Wood .......Tommy McDonnell
Stella Morrison ....... Lucy Robinson
Clerk of the court .....Tristan Shepherd
Casswell ....... Richard Teverson
Wardress ....... Sarah Waddell
Sergeant Bagwell ....... Michael Webber
Coroner ....... Tristram Wymark

The play was directed by Thea Sharrock and produced by Polly Thomas for Sparklab, from the recent production by the Old Vic Theatre.

Assistant director.... Eleanor While
Original music..... Adrian Johnston .
Executive producer...... Melanie Harris.

Play based on truth; 24 Jun 11, by John Peacock, set in the late 1930s. The German tennis star Gottfried von Cramm had a low opinion of the Nazis, and offended Hitler by refusing to join the Party. It was a dangerous decision. Those not supporting the Fuhrer could easily disappear ..... Geoffrey Sreatfield as von Cramm, Paloma Baeza as his wife, Sam Dale as Ribentropp, Geoffrey Whitehead as the tennis commentator. Producer Celia de Wolff.

FLARE PATH....2011
7 Jun 11, R3. This is Terence Rattigan’s Second World War play arising out of his experiences as a tail gunner in coastal bomber command.

Directed by Deputy Artistic Director of the Royal Court, Jeremy Herrin, with Rupert Penry Jones, Ruth Wilson, Rory Kinnear, Monica Dolan, Una Stubbs, Tom Goodman-Hill, Justin Salinger, Julian Wadham, David Hartley, and Kelly Shirley.

Tim Crook: ...... a play written ..... at a time when all scripts were dribbled over by the Lord Chamberlain, there was the ever present burden of patriotic consensus, and before the gritty realism and ironies of Catch 22 and Oh What A Lovely War.

The play is about dislocated love and the stresses of war; the action takes place in a hotel near to an RAF base in Lincolnshire in 1942; during the hardest times of WW2, when Bomber Harris was organising 1000-bomber raids on German cities. There was a significant chance if you were on a mission that you would not come back.

Sunday play, R3, 90m. A Catherine Bailey production for R3.

By Andy Merriman; 7 Jun 2011. Title "A Monstrous Vitality". This is from part of the author's biography of Margaret Rutherford, "Dreadnought with Good Manners". M.R. was one of our best-known actresses, famous for her 'Madame Arcati' in Blithe Spirit.

What is not so well-known is that she had a voracious appetite for life, and tended to go slightly 'over the top' in some of the things she did. This included falling for men much younger than herself, despite being married. This happened several times, and her husband, Stringer Davis, regarded it as part of his job to get her back on the 'straight and narrow'.

June Whitfield was an excellent Miss Rutherford; the voice was just right. Other members of the cast: Ryan McCluskey, Sean Baker, Gabrielle Lloyd, Adeel Akhtar, Lloyd Thomas, Sally Orrock, Sam Dale. Producer David Hunter. Afternoon play, 45m.

30 May 11; a first radio play written by Lenny Henry. There is a long article about this in the Radio Times, 28 May - 3 Jun, pages 116 - 117. It begins in Jamaica. The title character of the drama, Corinne, goes to see a terrifying old woman and asks her to cast a spell on her abusive husband so that her daughter, who will be left with him, will be protected. Then she flees the country. The producer was Claire Grove.
    Some comments from Gillian Reynolds' "Daily Telegraph" review ....

    .....The characters were strong, the plot gripping, the structure imaginative, the ending a surprise, the acting superb. It was about what women do when stuck inside a violent partnership; about revenge and its perils.
Cast: Claire Benedict, Dona Croll, Nadine Marshall, Clare Perkins, Petra Letang, Alex Lanipekun, Leah Crane.

A second Classic Serial series about the Plantagenets, 3 x 60 min, beginning 29 May 2011. Europe is emerging from the Dark Ages. To get rid of an enemy you slit his throat, or have him hanged, drawn and quartered. This bloody chronicle is fast-paced and gory but has a great script. It's full of intrigue, plotting and filthy skirmishes. Edward Longshanks is at war with France and with Scotland. Catch every episode....

Cast for ep. 1: Philip Jackson, Ellie Kendrick, Sam Troughton, Simon Bubb, James Lailey, Jonathan Forbes, Sean Baker, Brian Bowles, Nyasha Hatendi, Stuart McLoughlin, Joanna Monro, Peter Polycarpou, Daniel Rabin, Alun Raglan, Jane Whittenshaw. Producers Jeremy Mortimer and Jessica Dromgoole.

More on the Mike Walker and Jessica Dromgoole pages.

24 May 11, R4. In 2007, environmental activists broke into Kingsnorth Power Station to protest about government proposals to build more coal-fired power stations. They believed that man-made carbon dioxide emanating from such stations was altering the planet's climate. They scaled the chimney - no mean achievement - and subsequently were taken to court for criminal damage. Good to see another play about energy - a very important topic - on the schedules.

Cast: Daniel Rabin, Federay Holmes, David Seddon, Brian Bowles, Mark Carey, Sean Baker, Rob Swinton. Producer Fiona Kelcher. 45m.
    The play did not meet with universal approval. It was fair to say that it showed the usual BBC bias in its choice of subject matter. One person on the ex-radio 4 messageboard commented as follows:

    "...Julia Hollander’s enthusiastic, uncritical cheerleading for Green peace, anthropogenic global warming theory and the rights of passionate individuals to disrupt others for their own self righteous causes".

    I agree entirely - it's about time bbc bias stopped.

    Polemic drama should make us think. - Ed.

By Nick Perry, 13 May 11. A top class football referee on the brink of retirement is offered a bribe. What does he do? With Mark Addy, Ralph Ineson, Andrew Scott, Sean Baker, Denise Gough, Sally Orrock. Producer Sasha Yevtushenko. 45min.

Nick Perry also wrote 'The Loop' a couple of years ago; a classic science fiction play which won a Sony Award.

By R.S.Surtees; dram. Scott Cherry. 2 x 60m; Apr-May 2011. A wonderful story ostensibly about the world of foxhunting, but it's really more about class, friendship and human relationships. It lifts the spirits; superb dramatisation, acting and production. Those who have never read any Surtees will love his choice of names for characters - Mr. Moonface, Mr. Doleful, Mr. Moleygrubs, Mr. Pigg .....

Cast: Danny Webb, Clive Swift, Charles Edwards, Rebecca Saire, Gareth Armstrong, Christian Rodska, Emma Pierson, Rob Hudson, Geoffrey Beevers, Grant Gillespie. Producer Clive Brill, for Pacificus Productions.

By Annie Caulfield, 1 May 11 R3; play about the life of the singer and political activist Paul Robeson. Apparently he was an apologist for Stalin and a pursuer of civil rights. He was disliked by the CIA which got him into a number of scrapes. With Lenny Henry as Robeson, Adjoa Andoh, Corey Johnson, Joanne Monro. Producer Claire Grove. 90m.

Sunday Play, R3, 24 Apr 11. By Murray Gold. A fantasy about Kafka being woken up by his father and told that a local impresario wants to produce a stage version of his life story. It will earn him some money. The musical goes ahead, and Kafka's lines, characters and plots mix together to give - a nightmare. With David Tennant, David Fleeshman, Joanna Monro; producer Jeremy Mortimer. 90m.

22 Apr 2011; Good Friday, afternoon play. Colin Bytheway's drama based on the surprising claim by Mary Toft in 1726 that she had given birth to rabbits. Local surgeon John Howard confirmed the phenomenon; one wonders how....

Readers may remember an earlier version of the tale, THE RABBITS OF GODALMING by Peter G Morgan, broadcast during 2000. The cast for CB's version: Anna Madeley, Will Young, Rupert Graves, Nickolas Grace, Patrick Ryecart, Ian Masters. Producer Celia de Wolff.

THE BAT MAN....2011
20 Apr 11. Rather touching love story by Amedlia Bullmore - a man who has just lost his wife goes to live in Cornwall for peace and quiet. A noisy woman with two teenage daughters moves in next door. Stars Bill Nighy, Katherine Parkinson, Jenny Agutter, Sean Baker; producer Mary Peate.

Gillian Reynolds, precis by ND: .... If you listen regularly to plays you learn to recognise when people aren't owning up. It takes a good writer to make you want to find out why. Amelia Bullmore is a brilliant radio comedian, as listeners to R4's "Down the Line" will know. ....she understands how to let words make pictures, to allow her characters room...... a grand cast....but her script was the gem.

12 Apr 11, by Anita Sullivan. Nice title for a play about the man who turned out to be Yuri Gagarin's 'understudy' for the first manned space flight. Titanium is the metal used to make rockets and missiles; it has a density not much higher than aluminium but has a tensile strength similar to that of steel, and is suitable for withstanding the enormous temperatures encountered during rocket flights.

The play is constructed as a 'flashback'; Titov waits for his ex-training partner Gagarin to return to Chkalovsky air base from what should be a routine training flight in 1968. He remembers the launch in 1961 which made his colleague, for a brief while, the most famous man in the world. Cast: Titov - Derel Riddell, Gagarin - William Ash; other parts: Sarah Ovens, Alun Raglan, Stephen Marzella. Producer Kate McAll.

Three episodes, classic serial. Apr 2011.

Patrick O'Brian's naval epic set in 1809, dramatised by Roger Danes. With David Robb as Captain Jack Aubrey and Richard Dillane as Doctor Stephen Maturin.

Jack has been promoted to Commodore to lead a squadron of English ships, charged with taking the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and Réunion from the French. Jack faces superior odds at sea and on land (where Stephen's subversive skills are invaluable as ever). Yet, in his new role as Commodore, Jack needs subtlety and subterfuge to win over the crews and subordinate captains of his own fleet, including the courageous but brutal Captain Corbett.

The story is based on a naval campaign in 1809-10 when Britain and France were engaged in protecting their trade routes around the southern tip of Africa; the islands of Mauritius and Réunion (east of Madagascar) were strategic bases.

The Mauritius Command is the fourth novel in Patrick O'Brian's Nelsonic epic series and the sequel to HMS Surprise, dramatised for Radio 4 in 2008. Cast details shown on the Roger Danes page.

31 Mar 11, by Hugh Costello (rpt). A brave young woman testifies in court after she witnesses a shooting by a known gangster. An eminent psychologist acts as expert witness in court and gives evidence which causes the jury just enough doubt to acquit. But the academic has cause to regret what he has done; the wronged woman takes discreet but effective action and his life starts to crumble. Hugh Costello is an Irish writer; he has written a number of excellent radio plays over the last few years.

Cast: Michael G Murphy, Lia Williams, Chris McHallem, Andrea Irvine, Karen Ardiff, Annie McCartney, Richard Howard, Hugh Costello (as Kelly), Inam Mirza. Producer Eoin O'Callaghan.

25 Mar 11. By Lucy Gough. Drama about a young singer who can't decide whether to re-form her band or to settle down with her boyfriend and start a family. Her boyfriend, however, is mixed up in some very shady business. Cast: Eiryn Hughes, Vivien Care, William Thomas, Aled Pugh, Rhys Ap Hywel, Rhys Ap William. Producer Polly Thomas.

Classic Serial, Mar 2011, 2 episodes. Adapted by Chris Harrald, who takes some liberties with Conan Doyle's plot ...... but the story still hangs together. I was surprised to find that Mr. Summerlee, veteran Professor of Comparative Anatomy in the original novel, had turned into a young woman, Dr. Diana Summerlee ..... and there were further liberties taken in episode 2....

David Robb plays Professor Challenger, Jasmine Hyde is Summerlee, Jamie Glower is John Roxton, and the supporting cast: Jonathan Forbes, Milton Lopes, Sam Dale, Sean Baker, Nyasha Hatendi, Brian Bowles, Jane Whittenshaw, Vinicius Salles; producer Marilyn Imrie.

An elderly man has to stop driving the car he loves. He goes out one last time, a journey which lets him look back on his life. With Richard Briers, Ann Davies, Muzz Khan, Helena Breck, Jonathan Holby, Ben Tosh, Stella Duffy, Wilf A Ashdown, Ruby A Ashdown. Producer Gordon House. Not sure but I think this is probably an independent production... afternoon play, 45m.

14 Mar 11; Mike Walker goes behind the scenes in an imaginary look at the filming of "The pride & The Passion" (see below). All is not well; Frank Sinatra is behaving like a prima donna, and stalking new star Sophia Loren; actors are turning up late on set, and very little of quality is 'in the can'. A script doctor, Earl felton, is signed up to limit the damage and salvage the project. Cast: Steven Weber, Greg Itzin, Kate Steele, Jonathan Silverman, Jonathan Getz, Andre Sogliuzzo, Tom Virtue. Producer Kate McAll.

'THE GUN'....2011
12 Mar 11, adapted by Mike Walker. Stanley Kramer brought out a film "The Pride and the Passion" in 1957 based on "The Gun" by C.S.Forester, about a huge 18-lb bronze cannon abandoned by its army when its carriage breaks. Years later, during the Napoleonic Wars, a group of guerrilleros learn of its location and get the locals to get it mobile again. The gun is dragged from place to place and used in battle. Although the characters change, the story has the gun at its centre throughout. Cast: Scott Arthur, Matthew, Keiron Self, Don Gilet, Kevin Doyle, Sule Rimmi, Richard Nicholls. Producer Polly Thomas.

    I've recently been told of a non-BBC forum which often discusses Radio 3 Drama: http://www.for3.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?38-Arts-amp-Ideas .... Here's a review of "Helen" by Euripedes, translated by Don Taylor, by 'Russ', a frequent contributor to the forum:

    ....I thoroughly enjoyed this eccentric adaptation - Don Taylor's characteristic robust style takes all sorts of liberties with the original script (http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~loxias/helen.htm), and this accentuates the lighthearted comedic elements, which in large part are driven by the device of mistaken/disguised identities that runs throughout the play. The big problem is that Taylor’s naturalistic dialogue lies uneasily alongside the poetic myth, and we are left with a humdrum story amounting to not much more than a rediscovered romance, played in nearly knockabout farce mode, plus lots of stuff about how untrustworthy, capricious and inconsistent the gods are. I think it holds together because of the strength of the writing, the good pacing, and the excellent production by Ellen Dryden - the late playwright’s wife, as it happens, so this is at least authentic Don Taylor.

    Does it have contemporary resonance? I tend to think not, although the BBC blurb might like us to think so, presumably on the grounds that the play’s portrayal of the entire Trojan War being waged over a silly mistaken premise (and yes, that background does intensify the tragi-comedy) makes it equivalent to the now infamous absence of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.

    The acting was excellent - the women are wise or manipulative (not uncommon in Euripedes) and the men are gullible but brave, and Frances Barber camped it up well as Helen.

(reproduced by permission - many thanks)

4/4 PLAYBACK....2011
26 Feb R4, 90m. Dram. Stephen Wyatt. Last of four plays (in this series) starring Toby Stephens as Philip Marlowe.
    Marlowe is hired to tail the mysterious Betty Mayfield all the way to the seaside town of Esmerelda, without knowing why or the identity of his employer. It's not long before he realises that he's not the only one on the trail, and that he too is being watched.

    Philip Marlowe . . . . . Toby Stephens, Betty Mayfield . . . . . Sarah Goldberg, Larry Mitchell . . . . . Iain Batchelor, Clyde Umney . . . . . Sean Baker, Clark Brandon . . . . . John Guerrasio, Goble . . . . . Sam Dale, Lucille . . . . . Claire Harry. Directed by Sasha Yevtushenko, produced by Claire Grove. 60m.

19 Feb R4, 90m. Dram. Robin Brooks. The most famous Philip Marlowe story. A convoluted plot involving a recently-released convict on the hunt for his former girlfriend.
    With Toby Stephens, Richard Ridings, Madeliene Potter, Pat Starr, Jude Akuwudike, Sean Baker, Joanna Monro, Lloyd Thomas, Iain Batchelor, Claire Harry, Adeel Akhtar, Sam Dale. Producer Mary Peate.

2/4 THE LADY IN THE LAKE....2011
12 Feb R4, 90m. Dram. Stephen Wyatt. Another adaptation from Raymond Chandler's famous series of Philip Marlowe stories. Being a Chandler story, the lady in the lake is dead.....
    Toby Stephens, Sam Dale, Barbara Barnes, Steve Toussaint, Nathan Osgood, Claire Harry, Lloyd Thomas, Sean Baker. Producer Claire Grove.

1/4 THE BIG SLEEP....2011
05 Feb R4, 90m. Dram. Robin Brooks. A Philip Marlowe story, by Raymond Chandler. In case anyone is wondering, 'The Big Sleep' means death.....
    Cast:Toby Stephens, Kelly Burke, Barbara Barnes, Madeleine Potter, Leah Brotherhead, Sam Dale, Sean Baker, Iain Batchelor, Henry Devas, Jude Akuwudike. Producer Claire Grove.
Note from ND: These plays were very well-received.

Before the broadcasts, there was much discussion on the messageboard along the lines of 'why are these plays being re-made when the BBC already have an excellent set of Chandler plays starring Ed Bishop as Philip Marlowe?' However here are some comments which appeared after three of the four plays had been aired. They are all edited for clarity and anonymity:

I listened to both 'Big Sleeps' while out cycling this afternoon. They're very similar in story and dialogue but Bishop is considerably better- the only improvement in the new version is some audio of cars driving off and travelling from one ear to the other, and they only broadcast 'The Bish' in mono.

I think it strange that we are talking about Marlowe's accent and not the delivery of the character. I guess we all have different ideas about how he looks and his personality. He is 6ft and a hundred and ninety pounds and women find him attractive. He is not cruel but can be ruthless. Delivers one liners like no-one else, which could make him flippant but we know he is no lightweight. Does not fit a stereotype. I think Bogart was not right nor Mitcham. I believe Chandler saw himself as Marlowe although I cannot believe he felt there was a physical resemblance.

Who knows why radio 4 decided to do Chandler again? There must be a reason ..... however......

I listened to Lady in the Lake with my eyes closed and was transported........skilfully and sensitively acted and beautifully paced with such feeling for Chandler's atmosphere and sense of developing mystery ...... presumably due to good direction and co-ordination ...... pitched well to allow the writing to be appreciated.

The play about the making of Double Indemnity (Double Jeopardy') was fascinating, throwing light on Chandler's thinking and personality. Did he collaborate in that way on anything else? Those two heads created something unique.

( ........ I think Chandler did one film with Alfred Hitchcock - Ed.)

4 Feb 2011; by Stephen Wyatt. Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler working on the film adaptation of "Double Indemnity" by James M. Cain. They don't like each other very much, but Chandler is a master of the classic one-liner, and Wilder knows exactly what will work on screen. They eventually manage to find a way of working together and their screenplay turns out to be a classic. Excellent writing, casting and production.

Cast: Patrick Stewart, Adrian Scarborough. Producer Claire Grove.

A season of new Raymond Chandler dramatisations begins soon......

Gillian Reynolds wrote a few lines about this play for the Daily Telegraph, on 8 Feb 2011. Here's part of her write-up, edited by ND:

"....a wry, informed comedy about the tricky real-life collaboration between Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder on a screenplay drawn from James M. Cain's "Double Indemnity", a tale of hate, greed and murder .... in Wyatt's play this was beautifully played by Patrick Stewart as Chandler and Adrian Scarborough as Wilder. The real film, under Wilder's direction, came to the screen with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck in the leads, won every award going, and remains one of the greatest movies ever."

and from the messageboard (tidied and edited for anonymity by ND)
    Interesting to learn that James M Cain was a bad writer who came up with good plots. It seems poor books often led to good Hollywood films while worthy books made turgid films. What a miseryguts Chandler was ......

    Listening to how these two men worked together in close proximity, all the while disliking each other intensely, to bring about a classic film was thoroughly entertaining ...how odd of Raymond Chandler to insist on being called Mr Chandler throughout!

    Made me chuckle at the end to hear of Billy Wilder sticking out his foot so that Leo McCarey stumbled on the way to receive his Oscar ... wonder if he really did it?

    All involved, take a bow for this great production!

27 Jan 2011; afternoon play. True tale of witch hunting, written by Abigail Docherty. It's 1588, and Queen Elizabeth has been told that witches are operating. Ursula Kemp is brought to trial for supposedly causing the death of a baby. Ursula has an eight year old son with a vivid imagination who is called to testify against his mother. The case is heard by a local JP....

Cast: Austin Moulton as the boy, Natalie Press as Ursula, Meg Fraser as the neighbour, Grace. Sound design by Nigel Lewis; producer Lu Kemp.

By Wilkie Collins; well-known mystery story dramatized in four one-hour episodes as the Classic Serial, beginning 23 Jan 2011. The dramatist is Doug Lucie, working for Goldhawk Essential (Independent Production Company) alongside David Chilton (music) and Janet Whitaker (producer). Stars Kenneth Cranham, Jasmine Hyde, Steve Hodson, Paul Rhys, Eleanor Bron, Stephen Critchlow, Alison Pettitt.

No credit for 'Goldhawk' in 'Radio Times', incidentally ........

    Gillian Reynolds, Daily Telegraph reviewer, liked this serial. She cites the beginning in her review - an Indian battle, the looting of a sacred diamond, followed by the gem being transported to England and given to a girl on her 18th birthday.

    Steve Hodson, voice instantly recognisable, is the narrator. Paul Rhys is the bearer of the unlucky stone. Jasmine Hyde is the girl who has received the stone and then leaves it in an unlocked cabinet overnight......

    Kenneth Cranham appears towards the end of episode 1 as a London detective, man of good taste and good sense.

    The casting and direction are excellent. Some time ago, the head of BBC Radio Drama, Alison Hindell, said after the Friday Play / WS drama cuts of 2010, "it is true that there is now slightly less drama on network radio, but that is part of a strategy to invest in quality rather than quantity".

    At the time I was sceptical, but we have had a superb six-episode "I, Claudius", and now this, and it's only 25th January. Some of the radio 3 plays on Sunday nights have been very good, too.

Saturday Play 22 Jan 2011. Jonathan Myerson writes political dramas - sometimes fictional and a bit far-fetched, as in "Number Ten". This one, however, is based on the truth; it's about the first ten days of the 1973 October War in the Middle East. Mrs. Meir has just become Israel's P.M., and Syrian and Egyptian forces are gathering on the borders. The probability of war is growing, but Israel still hasn't called up its armed forces reserve. President Richard Nixon, with troubles of his own, and Henry Kissinger, are about to involve America.

Cast: Henry Goodman, Peter Marinker, Sara Kestelman; producer Jonquil Panting. 60m.

21 Jan 2011. By Balzac, re-worked by Adrian Penketh and set in contemporary London. It's a famous story, and goes roughly as follows: a man finds a piece of hide. It's magic, and it grants wishes. The downside is - with each wish, it shrinks a little, and so does the energy and life-force of its owner. In this version of the story it's found by a ruined investment banker ..... can he restore his luck? Producer Toby Swift.

Cast:Elliot Cowan, Naomi Frederick, Don Gilet, Chris porter, Inam Mirza, Lloyd Thomas, Sally Orrock, Jude Akuwudike, Christine Kavanagh.

19 Jan 2011, 45m. Supernatural thriller by Sally Griffiths. An illusionist and a spiritualist team up, with unforeseen consequences. With Steffan Rhodri, Zoe Tapper. Producer Gemma Jenkins.

15 Jan 2011, R4. By Athol Fugard; Saturday play about the loathsome apartheid regime in South Africa fifty years ago. This story is semi- autobiographical. Cast: Wiseman Sithole, Andrew Laubscher, Sizwe Msutu; producer Marion Nancarrow. 60m.

14 Jan , Marcy Kahan. Humorous afternoon play.

BELIEVE ME ....2011
By Stephanie Dale, 9 Jan 2011. A passionate love affair; sounds exciting - but you wouldn't want one like this .... with Naomi Frederick, Alex Lanipekun, producer David Hunter.

7 Jan 2011, Friday Play by Julian Simpson. Creepy supernatural thriller. Five bodies are found in a cellar, which is how the story begins. The police are called in, and the corpses are found to be nearly seventy years old. This is odd, because they died only five years ago. But one of the deceased has some audio recordings in his pocket.... perhaps when they're cleaned up and examined they'll give a few clues....

This is one best listened to with a friend, in the sunshine; the sound effects are frightening.

Cast: Nicola Walker, Rupert Graves, Steven Mackintosh, Anthony Calf, Jana Carpenter, Oscar Richardson, Imogen McCurdy, Rohan Nijhawan, Ted Powell. Producer Karen Rose, director Julian Simpson.
    'R', from the BBC messageboard: ............I listened to this while making soup in the kitchen and in broad daylight and I still found myself looking over my shoulder.

    Beautifully written and acted. Well done and thank you, Mr Simpson and the cast! You've certainly changed my plans for Saturday afternoon. I was going to tidy up my cellar, but suddenly, I feel it can wait a while ...

6 Jan 11, afternoon play. By Mark Burgess. It's Coronation Day, 12th May 1937, and King George VI is preparing for his evening BBC Radio broadcast to the Nation - a frightening prospect since he has a bad stammer.

The royal broadcast is to be delivered under the watchful gaze of the BBC's first Director General, Sir John Reith himself. As the tension mounts, speech therapist, Lionel Logue (played by Trevor Littledale) must work hard to calm the King's nerves and to prepare him for his ordeal at the microphone. No easy task. As the King says himself: "Dammit!! I can't say 'crowned', can't say 'King'! What use is that? The whole speech is a minefield of 'Commonwealths', 'Queens' and 'Kings'! Five hundred and seventy-two words in total, and most of them impossible for me to say!"

The central scenes of the play feature Logue and his pupil. Comfortable in each other's company, they discuss the speech the King must make in a few hours' time. Logue's working methods are revealed: the tongue-twisters, breathing exercises, Shakespearean quotations - all designed to relax the speaker. The King's dependence on, and great friendship with Logue becomes apparent. Their conversation is wide-ranging, dealing with, among other things, the Abdication Crisis; George VI's childhood - when being both left-handed and a stammerer was frowned on; the King's envy of his elder brother; and his uneasy relationship with his father, King George V.

This is Mark Burgess's sixth play for BBC Radio 4, all of which have dealt with prominent people at key moments in their lives. Cast: King George VI ..... Alex Jennings, Queen Elizabeth ..... Joan Walker, Lionel Logue ..... Trevor Littledale, Myrtle Logue ..... Moya O'Shea, Sir John Reith ..... Crawford Logan, Robert Wood ..... Chris Stanton, Patrick ..... John Evitts, Queen Mary ..... Jean Trend, Princess Elizabeth ..... Emma Yeomans, Princess Margaret ..... Agnes Fouch. Producer/Director: David Blount. A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

compiled by Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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