Ken Whitmore is one one the most versatile of radio dramatists, with several strings to his bow. It is cause for regret that he no longer writes for the medium, discouraged by the arbitrary restrictions of the current regime.
Whitmore operated at a high level, with exceptional energy and imagination. Over twenty-two years he produced twenty-four original plays, besides a number of adaptations from the work of others (including a serialisation of Graham Greene's BRIGHTON ROCK). He began in 1974 with HAYWIRE AT HUMBLEFORD FLAG ( a title suggestive of eccentricity and exuberence, both much in evidence during his radio career). Two plays appeared in 1975: a sinister comedy, ONE OF OUR COMMUTERS IS MISSING, and JUMP, about a boy convinced that mankind is doomed unless everyone jumps simultaneously. COLDER THAN OF LATE (1976) is a first-rate whodunit, set in a frozen landscape, with a corpse tied to a tree beneath the snow. A DECENT BRITISH MURDER (1980) is, likewise, a superior mystery, set this time among a smart house-party and featuring a bizarre impossible crime. THE SPORT OF ANGELS (1981) is a fantastic comedy, with Miriam Margolyes as an invented character who becomes involved with her creator (a boy called Godfrey, also known as God). THE GREAT TIMES CROSSWORD CONSPIRACY (1982) involves a complicated scheme to complete the eponymous puzzle without actually working out the answers. DITHERING HEIGHTS (1985) is a Gothic farce, set in a Yorkshire mansion, with Aubrey Woods as an over-ambitious entrepreneur. THE RED TELEPHONE BOX (1986) is an eccentric whodunit, compounded of comic absurdity and high ingenuity. THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE (1986) exploits hair-raisingly the Hansel and Gretel story; and WINTER MUSIC (1989) is a sombre play about a family living with the after-effects of extreme domestic violence. THE FINAL TWIST (1996) is doubly well-named: because it is, alas, Whitmore's final radio play; and because it is, even for him, outstandingly twisty. Donald Sinden starred as a devious actor-manager, who commissions a play about the murder of a troublesome wife, in which his own troublesome wife plays the victim. Ken Whitmore signed off in characteristic style, still firing on all cylinders.
Ken Whitmore has his site at
KEN WHITMORE (compiled by Barry Pike)
All directed by Alfred Bradley except The Final Twist and Going Under.
Ken Whitmore also lists "Going Under*" (90 minutes) adapted from the novel by the Russian Lydia Chukovskaya, a five-part adaptation of "Brighton Rock*" by Graham Greene, and an eight part adaptation of "Fame is the Spur*" by Howard Spring*.
asterisked plays known to exist within VRPCC
"99% of my plays were produced and directed by Alfred Bradley who scoured the country for writing and acting talent like a soccer coach standing on Sunday League touchlines, shivered in his car all night waiting for a promising lad named David Pownall to come home so he could ask him to write a play, gave me money when I was broke or chivvied the BBC into paying my expenses, offered to baby-sit for my kids when I had a son ill in hospital and did tons of such favours to multitudes of writers and actors. By such means Alfred coaxed and bullied plays out of unknowns, cast them, directed them and kept his writers alive. Today scripts come in by post and go to faceless clones in offices who never meet writers and the scripts they deem worthy are passed to conveyor belt producers who rarely meet writers. That is why everything now sounds like the Archers and there are no more Big Occasions."
NOTES ON SOME OF THE PLAYS
FAME IS THE SPUR....1979
This is the story of John Hamer Shawcroft, his boyhood rise from the streets of Ancoats, Manchester, and his pursuit of power and fame. Through the lives of Hamer and his wife Ann, there flows the wider current of England's life; the challenge to the landed aristocracy in the late 1880s; the birth of the Labour party; the Suffragette movement in which Ann plays an heroic part; and the aftermath of the 1914-18 war. Shawcroft as a boy - Gary Carp, the older Shawcroft - Ian McKellen, Tom Hannaway as a youth - Phillip Pollitt, Arnold Ryerson as a youth - David Riley, Grandfather - Geoffrey Banks, John's mother - Rosalie Williams, Gordon Stansfield, his stepfather - Ian Flintoff, Ma Hannaway - Elizabeth Kelly, Charles Artingstall, the bookseller - George Hagan, Ann Artingstall as a girl - Susan Revill, Hawley, his father - Graham Tennant, Lizzie Lightowler, his aunt: Rosalie Critchley. Other children played by Jimmy Braddock, Phillippa Connell and Ruth Williams. Theme music composed by Johnny Pearson. Producer - Trevor Hill.
Notes to episode 5:
THE TOWN THAT HELPED ITSELF....1986
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