Jonathan Smith Radio Plays

Jonathan Smith was born in 1942, was Head of English at Tonbridge School for 17 years, and is now writing full time. He has been writing novels since 1975 and radio drama since 1980. His novels are The English Lover (1977), Wilfrid & Eileen (1978), Come Back (1985), Summer in February (1995) and The Learning Game (2000), part of which was read by Jonathan on radio 4 during 2000. His sixth novel, Night Windows, has just been published. The books in print are 'Summer in February' and 'The Learning Game' (Abacus pbk). 'Night Windows' is out now, published by Little, Brown - then Abacus pbk - and was read during August 2004 for a fortnight as Book at Bedtime by Christian Rodska. A new book, The Following Game, will be out in Spring 2011.

Other interesting snippets: Jonathan's son Ed has played for the England cricket team; he writes leaders for the Times, and sometimes writes articles on sport. His most recent tv programme, on BBC1, was 'Is professionalism killing sport?'

Jonathan's BBC radio plays:

The World Walk*, 1980
Wilfrid and Eileen, 1981
The Butcher, the Baker*, 1982
Howlcroft*, 1985
The Parents' Evening, 1988
Silver*, 1989
Abandoned, 1991
Seven Years Solitary, 1992
The Head Man*, 1993 (1st series)
The Head Man*, 1994 (2nd series)
The Last Bark of the Bulldog*, 2003
The Tennis Court*, 2008
The Trenches Trip*, 2010
Portrait of Winston*, 2011

The Learning Game*. 2000.
Night Windows*- Book at Bedtime. 2004.

asterisked items known to exist within VRPCC


A play set in Spandau prison, the last refuge of the the top Nazis who escaped the death penalty at Nuremburg. For twenty years, Albert Speer tended the flowerbeds and walked his cell and the grounds; the equivalent of halfway around the world, hence the title. On his release, Hess was still there. On the instructions of Speer, 50,000 Frenchmen in 1943 alone were deported to the Ruhr valley as slave labourers; slackers were put into concentration camps; Eastern Europeans were set to work digging tunnels and fortifications on the Channel Islands...the play looks at the Nazi regime through the eyes of one of its perpetrators.

John Franklin Robbins played Albert Speer, Peter Postlethwaite was Watkins, Timothy Bateson was Hess, Christian Rodska was Anton, Brian Haynes was Doenitz, with Bill Wallis, John Bull, David Timpson, Martin Friend, Ronald Russell, Rosemary Whitfield; directed in Bristol by Shaun McLaughlin.

In 1981 'Wilfred and Eileen' was a radio play before becoming a BBC1 4 part TV series.

Radio Times.... Jonathan Smith continues his dramatic preoccupation with the Third Reich: after his play about Speer, there's a new one - The Butcher, the Baker - on the assassination of Remhard Heidrich (Monday play, 8pm), with Barry Foster and David Buck.

Heydrich was effectively head of the Nazi secret police and the organiser of the Final Solution.He was brilliant, handsome, and an excellent violinist. In 1941 he was appointed Protector of Bohemia and Moravia in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. Benes was President of the Czechoslovak Government in Exile in london. He was efficient, enormously hard-working, and of peasant stock. In 1942 he ordered the assassination of Heydrich.

Cast: Benes - Barry Foster, Heydrich - David Buck, Lina Heydrich - Hazen McBride, Admiral Canaris - John Abineri, Erika Canaris - Ingrid Hafner, Kubis - Christian Rodska, Gabcik - David McAlister. Other parts by Hugh Dickson, Rex Holdsworth, John Livesey, David Ponting; violinists Diana Dixon and Peter Tanfield. Producer Shaun McLaughlin, BBC Bristol.

With Cyril Cusack as Horne Tooke, John Rowe as Thomas Holcroft and Mark Straker as William Holcroft.

In 1794 Thomas Holcroft, actor, novelist, playwright radical philosopher and lifelong believer in human perfectability, was indicted on a charge of high treason and held for eight weeks at Newgate Prison. He prepared his own defence. But he also faced a deeper inner trial, because he had tried to bring up his son William to be "the perfect man" and in this he had failed.

Also stars Bill Wallis as William Godwin, Henry Stamper as Thomas Hardy, Christian Rodska as Erskine, Hedley Goodall as the Lord Chief Justice. Helen Goodman was the violinist, Sue Buckland the flautist, and the director Shaun MacLoughlin. (BBC Bristol)

.......ND comment - there are times when it's best not to express an opinion. Most people realise this eventually, but Holcroft, it seems, approached every situation with an open mouth.

SILVER, 26.11.94
A play to mark the centenary of the death of Robert Louis Stevenson. When W.E.Henley the Gloucestershire poet visited Edinburgh for an operation in 1874 he became friendly with Stevenson. It was a friendship that was to survive many storms. Starring Bill Paterson as Stevenson, John Franklin Robbins as Henley and Maureen O'Brien as Fanny; with Joanne Mackie, Bill Wallis, Peter Copley, Eva Stuart, Marcia King, John Bolton; dir. Shaun MacLoughlin.

THE HEAD MAN, 1993 and 1994
Two series of 4 programmes following the fortunes of a head teacher and the problems which arise on running a school. Stars Steve Hodson as Patrick, Melinda Walker as Judith, with Carolyn Backhaus, Christian Rodska, June Barrie, David Bannerman; directed in Bristol by Shaun MacLaughlin.

Jonathan Smith, an experienced teacher, reads from his recollections of half a lifetime in the Learning Game.

Jonathan Smith's return to favour was marked by THE LAST BARK OF THE BULLDOG (R4, 1430, 21 Jun 03). It was about the last few years of Churchill's career, and the crisis of June 1953 when he suffered a stroke during his last period in office as Prime Minister. Benjamin Whitrow was superb as Churchill, and he was ably supported by Sian Phillips as Lady Clementine, Michael Cochrane as Anthony Eden, Christian Rodska as Lord Moran, Robert Portal as Jock Colville and Emma Callender as Winston's attractive young nurse. The director was Bruce Young. (VRPCC newsletter, Sep. 2000) This play was nominated for the Sony Award, Best Radio Play of 2003. It was repeated on April 16 2004.

Interesting mystery story set in a school. Read by Christian Rodska - who does the job so well, it's almost like listening to a play.

Broadcast on Sat. 19 Jan 08. Sam and Arthur, brothers so close that they can communicate with each other even when they're apart. How many of us have experienced this once or twice in a lifetime?

The drama is set England and India during WW2. One of the brothers is fighting a losing battle against the Japanese; the other is back in England struggling with haemophilia. Celia Imrie plays the mother; the parts of the brothers are taken by Dan Stevens and Jot Davies. Other cast members - Jasmine Hyde, Thomas Arnold, Cressida Trew, Martin T. Sherman. Directed by Bruce Young.

Broadcast will be Wed. 10 Nov, 2.15 pm. Another play by Jonathan is scheduled for 2011. More details when I have them.

I was very taken with Jonathan Smith's play PORTRAIT OF WINSTON (R4, 1415, 13 Sep 11), a sequel to his 'Last bark of the Bulldog', broadcast in 2003. Winston was losing popularity in 1954 and there was concern that he was getting too old to be an effective Prime Minister. An all-party group of MPs commissioned a portrait of the P.M. to mark his 80th birthday, to be presented in the House of Commons. Graham Sutherland was the artist chosen, and he produced the very striking image with which some readers will be familiar.

Unfortunately the painting was not universally admired; Churchill disliked it, and reckoned that his fellow MPs were using the presentation to hint that he should retire. His wife Clementine, in accordance with his wishes, burned it after he died, a decade later. The surviving version is the rough job which Sutherland did as preparation for the real thing. Benjamin Whitrow was an excellent Churchill, as in the 2003 production, and Diane Fletcher was Clementine; Bruce Young directed. .....ND, VRPCC review, Dec 2010

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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