'James Bridie' was the pseudonym of Osborne Mavor, a Scottish doctor, born in 1888 in Glasgow, where may of his plays were first performed. He began to write for the theatre in the 1920s and went on to write some forty plays, about half of which were staged in London. He died in 1951.. He appears not to have written for radio, no doubt because his dual life as doctor and stage dramatist kept him sufficiently busy; but much of his work has been broadcast and his plays were especially popular on radio in the 1950s, when no fewer than ten had radio productions.
Some of his best-known plays have been produced for radio twice: DAPHNE LAUREOLA in 1952 and again in 1975; and MR. BOLFRY in 1971 and 1998. Some of his least-known plays have also been broadcast: THE GIRL WHO DIDN'T WANT TO GO TO KUALA LUMPUR in 1941, THE DRAGON AND THE DOVE in 1956 (the former a slight early comedy, the latter a distinguished Biblical play). Two plays staged only after their author's death have also been heard on radio: MEETING AT NIGHT (1963), a clever comedy about a resourceful conman, and THE BAIKIE CHARIVARI (1967), an amazing play, introduced by the Devil and ending with a scene of manic destruction. This was re-broadcast in January 1988 to mark Bridie's centenary. Clive Morton was the colonial governor seeking truth in retirement and Marjorie Westbury his discontented wife. The Devil, a sly and mocking chorus, was James McKechnie, who evidently relished his part.
Bridie was the least predictable of dramatists and often took his audiences by surprise. His plays are always lively, with strong situations and forceful characters, high spirits and sharp social comment. He ranged widely in theme, from female piracy (MARY READ, 1950) to bodysnatching (THE ANATOMIST), from medical murder (Dr. ANGELUS, 1957 and 1970) to the complexities of heredity (A SLEEPING CLERGYMAN). MR. GILLIE (1951 and 1967) deals with a disappointed teacher, undeterred by failure, DAPHNE LAUREOLA with a titled lady getting noisily drunk in public. TOBIAS AND THE ANGEL (1955) draws on the Apocrypha; and STORM IN A TEACUP spins a complicated web of comic frustration from an unrenewed dog licence. MR. BOLFREY was the last Bridie play to be broadcast, in 1998, shortly before the Birt / Boyle restrictions were imposed on radio drama, including the arbitrary decision to broadcast no more plays from the established repertoire. It featured a larger-than-life performance from Alex Heggie as the eponymous hero, another loquacious Bridie Devil, summoned by ritual incantation to a Scottish manse in wartime.
JAMES BRIDIE RADIO PLAYS
compiled from info. supplied by Roger Bickerton and Barry Pike
Updated 2nd Feb 2003
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