DAWN LOWE-WATSON RADIO PLAYS
Dawn Lowe-Watson was a well-known radio playwright and
novelist who died in January 2012. Her plays are carefully-crafted with excellent dialogue
and sensitive use of music.
Dawn began writing radio plays in the late seventies, and they
attracted distinguished casts: SHORT MADNESS stars John le Mesurier &
Elizabeth Bell; THE HAVEN has Charlotte Mitchell & Paul Copley;
and THE WIND PUMP, set in the Norfolk Broads, features James Laurenson
& Charlotte Attenborough. Her last play, FOG AND SHIFTING PEBBLES, was broadcast in late 2005 and takes place in an isolated part of the coast near Romney Marsh.
As to the contents of this page: after a a brief introduction written by Dawn in 2002, there is a list of her radio plays and other work. Barry Pike has contributed a piece about the radio plays. Underneath are some remarks about each
play and excerpts from radio interviews.
A word from Dawn Lowe-Watson:
Before writing my first novel I had been a woman's
journalist, an industrial editor, an interior decoration journalist,
and published scores of magazine stories for all the womenıs magazines
in the late sixties, seventies and eighties.
I am the mother of three sons, James, Stephen and
Andrew and grandmother to Alwyn and Wilfred. James died in March 2000: Stephen
works in IT for Guy's/St. Thomas' Hospitals: Andrew is a pianist and composer. I spent my childhood in Hampstead, Cumbria and
Yorkshire. Since my marriage I have lived in Highgate Village,
Hampstead Village, Norfolk and Sussex, with many years of holidays
spent in Cumbria, Norfolk, Yorkshire and at Roquebrune Cap Martin., Alpes Maritimes.
Place has always been an important influence in my
writing - perhaps the first character.
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DAWN LOWE-WATSON RADIO PLAYS
Produced and directed by Cherry Cookson, Sally
and Tim Suter for Radio 4:
|Short Madness ||12.7.83
|The Haven ||17.4.84
|Private Property - Keep Off ||6.1.83
| The Wind Pump ||11.2.95
|The Crossing Keeperıs House||20.10.86
|Closed to Visitors||
| Casa Clara||7.7.84
|Rose at Roquebrune ||1.12.83
|Return to Go||
|The Greengage Summer: Dramatisation||
|I Capture the Castle: Dramatisation||
|The Locum: Short story||
| Jasonland: Short Story||
||Fog and Shifting Pebbles||22 Aug 05
OTHER RADIO WORK
Several talks and interviews for Womanıs Hour in the eighties
Literary interview for World Service - subject: A Novel by Jacquetta Hawkes
four episodes for BBC "Triangle";
one play for Yorkshire TV;
The Good Morrow, Sound of Water, Black Piano.
The Good Morrow and Sound of Water won awards.
Biographical information and play listing
supplied by Dawn Lowe-Watson.
To give some idea of the amount of
work going into a radio play once it's written I have
given recording / rehearsal / editing times for some of the plays.
Recordings of all of the radio plays exist in VRPCC
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DAWN LOWE-WATSON'S PLAYS, by Barry Pike
Dawn Lowe-Watson is an accomplished radio dramatist, especially adept at presenting complex relations between men and women. Her work, broadcast between 1979 and 2005, consists of thirteen original plays and two well-judged adaptations: of Dodie Smith's I CAPTURE THE CASTLE (1996) and Rumer Godden's THE GREENGAGE SUMMER (1998).
Most of her plays examine heterosexual attraction: in SELAH (1980), Prodigies (1980) and THE WIND PUMP (1995) between mature men and much younger women; in ROSE AT ROQUEBRUNE (1983) between a mature woman and a much younger man; in SHORT MADNESS (1982) between a scholarly man and his free-spirited neighbour; in THE CROSSING KEEPER'S HOUSE (1986) between a reclusive rural widower and an Islington antique dealer; and in CASA CLARA (1984) between a couple on holiday; he with a relentlessly shrewish wife; she with a too-demanding female friend. Standing apart from these is the violent encounter in CLOSED TO VISITORS (1992) between a deranged man with a grievance and the frightened woman whose life he threatens.
Despite the family likeness among her plays, Dawn Lowe-Watson does not merely repeat herself. Rather, she rings the changes adroitly on her favourite theme. Both CASA CLARA and ROSE AT ROQUEBRUNE include a holiday romance, aborted in the former, consummated in the latter. Rose's problems weigh less heavily after her night with her young lover and the sense of having evened the score a little with her philandering husband is exhilarating. CASA CLARA is a tougher play with harsher conflicts and a resolution both surprising and heartening.
The couple in SELAH are stranded for the night in a locked church and the play is a virtual duologuein which they dismantle their existing false liaison, edging instead into a truthful detachment offering release to both. THE CROSSING KEEPER'S HOUSE is likewise an extended duologue, defining a transient relationship based on accidental proximity and emotional confusion. Richard Pasco's gentle recluse proves tougher than Jennie Stoller's city slicker.
PRODIGIES is an endearing comedy dealing with a professional pianist, uneasy with his ambitious wife and drawn to an admiring younger woman. His daughter is a gifted cellist whose angst-ridden progress towards an important musical prize provides much of the fun. CLOSED TO VISITORS is the grimmest of Dawn Lowe-Watson's plays, a chilling and unnerving piece in which she extends her range. It suffers from the formula limitation of all thrillers whereby a trapped victim suffers for a time but is eventually rescued in the nick of time, but there's no denying its eerie power. It also has excellent performances by John Duttine and Deborah Findlay.
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SELAH 2.2.80 60m
A lecturer spends a romantic afternoon with
one of his female students...they visit a country church, but
it's late, and they get locked in. As the night progresses a few
home truths get spelled out. DLW handles the dialogue with her
usual flair. An excellent two-hander with John Carson
as Edward and Emily Richard as Catherine; Cherry Cookson directed.
PRODIGIES 31.10.80 60min
A concert pianist, often away from home; his daughter a good
no genius; will she make the grade - and is this what
she wants? And what about the pianist; will the girl
on the train be more than a passing acquaintance? With David Buck as Tom, Sonia Fraser as Gabrielle, Elisabeth
Lindsay as Isolda, Elizabeth Rider as Sarah, David Bradshawe as
Jeremy, John Webb as Felix, Roger Hammond as Peter, Judy Franklin
as Cynthia. Reh/Rec Mon 20 Oct 1980 1430-1800, Tues 21 Oct 1000-1800,
Wed 22 Oct 1000-1900, Studio B11:Basement, Broadcasting House.
Editing Th 23 Oct 1430-1800, Fri 24 Oct 1000-1900. Announcer Edgar
Martin. SMs (Studio Managers) Anthea Davies (Panel*), Diana Barkham (Grams*), Bert
Coules (Spot*). Pianist Stuart Hutchinson (Pre-record session Wed. 15 Oct in
B11; insert tape no: TLN42/006X444)
*For an explanation of the work of
the SMs, see article by Bert Coules on the Radio Plays page.
"PRIVATE PROPERTY-KEEP OFF" 6 1.83 57min
A television personality of declared liberal sympathies proves
to be less generous to others when he finds squatters in the Scottish
island he owns jointly with his sister and to which he has taken his
girlfriend for a supposedly idyllic holiday. "A cogent dramatic
presentation of a debate of the ethics of possession and the
connections between the morality which allows the private ownership
of land and conventional relationship structures" -(Radio Times).
With Geoffrey Palmer as Alastair, June Tobin as Josie, Kathryn
Hurlbutt as Liz, Steve Hodson as Gavin. Announcer Eugene Fraser.
Directed by Cherry Cookson. [Readthrough Wed. 8 December, 1030-1300,
Reh/Rec Thurs 9th Dec 1000-1800 and Fri 10th Dec 1000-1900,
Studio B10, Basement, Broadcasting House; Editing 23 Dec 82, 1000-1800
and 4 Jan 83, 1000-1300.] Afternoon Theatre. SMs Anthea Davies
(Panel), Vanessa (Grams), Anna Nesbitt (Spot).
SHORT MADNESS 5.2 82 & 12.7.83 60m
With John le Mesurier as Thomas and Elizabeth Bell as Maggie. A
middle- aged English teacher becomes interested in
a person next door who, at first appearance, he has absolutely
nothing in common with ... also stars Jill Balcon, Christopher
Godwin, Joanna Mackie, Nigel Greaves; directed by Cherry Cookson.
Afternoon Theatre. (Reh/Rec Sat 23 Jan 82, 1000-1800, Sunday 24 Jan
1000-1900, Studio B11 (Basement, Broadcasting House), Announcer
Christopher Slade.)SMs Anthea Davies (Panel), David Chilton
(Grams), Joanie Blaikie (spot).
ROSE AT ROQUEBRUNE 1.12.83 58min
A titled lady, Rose, is on holiday with her elderly mother and
there is a young couple in the adjacent hotel room. The man is pleasant
and easy-going but his girlfriend is outspoken and
tactless. Rose's neutral attitude towards her alters when
she finds they are linked in a way that she could never have imagined.
With Mary Peach as Rose, Joyce Carey as Evelina, Christopher
Scoular as Simon, Elizabeth Rider as Lydia, Pauline Siddle as
Jane, and Clive Panto as announcer, taxi driver. Directed by
Cherry Cookson. [SMs Carol McShane, Paul Pearson, Vanessa Ellner.
Reh/Rec Tues 1 Nov 83 1000-1800, Wed 2 Nov 1000-1900, Studio 6A,
6th Floor, Broadcasting House; editing 8 Nov 1000-1800 H54 and
Wed 9 Nov 1000-1800 H54.]
Dawn Lowe-Watson interviewed after writing the five above plays and the novel "Sound of Water":
How do you set about writing specifically for radio?
I thought how good it would be to write for sound radio because
you can use your imagination so much. The nice thing about
writing for radio is that everybody who's listening hears
sees something completely different from everybody
else, and so you feel that you're throwing the ball into the
court for anybody to catch. I really love writing for radio.
Does it make the words even more important?
Yes; with radio there's almost a poetic feeling to it;
perhaps one has to be careful not to get too carried away.
The words do matter, whereas with television so much can be
said with the raising of an eyebrow and the curl of a lip.
Are you able to be involved when the play is produced? And when
they're rehearsing, can you
say, "hold on, that's not quite right"?
My producer, Cherry Cookson, lets me in on the understanding
that that's what I won't do. I'm put behind the panel, and if I do
want to say anything, then I wait until Cherry comes up our side of
the panel and then I'll be allowed to say it and she'll go back
and talk to the cast about it. But I think the cast would find it
very unnerving if an author kept chipping in. There are times
occasionally when I'm summoned down into the studio to chat to
the cast....I over-write quite a bit; I always tend to be a bit
too wordy, and so the thing that one does have to do, and which
I usually have control over, is cutting. There's usually some
feverish cutting at the end of the second day, when studio time's
nearly running out.
What kind of plays have they been?
I write about anything...but I suppose they're all plays about relationships... (interview, radio Carlisle, July 1982)
THE HAVEN 17.4.84 58min
Reh/Rec 9 Apr 84 1000-1800; 10 Apr 84 1000-1900, studio 6A,
Broadcasting House. Editing 12 Apr 84, 1000-1800; Fri 13 Apr 84,
1000-1800, H54. Charlotte Mitchell as Beryl, Paul Copley as Silas,
David Sinclair as Edwin, Carole Boyd as Cynthia, Hilda Schroder
as Shopkeeper, William Hope as Tex, John Bull as Dave,
Michele Winstanley as Rebecca. Announcer Eugene Fraser, guitar played
by John Bull. SMs Anthea Davies (panel), Diana Barkham (grams),
Vanessa Ellner (spot). Production Sec. Amanda Willett.
CASA CLARA 7.7.84 88 min
Since the break-up of her marriage, Clare and her daughter have
been looked after by an older woman friend, Elaine. The two women go
on a much-needed holiday to Venice, where Clare begins an affair with
an unhappily married American - much to Elaine's distress.
With Meg Wynn Owen as Clare, Jill Balcon as Elaine, Gary Waldhorn
as Teddy, Annabelle Lanyon as Annie, Maggie McCarthy as Gerda.
Tues 26 Jun 1000-1800,
Wed 27 Jun 1000-1800,
Thur 28 Jun 1000-1800,
Fri 29 Jun 1000-1900, Studio 6A, 6th floor Broadcasting House, Editing
Wed 4 July room H52, Thurs 5 Jul H52]. Directed by Cherry Cookson.
Saturday Night Theatre. SMs Alick Hale-Munro (Panel), Diana Barham
(Grams), Peter Marsh (Spot).
Dawn Lowe-Watson:"CASA CLARA is about two women
who run a gift shop in Petworth in Sussex. One of them is rather older
than the other; a rather claustrophobic, possessive sort of lady, who
has taken under her wing the younger one, who has a little girl.....she
takes her off to Venice.
She's the kind of woman who likes showing things to people,
particularly the things she loves, and she loves Venice. This is my
ninth play and I suppose I could say that my plays , like my books, are
mostly about people's relationships; how people get on with each other
and the overtones of this sort of situation". (Woman's Hour interview,
R4, July 1984)
A well-known ballerina temporarily retires from dancing to have a
baby. She and her husband are horrified when a newspaper publishes a
librarian's claim that he is the father of her expected child. With
Lorna Heilbron as Natalie, Michael Cochrane as James; also stars Frances
Jeater, Gwen Cherrell, Lionel Hunter, Christopher Scott, John Webb,
Colin Starkey, Margot Boyd. Directed by Cherry Cookson.
THE CROSSING KEEPER'S HOUSE 20.10.86 75m
A wonderful setting for a story - a woman is stranded in the snow
in the middle of nowhere; she knocks on the door of a remote cottage,
and a handsome, well-spoken man answers the door. He lives on his own;
could he be the person she has always wanted to meet?
With Richard Pasco as Adrian, Jennie Stoller as Laura, Gordon
Reid as Coleby, Avril Clark as Valerie, Ronald Herdman as the
radio announcer and the van driver; announcer Bryan Martin. [SMs
(Studio managers) Richard Beadsmoore (Panel), Bert Coules (Grams),
Keith Graham (Spot).
Reh/Record M 22 Sep 1000-1800, Tues 23 Sep 1000-1800, Wed 24 Sep
1000-1800, Studio 6A Sixth floor; Editing Mon 29 Sep H52]. Monday
RETURN TO GO 58min 29.1.87
A strange little tale about a potential love affair; an unpleasant
incident brings together two people who otherwise would never have
met. They have more in common than they realise. Reh/rec 19 Jan 87 1000-1800; 20 Jan 87 1000-1900. Studio B10,
Broadcasting House. Editing 24 Jan 01, 1000-1800, H54. Cast: George
Parsons as Alan, Caroline Mortimer as Jill, Melinda Walker as Kate,
Alison Rose as Penny, also with Andrew Branch, Steven Harrold, Sue
Broomfield and Kim Wall. Directed by Tim Suter. Producer's assistant
Lesley Carr; SMs Diana Barkham (panel), Ros Mason (grams), Ian Harker
CLOSED TO VISITORS....1992
31.1.94. Afternoon Play. By Dawn Lowe-Watson. In rural Cumbria, Reedback Hall, once an artists' colony, is now run as a museum. One afternoon when the hall is closed, a young man turns up asking to be shown around. The curator, Sally, wants to spend some time with her son, but the visitor is very persuasive.
Cast: Deborah Findlay [Sally], John Duttine [Frank] and Jill Lidstone [Crispin].
With: Ann Windsor [Pat], Steve Hodson [Policeman 1] and John Webb [Policeman 2].
Directed by Cherry Cookson.
THE WIND PUMP 11.2.95 75min
Set in the Norfolk Broads; a man profoundly affected by his time on
the Burma-Siam railway is interviewed - and more - by a young
programme-maker. Interesting story and realisation; stars James Laurenson
as William, Charlotte Attenborough as Maria, Tina Grey as Tiny, David
Thorpe as young William, Patience Tomlinson as Mary; also stars Joan
Matheson, Tom Bevan, Ian Masters, Peter Yapp, Deborah Berlin and Susannah
Corbett. Directed by Cherry Cookson. [Reh/Rec Tues 12 Jul 94, 1000-1800,
Wed 13 Jul 1000-1800, Th 14 Jul 1000-1900, Studio 6, Maida Vale
Studious, Delaware Rd, London W9. Edit: 18-19 Jul, H7. Studio Managers:
Tim Sturgeon (Panel), Anne Bunting (Grams), Alison McKenzie (Spot)].
I CAPTURE THE CASTLE 90min
Dramatisation of the novel by Dodie Smith. Two sisters living in an
old castle; their father a writer but has written nothing for a decade;
then two Americans arrive. A convoluted love story. With Amanda Root
as Cassandra, Helena Bonham-Carter as Rose. Also stars Haydn Gwynne,
Willian du Fries, Stuart Milligan, Jamie Glover, Geoffrey Whitehead,
Robert Harper, Ann Beach, Patience Tomlinson, David Timpson and
Jonathan Adams. Directed by Cherry Cookson.
Dramatisation of the work by Rumer Godden. Two sisters, their mother
and a younger brother go to stay in France but the mother is hospitalised;
the children are put up at a country house, where unforeseen things
happen...there they meet Eliot, his temperament an odd mixture of cruelty
and kindness, the rather cathartic lady of the house, from whom it is
difficult to get much sense, and a servant who falls
in love a little too easily...with Ellie Bevan as Cecile, Abigail
Doherty as Joss, Keira Jansen as Hester and Luke Newbery as the young
brother. Also starred Michael Maloney as Eliot, Claire Marchione,
Rachel Atkins, Theo Fraser-Steele, Shaun Baker, Jenny Lee, Brian
Parr and Chris Wright. Directed by Sally Avens.
FOG AND SHIFTING PEBBLES....2005
R4, 45 min. Dawn has written an interesting article about this play on
our main "Radio Plays" page (articles 18). Here's what the BBC
website had to say about it:
........ Dawn Lowe-Watsons play is set in Dungeness, on the southernmost point of Romney Marsh in Kent, where Owen, a gentle and kind sculptor, lives in deliberate isolation from what he sees as his rather unsuccessful attempts to cultivate relationships.
Owen is not unhappy and at least here he can concentrate on his work. But things change one night with the arrival of the teenage daughter of a musician with whom he used to live. Nina is unhappy that her real father has returned to live in the family home and has run away to be with Owen. She still feels close to her step-father and even fantasises that he is, in fact, her dad.
Owen is played by Paul Rhys, Nina by Colleen Prendergast and Monica by Patience Tomlinson. Producer: Cherry Cookson.
Nigel Deacon / Diversity Website.
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