Rhys Adrian Radio Plays

UPDATE, Nov 2022
I see that 'Toytown' is being repeated on Radio 4 Extra on 27 November at 1600; it will also be on listen-again. Do not miss it.


    I have been contacted by James Forrest, schedule planner for BBC Radio 7, with the news that six RHYS ADRIAN plays will be broadcast during February 2010:

    .....we thought you might be interested in our season of Rhys Adrian radio plays which will be on air next month.

    BUFFET will go out on Sunday February 7th at 3am and then at 1pm and 1am (Monday Morning)

    EVELYN will go out on Monday February 8th at 11.15am and then at 9.15pm and 2.15am (Tuesday Morning)

    PASSING THROUGH will go out on Tuesday February 9th at 11.15am and then at 9.15pm and 2.15am (Wednesday Morning)

    NO CHARGE FOR THE EXTRA SERVICE will go out on Wednesday February 10th at 11.15am and then at 9.15pm and 2.15am (Thursday Morning)

    THE CLERKS will go out on Thursday February 11th at 11.15am and then at 9.15pm and 2.15am (Friday Morning)

    PASSING TIME will go out on Friday February 12th at 11.15am and then at 9.15pm and 2.15am (Saturday Morning) .

    The plays will also be accessible via the BBC i-player.

    James Forrest, Radio 7, Broadcasting House, London

RHYS ADRIAN (1928-1990), by BARRY PIKE

The thumbnail biography of Rhys Adrian in BEST RADIO PLAYS OF 1982 (Methuen, 1983) states that he was in stage management before he became a writer, writing for 'summer shows, revues, pantomimes and West End musicals'. He rates a brief mention in John Russell Taylor's ANGER AND AFTER (Penguin 1963), but since this book is concerned with plays for the theatre - and Adrian only wrote for radio and television - his work is not discussed, apart from a laudatory reference to BIG TIME, a TV play written in collaboration with Julian Pepper, under the pseudonym 'J. MacReady'.

His first play for radio was BETSIE, broadcast in 1960, the first of nearly thirty plays for the medium over the next thirty years. His last play was UPENDED, broadcast in 1988, two years before his death in 1990. WATCHING THE PLAYS TOGETHER survives as a text in the collection mentioned earlier. Rosemary Leach and James Grout play a married couple of traditional tastes, disturbed and dissatisfied by the increasing social realism of TV drama. The action of the play becomes part of a bleak pattern of similar experienceof sudden death, partly fictional and partly actual (for the people in the play). It's tricky and thought-provoking, like much of Rhys Adrian's work. It's also a dialogue for husband and wife; essentially a conversation-piece.

On the evidence of this and the other of his plays which survive in off-air recordings, Rhys Adrian was more interested in character and conversation than in action and direct storytelling. His plays are pure radio, celebrating human garrulity, the need to communicate, to voice opinions and assert oneself. In the course of comment and enquiry about others, his speakers reveal much of themselves. Their stories emerge obliquely and sometimes amount to little in dramatic terms; but many of his people are memorable and the talkis always arresting, often amusing and sometimes surreal.

Besides the printed play, six others are known to have survived in off-air recordings, and, as always, the gratitude one feels to those who preserved them cannot be overstated.

(....UPDATE .....many of his plays have now been located and archived by VRPCC. A few of them are in the BBC archive.)

*A NICE CLEAN SHEET OF PAPER, dating from 1964, is a dialogue for two men, the one interviewing the other: but it's not as simple as that. Donald Wolfit's loquacious interviwer is nominally in charge of the exchange, but he becomes so unnerved by John Wood's glum and un-co-operative applicant that he is reduced to ludicrous babbling. Sir Donald is splendidly robust in the face of John Wood's rather spooky indifference.

ANGLE, broadcast in 1975, is a threesome for Freddie Jones, Peter Woodthorpe and Gerald Cross, a formidable trio. Angle is the odd name of the eponymous hero, the maverick tenant of a bed-sitter,from which his landlord is itching to evict him. The exchange between Freddie Jones' Angle and the querulous landlord are choice indeed. Angle plays the 'cello badly and keeps a long-running diary, intended for publication but clearly not destined to achieve it. As the nice Northerner who shares Angle's room for a time, Peter Woodthorpe reigns in his natural ebullience for a sober presentation of stoic decency.

*BUFFET follwed in 1976, a notable success, recently revived - praise be - by BBC7, though with the name of the play only in "Radio Times", as if the author were of no importance. Richard Briers is marvellous in the lead, breezy and funny till the end where, suddenly, life is less fun than it used to be. Much of the play takes place in station buffets, where City men stop for a quick one on the way home and Cecile Chevreau's matter-of-fact barmaid dispenses drinks and deadpan philosophy. All the men are voluble, opinionated and dying for a drink - and, invariably, their 'nerves have taken a hammering' on the day in question (a repeated line deployed to great comic effect). It's a very amusing play with Richard Briers in top form - to hear him splutter 'I am not an alcoholic' (when he is well on the way to becoming one) is both funny and sad. The two women involved- Shirley Dixon as his mistress and Irene Sutcliffe as his wife - contribute richly to the mix.

THE CLERKS is another two-hander, with a brief contribution at the end by a third, unwelcome presence. Freddie Jones and Hugh Burden are in cracking form as a pair of buoyant drop-outs, down but not out, sleeping rough, stealing from supermarkets and eking out their wine with cleaning fluid. They are former Foreign Office personnel, perhaps even M.I.5, haunted by memories and paranoid suspicion. Both highly articulate, they reminisce with relish, reconstructing for the listener a mad, unnerving world of spies and informers, of checks and data and dossiers. At the end they home in gleefully on the interloper, played by Gerald Cross, reducing him to gibbering in no time.

OUTPATIENT is a delightful play, broadcast in 1985, with Michael Aldridge and Andrew Sachs as two men waiting for their regular medical checks at a hospital. Though concerned about their health, they contrive to keep cheerful and one shares their triumph when both come through with consoling news about themselves. The supplementary pleasures include an incoherent tannoy making unintelligible anjouncements and two superb radio actresses as distraught women: Sylvia Coleridge as the patient desperate not to miss her call and Margot Boyd as the nurse who keeps losing her patients.

TOYTOWN is the last but one of Rhys Adrian's plays and the last known to have survived. It was broadcast in 1987, with a sterling cast of comic actors: Peter Vaughan and James Grout as subversive park-keepers concerned above all for their own comfort, and William Fox and Elizabeth Spriggs as their natural enemies, a self-righteous, complaining married couple. Throughout we are on the side of the devious, work-shy duo and by the end of the play we are delighting in their New Year celebrations, with a corruptible policeman, played by Michael Graham Cox. What matter if it's snowing outside? - within the hut all is comfort and joy.

Rhys Adrian richly deserves revivial and the suggestion of a season of his plays has been made to BBC7. If we can have BUFFET, why not others as well? I live in hope but am not holding my breath. No doubt the Demon Copyright will raise its ugly head.

Barry Pike / Diversity website

Since Barry wrote the above, recordings of more Rhys Adrian plays have been found by VRPCC (below).

Donald Craig has located a recording of "Between the two of us", produced by Ronald Mason. (Jan 07). Don tells me that of his 32 plays, 26 were produced by John Tydeman, at least two by Michael Bakewell and two by Ronald Mason.

David Wade wrote an essay for John Drakakis's book on radio drama (1981, CUP). He said that Rhys Adrian was one of a select group of indisputable radio writers, and that his play "Evelyn" which won an Italia Prize in 1970 was typical of his output; rather small-scale and written with a slight but deliberate formality. For this the writer used everyday speech as the basic material, very accurately reproduced. Its phrases were repeated, varied and reversed until they gathered innumerable and often disquieting implications. "The truth of the matter is that people do not actually hold conversations like this, but on radio and in the hands of someone like Adrian, this is actually an advantage".

David Wade went on to say that the play "Evelyn" was subsequently shown on television without much success; the mismatch between the all-too-human faces of the actors and the slightly stylised dialogue did not work to the play's advantage. "Buffet" suffered similarly on television.

Nigel Deacon

19.11.56 The man on the gate
27.09.57 The passionate thinker
14.07.60 The prizewinner
03.08.60 Betsie
19.07.61 The bridge*
29.01.63 Too old for donkeys
19.05.63 Room to let*
24.10.63 A nice clean sheet of paper*
28.08.66 Helen and Edward and Henry
15.06.67 Between the two of us*
26.09.68 Ella*
24.10.69 Echoes
24.10.69 Evelyn*
17.07.70 The gardeners of my youth
30.10.70 I'll love you always
05.07.72 A chance encounter
19.12.72 Memoirs of a sly pornographer*
01.07.75 Angle*
29.09.76 Buffet*
05.10.76 The night nurse slept in the day room
28.11.78 The clerks*
10.07.79 No charge for the extra service
??.??.81 Passing Through*
??.??.83 Passing Time
??.??.85 Outpatient*
04.01.87 Toytown*
26.04.88 Upended, R3*
nk..........Watching the plays together*

Asterisked plays, plus several others, known to exist in VRPCC collections. The first three plays are mentioned in John Drakakis's book on radio drama, but Barry Pike and I are unable to find any reference to them in Radio Times.


Two nonagenarians look back on their lives. With John Gielgud and Raymond Huntley.

A man in a pub finds himself drawn into a strangerís story. With Hugh Burden and Harry Towb.

An encounter through a dating agency leads two people to evaluate their lives. With Elizabeth Spriggs and Nigel Stock.

THE CLERKS....1978
Two men who once worked for a secret Government department are reduced to living on the streets. With Freddie Jones and Hugh Burden.

John Tydeman, head of Radio 4 Drama, in the introduction to the 1976 broadcast:

".....one of the great unknown British playwrights is Rhys Adrian. Rhys is unknown because he basically only wrote for radio; television a bit, but almost all radio.

I directed twenty-seven plays by him on radio. Very much a language man rather than a man who used whizzy, 'show-offy' radio, he saw the strange and the peculiar in the ordinary in life, and this play is set on Sloane - actually i don't think it still exists - Sloane Square, where there is, or was, a buffet, on the platform at the tube station. People used to come in there and have a drink before getting on the train and going home, and all of them would come in ... there was a kind of pattern to the way they come in..., and they'd all had a terrible hammering, and they needed their drink, and the play develops as an observed comedy. The lead is taken by Richard Briers. I think he'd also say that it's one of his favourite plays.

    ...BBC7 information, from their 2010 'Rhys Adrian' season:...................." We commemorate twenty years since the passing of gifted radio scriptwriter Rhys Adrian with this lively and sometimes explicit play from 1976, produced by former Head of Radio Drama John Tydeman. Richard Briers stars as Freddie, a frustrated and unhappy city worker who feels that the world is going mad. Or is it him?"

The repercussions of extra-marital affairs. With Ian Richardson and Pauline Collins.

Very amusing (and for its time, explicit) play about a woman and the contrast between her two lovers.... producer John Tydeman. 30m.

A Nice Clean Sheet of Paper....1963
A young man not in need of a job applies for one by submitting a blank sheet of paper. It gets him an interview. Producer: Michael Bakewell. Third Programme, 24 Oct 63.

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