R.C.Scriven Radio Plays

R.C. Scriven

BBC radio plays

22.10.68 the seasons of the blind
18.03.70 all early in the April
25.03.70 the peacock screamed one morning.
02.08.71 dandelion and parsnip, vintage 1920
07.07.72 the Peacock City of P'Tzan
06.08.72 Claudia Procula
10.04.74 give me London weather
30.11.74 a measure of sliding sand
12.11.75 nocturne of provincial spring
04.10.77 a blind understanding

some of the above in vrpcc collections

The following article is a precis of a short extract from the book "British radio drama" edited by John Drakakis, entitled "British radio drama since 1960" - the passage in question is by David Wade.

...............R.C. Scriven has been one of the most distinguished genuine radio writers during the period 1960-1980. I would like to say something about this exceptional figure in the history of radio drama, particularly as he is now quite an old man who may be nearing the end of his creative life.

The astonishing thing about Scriven is that he has ever had a creative life at all. From the age of eight, when he contracted an ear infection, he has been almost totally deaf, and the same illness seems to have laid the foundations for the glaucoma which left him blind in the 1940s. Yet in 1947 he wrote his first radio play and the year later "A single taper", which was an account in verse of the operations to try to prevent his blindness. Following this, much of his radio writing has been autobiographical and in verse. It has a powerful melodiousness and an intense visual quality, which would do credit to a man in full possession of his hearing and his sight.

Here is part of a play about his childhood, "All early in the April", the first in a collection entitled "The seasons of the blind".

[ fade up the slow start of a steam train]

The train departed dead on Bradshaw time.
Late summer and early autumn work so blended,
The swallows seemed reluctant to depart.
The leaves were dark- even the leaves of the lime.
As the smells of all green things blend after rain,
Field merged with wood and wood with a country lane.
down at the perspective of a half-century
I see, I see
that landscape, caught by an artist's brush,
for one brief power - and eternity.
Somewhere between South Milford and Leeds, long ago
the train ran out of that landscape and was lost.
Was it at Micklefield? Was it at Barnbow?
No, No. The point's impossible to trace .
the line is marked in time, but not in space,
an invisible, intangible boundary I crossed
with the kingdom of boyhood, I shared with Wilfred, ended.

[ the train stops at the terminus ]

Granny met me, stooping to imprint kisses of white heather, and love, and peppermint.

My, how you've grown! Let's have a look at you.

How's mother, Granny?
Granny, I've got a friend.
His name is Wilfred Kemp. I like him no end.
He climbed the tallest tree you ever knew.
Wilfrid could climb a church tower if you wanted to.

[ cross fade the terminus with an old cab horse ]

Notice the setting of the long reflective narrative against the highly evocative steam train background - stillness and movement combined; the story advances in a kind of glow and everything is tinged, in a manner typical of Scriven's work, with a profound poignancy.

Surely this is an instance where a writer's immense handicaps have in fact been the making of him. Charles Lefeaux, who produced many of Scriven splays, reported him as saying, "When a man knows he will soon be blind, what he looks at stays looked at". By ferocious application he has managed to recreate what you or I could perceive as well or better merely by going to look.

....Note added by N.D:
I was struck by the intense visual quality of the writing when I listened to "The peacock screamed one morning". It reminded it me of the Roy Hutchins play "Spacehoppers, clackers and really big fish", in the way it remembers a childhood from long ago, but Scriven's work is not humorous; it is evocative, poignant, and intense.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

Asterisked plays known to exist in VRPCC collections

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