Radio Plays, 2016

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

30 Oct: The Stroma Sessions [85m]
By Timothy X Atack. Fantasy about four musicians who have disappeared whilst making an album on the Scottish island of Stroma. The Blackletter Quartet want to make music in a ghost town. Stroma was abandoned by its last residents in the early 1960s and its few remaining buildings, battered by winds and the North Sea, stand dilapidated. The tale is told through a series of audio files found on the internet five years after they went missing. Narrator: Colin Salmon, Hilde: Valene Kane, Riley: Rebekah Staton, Sam: Jade Matthew, Telephone man: Timonthy Atack, Nico: David Carlyle. Producer: Nicolas Jackson.

    Summary of Jane Anderson's remarks in RT:
    Stroma... this uninhabited island off the north coast of Scotland, abandoned in the 1960s, appears to be the perfect setting for a string ensemble to record some atmospheric music, with the old church and empty houses providing suitably effective acoustics. But the island does not let go of its sounds, or its visitors, ever. The four musicians are caught up in an increasingly terrifying sequence of events.

3 Aug: Dad
By Sarah McDonald-Hughes, rpt. A very young unmarried Dad struggling to look after his baby daughter for a fortnight. It is probably the most challenging thing he has ever done. Joel: Robert Hawthorne, Naomi: Sarah McDonald-Hughes, Danny: Reece Noi, Tracy: Flo Wilson, Amy: Rosina Carbone, Ashleigh: Lauren Gabrielle-Thomas. Producer: Charlotte Riches.

2 Aug: Poetry in Motion
By Katie Hims. Five strangers board a train bound for Manchester. They have never met. We hear the thoughts of each person rather than what they say and these soon move from practical matters to what is troubling them - how to present a new play to a producer; running away from one's family; the death of a child. Valerie - Rachel Davies, Leonard - Alan Williams, Karla - Karla Crome, Reece - Ashley Kumar, Bridie - Adie Allen, Cashier - Kirsty Oswald, Train announcer - Nick Underwood. Producer: Mary Peate.

Primo Levy's book "The Periodic Table" consists of a series of short tales, reminiscences and other episodes. He was a chemist and many of these dramas - 'chips' from his workbench - are autobiographical or have a chemical twist; each one is given the title of one of the elements. For part of WW2 Primo was incarcerated in Auschwitz and was one of the minority which survived. 11 dramatizations of varying lengths are being broadcast, adapted for radio by Graham White, July 18-24, and are available as downloads on listen-again.

9 Jul: Saturday Play: Moll Flanders
By Daniel Defoe. Dram Nick Perry, of 'The Loop' fame, broadcast in two episodes. A visit to Newgate Jail offers Defoe a chance to meet 18th-century criminal Elizabeth Atkins, who tells him her strange life story. In need of ready money, he reinterprets her story, reinventing her as heroine Moll Flanders. Nick Perry puts Defoe himself in the story in this unusual dramatisation. Moll has to pit her wits against a world which seems determined to see her fail. Moll: Jessica Hynes, Daniel Defoe: Ben Miles. Producer: Sasha Yevtushenko.

8 Jul: Defoe: Merchant, Writer, Convict, Spy
By Philip Palmer; a biographical drama. Daniel Defoe was never far from trouble and he died hiding from his creditors.He had a way with words, and made his living by them - writing pamphlets, stories and other things; at one point he was a spy working for the government in the lead-up to the Act of Union. Daniel Defoe: Ben Miles, Mary Defoe: Niamh Cusack, Robert Harley: Pip Torrens, Jailers: Nick Underwood and Brian Protheroe. Producer: Sasha Yevtushenko.

3 Jul: Classic Serial slot: Going Solo
By Roald Dahl, dram. Lucy Catherine. Part 1 of 2, RD's autobiography, about his travels around the world in his 20s. Completely absorbing story ... part 2, 10 July (Dahl's experiences in the RAF as a fighter pilot) is equally good. Roald: Patrick Malahide, young Roald: John Heffernan, Mother: Joanna van Kampen, Eric Kofi Abrefa, Brian Protheroe, Clare Perkins, Elizabeth Bennett, Nick Underwood, James Lailey, Tom Forrister, Sam Rix, Sean Baker and Jason Barnett. Produced by Helen Perry.

2 Jul: Saturday Play - Boy
By Roald Dahl, dram. Lucy Catherine, to commemorate the centenary of RD's birth. A dramatization of Roald's own childhood tales. There are references to his unhappy years at Repton school. Sophie Dahl, Roald's grand-daughter, recalls that one treat for the boys was the delivery of plain cardboard boxes from Cadbury's, asking the boys to test them and score the bars of chocolate.

1 Jul: Lance
By Kieran Hodgson, who plays all the characters in his play about growing up obsessed with the cyclist Lance Armstrong. The play was originally staged at the Edinburgh Fringe. Producer: Caroline Raphael. (It's brilliant - Ed). Indie (Pier Productions).

30 Jun: Tommies
30 June 1916. By Nandita Ghose. Soldiers stuck in the mud in no-man's land for a night and a morning; only some of them come out alive. Mickey Bliss: Lee Ross, commentator: Indira Varma, Kenny Stokoe: Dean Logan, Sergeant Dixon: Daniel Weyman, Joseph Gascoigne: Neil Grainger, Francis Woodrington: Nick Underwood, Jemandar Mehta: Raj Ghatak, Sowar Gopal: Munir Khairdin. Series producers: David Hunter, Jonquil Panting and Jonathan Ruffle. Director for this episode: Jonquil Panting.

21 Jun: When I Lived In Peru
By Andrew Viner. A very funny comedy drama. Martin never goes anywhere, and gets irritated with the endless travelling anecdotes of his globetrotting girlfriend Clare. When he's made redundant, he starts pretending to Clare that he's still going to work. In fact he's using redundancy money to go globetrotting himself. One of the 'Original British Dramatists' series in 2014; well worth the repeat. Martin: Stephen Wright, Claire: Kelly Adams, Jaffari: Fiston Barek. Other parts played by Ery Nzaramba, Wilf Scolding, Priyanga Burford and Michael Bertenshaw. Producer: Liz Webb.

30 May: Art, Artefacts and Angels
By Phil Marley, rpt. The best comedy I have heard for a while; must have missed it when it first went out. Comedy about the realities of a museum service seriously short of cash. The local museum has a famous bog body from Russia, which draws in lots of visitors. An exiled oligarch suggests the museum lends the body in return for a sponsorship. I don't usually mention individual actors when writing about plays because a production is a team effort, but Kerry Shale was a very funny Boris, helped by an excellent script.

    Phil introduced his play as follows (slightly edited by ND):
    The ideas came to me some years ago when I worked at a museum and had the loan of a preserved Iron Age bog body. One of the theories about the bosy was that it was sacrificed at a time of famine by the local community to appease the gods and to make the crops grow. It struck me that with the severe cutbacks which museums, art galleries and libraries have suffered, they are all having to fight for their survival, and that the museum was essentially having to do the same thing as what the Iron Age villagers did by exhibiting the body. I wondered what we as individuals would be prepared to sacrifice to appease our gods, or in today's terms, appease our bosses.
Cast: Boris: Kerry Shale, Rosie: Kate Coogan, Julius: Will Tacey, Roy/Putin: Eddie Capli, Nigel: James Nickerson, Daniel: Hamilton Berstock. Producer: Gary Brown.

24 May: Your Perfect Summer, On Sale Here
Science fiction from the new 'Dystopia' season. A creepy play by Ed Harris, where the main character spends his time testing a computer game. He is wired up to it for six months, in bed. He has no perception of reality or time or anything else; he emerges every few days from his comatose state for food and drink and exercise. Meanwhile he is becoming seriously attracted to one of the characters in the game.

    RT notes (edited). What would happen if virtual reality games could deliver real love? Ben Tavassoli, Claudie Blakley, Oliver Chris, Scarlett Brookes, Adie Allen, Nicola Ferguson, Nick Underwood. Producer: Jonquil Panting.

17 May: Field Notes
A play about the well-known Irish composer who is often described as the inventor of the 'nocturne'. In May 1832 John Field began his only tour of Europe, taking with him the illegitimate son he barely knew. Field: Alistair McGowan, Grace Field: Susan Jameson, Chopin: Rafael Ferenc, Clementi: Sean Baker, with Kieran Hodgson, Charlotte Page, Ewan Bailey, Scarlett Brookes, Brian Protheroe, Sargon Yelda, Adie Allen and Nick Underwood. Producer: Emma Harding.

    The play was followed several days later by a programme about the composer, presented by Alistair McGowan. Here is part of what Alistair said:

    In 1793 an 11-year-old boy left Dublin on a boat leading to bristol, hoping to make a career for himselfin the concert rooms of Bath. The boy was a musical prodigy; Ireland's answer to Mozart.

    A decade later he was to take Russian high society by storm as a composer and pianist of dazzling dexterity. He was a charismatic showman; an expert Irishman whom the Russians have since claimed for their own; a composer whose music was to influence Chopin, Liszt and Schumann.

    The more I read about John Field, the more I warmed to him: his attitude to life, to music, to women; to the piano, to puns (in three different languages).

    His only tour of Europe was undertaken when he was in poor health, at the age of 51.

    I feel absolutely thrilled to have been introduced to the music of John Field. His best music is surely as good as anything in the classical repertoire.

    He may not have been a prolific composer, but the inventor of the nocturne, the greatest pianist of his day, the forerunner of Chopin and Liszt; credited with being the founder of the Russian piano school - for a small boy from Golden Lane in Dublin, he'd come a very long way.

11 Mar: Burn Baby Burn
By Sean Grundy. A satirical drama inspired by the fire which destroyed Charles Saatchi's collection of works by Hirst, Emin, the Chapman Brothers and others associated with the Young British Artists movement. Tracey Emin / Nigella Lawson: Ronnie Ancona, Dinos Chapman / Vic Hislop: Wilf Scolding, Damien Hirst / Dante Skirmis: Ben Crompton, Brian Sewell / Death: Jon Culshaw, Hardy: Steve Hartley, Jake Chapman / Charles Saatchi: Carl Prekopp, Jacqui: Alana Ramsey. Producer: David Morley; director - Dirk Maggs. Indie; Perfectly Normal Productions.

    Summary of Chris Gardner's remarks in RT:
    A warehouse fire destroys a collection of provocative art by young British artists. Is it a tragic loss or good riddance? Jon Culshaw does an uncanny impersonation of art critic Brian Sewell as he describes a deliberately low-key investigation into a possible arson attack. Damien Hirst has too much to say for himself; Tracey Emin is whingy and self-absorbed. As for Sewell: "One hundred [lost works]? Not nearly enough."

28 Feb: Classic Serial slot: The Life and Loves of a She-Devil
By Fay Weldon. A very spiteful story in two episodes; a feminist revenge novel, ad. Hattie Morahan. A wife is wronged by her husband's lover and she works out an extraordinary revenge against the two of them. She is certainly a she-devil. Ruth: Hattie Morahan, Bobbo (the husband): Barnaby Kay, Mary Fisher: Lyndsey Marshal, Judge Bissop: Brian Protheroe, Father Ferguson: Edward MacLiam, Mrs. Fisher: Susan Jameson, Nicola: Evie Killip, Andy: Leo Wan, Ghengis: Trevor White, Vickie: Rebecca Hamilton, Policeman: Sean Baker. Produced by Abigail le Fleming.

27 Feb: Saturday Play: Trial by Laughter
By Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, who used trial transcripts to explore the life of William Hone, a publisher and bookseller in the early 1800s. He was an early fighter for free speech and stood trial for the same charge, on three occasions in three days, for blasphemy and libel. He lampooned the Establishment, a despotic British government and the monarchy, with the help of Cruickshank, the cartoonist. Hone: Robert Wilfort, Prince Regent: Arthut Bostrun, Cruickshank: Conrad Nelson, Ellenborough: Jonathan Keeble, Shepherd: David Benson, Abbott: Malcolm Raeburn, Lady Hertford: Melissa Sinden, Sarah: Fiona Clarke, Reporter / Clerk: Graeme Hawley. Produced by Gary Brown. This play had a good review by Jane Anderson in RT and was an excellent listen.

8-11 Feb: Stage Left, 4 episodes
By Doug Lucie. An entertaining four-part serial following the fortunes of a left-wing theatre company over 30 years, broadcast from Monday to Thursday (7-10 Feb) in the Afternoon Play slot. We follow the young people through the decades: some of them become establishment figures; others fade away. Producer: Heather Larmour. More complete notes on Heather's page.

28 Jan: Holding Back The Tide
By Nick Warburton. A couple inherits a house in Yorkshire; a lacklustre husband who lacks enthusiasm for almost everything, and his bright, cheerful wife. They are drawn into a series of adventures when they join a group fighting against the modernization of the town. Richard: Paul Ritter, Clare: Kate Duchene, John: Ronald Pickup, Lux: Michelle Asante, Penrith: Chris Pavlo, Trafford: Gerard McDermott, Mrs. Cardabbon: Susan Jameson, Estate agent: Caolan McMarthy. Producer: Sally Avens.

    ND notes:
    When Richard and Clare inherit a house from his deceased aunt they are not expecting the legacy to include a man living in the cellar. However this is the least of their worries; Richard was made redundant a while back and still hasn't told his wife. He just wants to sell the house and get the money. When Clare learns that he's out of work, she sees their new property as a possible fresh start for both of them. And with the help of their lodger, and his campaign against a crafty developer, they gradually realise that perhaps all is not lost...

16 Jan: Saturday Play: Human Voices
By Penelope Fitzgerald (novel), dram. Michael Butt, 60m. It is 1940s Britain; young Annie Asra finds bureaucracy, camaraderie, eccentricity and love at the BBC. Annie: Helen George, Sam: Toby Jones, Jeff: Geoffrey Streatfield, Vi: Katie Redford, Mrs. Milne: Susan Jameson, Eddie: Chris Pavlo, General Pinard: Sean Baker, DDG: Ewan Bailey, Producer: George Watkins. Produced by David Hunter.

    Summary of Jane Anderson's remarks in RT:
    Young Annie arrives at Broadcasting House, Portland Place, to apply for a job. Later she reflected that she was about to join a group of people who ranged from the apparently respectable to the barely sane. Those who have worked for the BBC will recognise both the truth and the good humour in this description. The play is a warm-hearted comical romance. Helen George is the fearlessly frank Annie and Toby Jones is her eccentric, ageing boss.

10 Jan: Artist Descending A Staircase
By Tom Stoppard. R3, 10 Jan 16. Interesting play centred around the last moments of a dying artist caught on tape. First production since 1972. 80m.Beauchamp: Derek Jacobi, Donner: Ian McDiarmid, Martello: Geoffrey Whitehead, Sophie: Pippa Nixon, Young Martello: Joshua McGuire, Young Beauchamp: Blake Ritson, Young Donner: Hugh Skinner. Producer: Gordon House.

    Summary based on Jane Anderson's remarks in RT, after hearing the broadcast:
    The play was written specifically for radio and was first broadcast in November 1972 on radio 3. It's set in 1972, and the dead body of an artist, Donner, is found at the foot of the stairs to the attic studio he shared with two fellow artists: Beauchamp and Martello. The three have lived with each other for fifty years. The play uses a curious device; it tracks back in time in each scene, using younger actors where necessary, until the pivotal moment in 1914; then it comes forward again to 1972. The artists are opinionated, deluded and self-important; the only person who can see what they are really like is Sophie, and she is blind.

For any of you who found parts of the play slightly puzzling, here is a note by Barry Pike written some years ago:
......A play where three elderly artists are united by lifelong friendship and some sort of collective guilt regarding the death of a blind woman, a contemporary whom they had befriended in their youth. Now one of their number has died, having fallen mysteriously to his death from an upstairs landing. The plays spins a complicated web of character and incident, at once enigmatic and playful, with much to tease the listener. Like much of Stoppard's work, it rewards careful listening.

-And here's a short extract from an essay by radio writer David Wade, paraphrased by ND:
....it is essential to the action that the audience cannot see what is going on, for the central character is a blind girl, and much of what happened in the play, and what she experienced before it, hinges on her blind interpretation. This puts the audience and the girl in the same boat, and both are equally easily misled. This is a most ingenious use of a sound-only medium ...

Finally, Gordon House, the producer, gave an interesting introduction to the play when it was broadcast; I have transcribed this from the recording and put it on the radio articles page; see articles76 .

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