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Nick Warburton Radio Plays

Nick Warburton was born in 1947 and is married with one son. He gave up teaching in primary schools after ten years to try writing (also doing part-time work in libraries and selling on craft stalls). He writes children's books, radio, stage and television scripts, and in 1985 was joint winner of the BBC/Radio Times drama award for Conversations From the Engine Room.(info. found by Clive Lever, in "The Man In Black", BBC Publications 1990, ISBN 0 563 20904 6)

UPDATE, 2006
Nick's play "Beast" won the Tinniswood Award; best play of 2005. See brief mention below and Tinniswood Award page.

    UPDATE, 2007
    I was pleased to hear Nick as Christopher Martin-Jenkins' guest in "View from the Boundary" on Test Match Special, 26 May 07, England v. West Indies at Headingley. Nick talked about radio plays and cricket, and the similarities between them. Cricket can be relatively dull (I have a friend who says it's the one sport which is improved by not being able to see it- by listening to TMS!), but it's punctuated by highlights, and it's these which determine the course of events. Rather like a play.

    Nick was in charge of cricket at the primary school where he worked, in Cambridge in the mid-seventies, playing on Parker's Piece. (In 1976-7 I had to cross Parker's Piece five times a week on the way from Fair St. to the Chemistry Labs on Lensfield Rd., so perhaps our paths crossed.)

    He mentioned that he had a cricket-based play going out on 6 Jul 07, entitled "Lawn Wars", about a man who tries to bowl the perfect off-break. The original title (vetoed) was "The one which went on with the arm", but it probably wouldn't be understood by non-cricket fans, so "Lawn Wars" had to do.

    A collection of five plays based on Luke's gospel was broadcast in the run-up to Christmas, 2008. This is reviewed briefly below.


1. The Colonel's Wife (30', 1983)
2. Another Crack of the Whip (30', 1986)
3. Conversations from the Engine Room* (60', 1986)
4. Sunlight on the Garden* (60', 1987)
5. The Way Through the Woods* (60', 1987)
6. Music Lovers (30', 1988) (Fear on Four)
7. The Messenger (60', 1988)
8. His Last Card (30', 1989) (Fear on Four)
9. The Nativity Letters (45', 1989)
10. The Thirteenth Owl (30', 1990) [R5]
11. Saving Grace (30', 1991) [R5]
12. Straightening Pictures (30', 1991)
13. Resurrection (3 x 60', 1994) [Adaptation of Tolstoy's novel]
14. A Grove of Straight Trees (45', 1994)
15. Baboushka (30', 1995)
16. David* (2 x 60', 1997)
17. Making Sacrifices (30', 1997)
18. The Christmas Card (60', 1997)
19. Moonfleet* (90', 1998) [Available on cassette]
20. A Soldier's Debt* (45', 1999)
21. Lark Rise and Beyond* (3 x 45', 1999)
22. Doreen’s Chair* (30`, 1999)
23. Purvis* (45`, 2000)
24. Paradise* (30’, 2001)
25. Mountaineering* (45’, 2002)
26. An Uneasy Peace (15’ - monologue; part of Soldier, Soldier, 2002)
27. Our Late Supper* (45, 2002); rpt. 23 Sep 04.
28. To Winchester* (45, 2002)
29. Toad Squad* (30, 2003)
30. Mustard Seed* (45, 2004)
31. My love must wait - Matthew Flinders (45, 2005)
32. Beast* (45, 2005)
33. Father & Son (2 x 55m, classic serial, 2005)
34. Peter Pan in Scarlet* (90m), adap.
35. Friday when it rains* (45m), 2006
36. Every book in the world* (45m), 2006
37. Lawn Wars* (45m), 2007
38-42. Five plays based on Luke's Gospel, 2007*
43-46. A four-episode series entitled "On Mardle Fen" on successive Fridays*
47. Foundling, 2008*
48. Last Days of Grace, 2008*
49. Not Bobby, 2010*
50. Setting a Glass, 2010*
51-54 On Mardle Fen, series 2, four plays, 2010*
55 Turf Wars, ep. 1*, 2011
56 Ten Lessons in Love, 2011
57-60 On Mardle Fen, series 3, four plays, 2012*
61-65 The People's Passion: 5 plays for Easter
66 Available Means
67-70 On Mardle Fen, series 4, four plays, 2012*

OTHERS (no information)
Billing's Island
Callisto
Catching Heathcliff
'Interviews'(?)

*exist in collections within VRPCC

compiled from info. supplied by Nick Warburton; used by permission
Nigel Deacon / Diversity website



NOTES ON SOME OF THE PLAYS

CONVERSATIONS FROM THE ENGINE ROOM....1986
Skilfully intercut monologues from the "engine room" - from which the school is really run.

SUNLIGHT ON THE GARDEN....1987
A fourteen year old girl wants some help with her history project, about the second World War. She goes to an elderly neighbour for help. He is crotchetty, self-opinionated, and a thorough nuisance to everyone nearby. Her fourteen-year-old brain is too naive to realise how her mother, and others, keep him in check. Stars Patrick Trouton; producer Matthew Walters.

THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS....1987
Fictional story of a latter-day Thoreau who buys a shed and goes to live in the woods. Advertised as "by N.J.Warburton".


THE MESSENGER....1987
Broadcast: Tuesday 1st November 1987; 9:25 p.m. "Drama Now", R3.

The setting is June 1911 at the Quinn and Lundy Building, London, where Albert has arrived in search of a position. He has been sent by his uncle to Quinn and Lundy Publishing to see Mr. Jerome, who offers him a job as the new Messenger.

Day by day, Albert finds his way into all the rooms of this large establishment, stumbling on secrets and delighting in them, guided by his unwitting gift for discoveries. Each small journey simply begun and ended becomes his quest and the most inaccessible places open to him; the most remote people allow him in. ...

With Juliet Stevenson [Miss Quinn, Majority Owner of Quinn and Lundy Publishing], Alec McCowen [Mr. Tooth], Don Henderson [Mr. Drummer, the Lift Operator], and Anthony Howes [Albert, the New Messenger].

Directed by Stuart Owen

65 min. (Review from Jim; many thanks)

PURVISS....2000
Purviss (29 Nov 00, 1415), by Nick Warburton was an entertaining play about a lonely widower appointed by the vicar to act as safety officer to the church. The vicar never imagines that his kindness in finding something for him to do will be so ruthlessly exploited. When he finds Purvis writing a sermon, things have gone too far. Peter Sallis was an admirable Purvis, supported by James Fleet as the vicar and Jasmine Hyde as his wife; Peter Kavanagh directed. (VRPCC Newsletter Dec00)

2001....
Nick Warburton is gaining a reputation as a master of the 30-minute play; his latest is Paradise (R4, 2302, 29 Nov 01). Antonia (Amanda Root) is moving to the country after resigning from her city job. She finds an ideal cottage selling for about half its proper price, and snaps it up. She reckons without the crabby housekeeper (Liz Smith) or the equally awkward Fison (George Baker). His last two plays on R4 were Doreen's Chair (30m) and Purvis (45m), both with the excellent Peter Sallis. (VRPCC newsletter Dec01)

2002....
Nick Warburton has been busy; Our Late Supper (R4, 1415, 15 Jul 02) concerned a shy elderly lady befriended by a twelve year old girl, and Mountaineering (R4, 29 May 02), where another young lady has the hobby of nocturnal climbing, unknown to her parents. We also had "To Winchester" (R4, 23 Jul 02) in which a brother and sister attending their mother's funeral learn, on hearing the will, that she has asked them to transport a box from the family home in Scotland to Winchester. When they do so, it has far-reaching consequences. (VRPCC newsletter, Sep02)

TOAD SQUAD....2003
Mon 19 May 03; 11.30am. The Toad Squad is a group of enthusiasts who see that the toads get to their breeding ground on the other side of the main road. Light comedy drama in the series 'Hopes and Desires".

TURNING THE HUT....2003
6 Aug 2003. Kindness in the midst of rural brutality....when Jimmy asks Clara to teach him to read, an unlikely relationship develops.

Clara ...... Penelope Wilton
Jimmy ...... Jim Sturgess
Producer Sally Avens.

MY LOVE MUST WAIT - MATTHEW FLINDERS....2005
A play by Nick Warburton about the explorer Matthew Flinders, who was the first European to circumnavigate Australia. He'd just got married, and thought that his bride could go with him, but it wasnt't to be; she had to wait ten years for his return in 1810. Those who are happily married will realise what a loss this was. With Jenny Agutter, Stuart Cox; Mark Smalley directed.

BEAST....2005
1 Nov 2005, 1415. Afternoon play based on a Suffolk sea legend, starring James Fleet as a fisherman who hauls in a huge creature. But ... what is it? And can it be allowed to live?

UPDATE ... this play won the 2005 Tinniswood Award. See Tinniswood 2006 and pictures.

FATHER & SON .... 2005
Edmund Gosse's account of the spiritual struggle between a lonely boy and his charismatic father. Dram. by Nick Warburton. With Derek Jacobi, Roger Allam, Steve Williams, Kate Buffery, Colleen Prendergast. Producer Jonquuil Panting. R4 6 Nov 05 and 13 Nov 05, 1500.

PETER PAN IN SCARLET .... 2006
A sequel to J.M.Barrie's "Peter Pan", written by Geraldine McCaughrean (on commission from the Great Ormond Street Hospital) and adapted for radio by Nick Warburton. Music by David Pickvance; producer Celia de Wolff. The CD of this play is available from the BBC shop. Stars Robert Glenister, Daniel Mays, Kate Maberly, Roger Allam, Tom George.

Gillian Reynolds ...... "McCaughrean ....loyal to the spirit of the original... Daniel Mays is Peter, Kate Maberly is Wendy, Roger Allam is new character Ravello. Robert Glenister narrates". Produced by Celia de Wolff.

FRIDAY WHEN IT RAINS....2006
Nick Warburton's play, FRIDAY WHEN IT RAINS (R4, 1415, 20 Oct 06), was in the style of "Fear on Four". It's the age of steam, and a girl on a late-night train journey hears a frightening tale from a fellow passenger. Riveting stuff; Clive Swift and Lyndsey Marshal starred, and Claire Grove directed. (.....N.D., VRPCC newsletter)

EVERY BOOK IN THE WORLD....2006
This play by Nick Warburton (R4, 1415, 5 Dec 06) showed the same quality as "Beast", which won the 2005 Tinniswood award. You don't need a world-shattering story to write the best drama, but you need to show what makes people tick. Here we had the Victorian book-collector Sir Thomas Phillipps moving his collection, his long-suffering wife, and a carter moving the books; a three-hander for Benjamin Whitrow, Lia Williams and Peter Gunn. Sparks fly; Mark Smalley directed. (.....N.D., VRPCC newsletter)

LAWN WARS....2007
6 Jul 07. Cricket-based play featuring a middle-aged lady who's just lost her mother, and the guy she takes on for some gardening work. Unfortunately there's a rotter of a brother-in-law determined to throw a spanner in the works. RT described this as a gentle comedy about relationships, property and cricket. Cast: Anna Calder-Marshall, Richard Johnson, Robert Daws; produced by Peter Kavanagh.

    There were some interesting comments on the BBC messageboard, which I've summarised below:

    "Another gem from that ever-reliable writer for radio, Nick Warburton. The performances by Anna Calder-Marshall as Alice, Robert Daws as Rob, and (especially) Richard Johnson as Anthony were so spot-on that I had to remind myself that it was just make-believe. I don't want to give anything away about the plot, but I think I can safely say that it is moving, very funny, and of an almost Monty Python level of eccentricity. As the famously eccentric, very English, cricket-loving pure mathematician G. H. Harvey might have said, the production was "in the Bradford class". (This comment make slightly more sense after you've heard the play.)"

    Another listener commented ........"quite eccentric and with a truly English feel. Right from the start my interest was held - to the extent that I became quite worked up over the awful brother-in-law's antics.

    I am glad you gave Nick Warburton's name as the author because I noticed that this did not appear on the Listen Again page, nor was it given at the end when the cast list was read."


PLAYS BASED ON LUKE'S GOSPEL....2007
Afternoon plays, 5 successive days, 17-21 Dec 07.

BBC PUBLICITY:

Witness: Five Plays from the Gospel of Luke....2007
17-21 Dec 07. The story of Jesus imagined through the eyes of those who witnessed it.

1.The Lake
Peter and his brother Andrew tell the story of how Jesus was baptised and began to teach in Galilee, and how they were inspired to leave their lives as fishermen and follow Him.

Jesus ...... Tom Goodman-Hill
Peter ...... Peter Firth
Andrew ...... Paul Copley
Baptist ...... Stephen Greif
Elder ...... Sam Dale
Possessed man ...... John Lloyd Fillingham
John ...... Simon Treves
Woman ...... Laura Molyneux
Tempter ...... Peter Marinker

2.Outsiders
Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Simon, and an unnamed Woman tell how Jesus’ teaching began to embrace outsiders and outcasts and to challenge the authorities.

Jesus ...... Tom Goodman-Hill
Peter ...... Peter Firth
Andrew ...... Paul Copley
Judas ...... Paul Hilton
Woman ...... Maxine Peake
Magdalene ...... Lorraine Ashbourne
Joanna ...... Rachel Atkins
Simon ...... Peter Marinker
Friend of the sick man ...... Ben Crowe
Child ...... Poppy Friar

3.Jerusalem
Judas Iscariot tells the story of Jesus’ growing reputation, dramatic entry into Jerusalem and his own decision to betray Him.

Jesus ...... Tom Goodman-Hill
Peter ...... Peter Firth
Judas ...... Paul Hilton
Caiaphas ...... Robin Soans
Rich man ...... Simon Treves
Pharisee ...... Alex Lanipekun
Martha ...... Joannah Tincey
Zacchaeus ...... Sam Dale
Tempter ...... Peter Marinker
Woman ...... Anna Bengo
Lawyer ...... Sam Pamphilon
Child ...... Skye Bennett

4.Tested
Jesus’ trial and crucifixion through the eyes of Pilate, Caiaphas, Peter,and Jesus’ mother Mary

Jesus ...... Tom Goodman-Hill
Peter ...... Peter Firth
Judas ...... Paul Hilton
Caiaphas ...... Robin Soans
Mary ...... Penelope Wilton
Baker ...... Ben Crowe
Centurion ...... Peter Marinker
Girl ...... Anna Bengo
Guard ...... Lloyd Thomas

5.Beginners
In the days following Jesus’ death, his grieving mother Mary ponders on the story of His birth, while Peter, Mary Magdalene,and the disciples are witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection.

Jesus ...... Tom Goodman-Hill
Peter ...... Peter Firth
Mary ...... Penelope Wilton
Magdalene ...... Lorraine Ashbourne
Angel ...... Julian Bleach
Simeon ...... David De Keyser
Joanna ...... Rachel Atkins
Joseph of Arimathea ...... Ben Onwukwe
Young Mary ...... Laura Molyneux
Cleopas ...... Sam Pamphilon

Director Jonquil Panting.
    Notes on these plays

    Numerous comments appeared on the BBC messageboards, most of them enthusiastic about the productions. A few killjoys moaned about a whole week's plays on the same subject, but in a Christian country one can hardly grumble about five Christmas plays on the life of Jesus.

    GILLIAN REYNOLDS, in a long piece in the Daily Telegraph, said that it was brave of Radio 4 to commission these plays. Religion is a subject which will turn many people off, and they certainly don't appreciate a playwright coming along with a new version. In Gillian's words: "At the 40 days and nights in the desert, as Jesus considers his mission, and devilish voices started jumping around in stereo, I was tempted to give up. Yet once Jesus began to preach in a quiet sort of voice, making homely sorts of reference, I stopped thinking of "Monty Python's Life of Brian" and started listening.

    This Jesus is recognisable, practical. You understand why he would need a boat, pulled out a little from the shore, in order to talk to the crowd which had followed him."


Summarised comments from the BBC messageboard (edited for clarity. if you see your contribution and would like it crediting or removed, please email me. I do not know how to contact you).

v-f:
I am loving this series of plays based on Luke's writings. It is engrossing and brings the account of Jesus' life to life. It makes a change from the 'middle class angst' plays usually in the afternoon play slot.

s-i-t:
I agree with the general opinion so far on this thread. Today's play reminded me a little of Potter's Son of Man, re-shown recently on telly (originally shown in 1969?).

Like many, I'm not a believer in any religion. Civilised tolerance of the right of people to express the whole range of considered views (excluding those that advocate torture and individual or mass-murder, for example) should be regarded as the norm.

j-c:
It's good to read that some folk are finding this series engrossing. I was rather gobsmacked to hear that the BBC were doing this, but, as a Christian, delighted that the quality of the writing and production gave a feeling of authenticity. I was very moved at the dialogue and treatment of many of the scenes. I hope that others who may feel disgruntled that such prominence is given to such a series will continue to listen.

a:
Just realised why the Nick Warburton plays are so irritating - the 10:00am bbc7 drama slot is also given over to 12 plays about Jesus - "The Man Born to be King". They are really dull.

r-a:
That's a matter of taste. It may not always be easy going, especially if the listener is anti-Christian, but consider it in its historical context (early WW2). D. L. Sayers was criticised at the time for breaking certain conventions, and for writing a series as "heavy" as that. Anti-religious sentiments were widespread then, too.

l-t:
A shame to not listen to Nick Warburton's creativity just because you don't believe in Jesus. Surely that's not the point.

These plays are brilliantly done. Why shouldn't mainstream radio focus on the things which lie at the heart of British culture?

I am a Christian, predisposed to be sympathetic to the subject matter. But what I love is the dramatisation; the portrayals of the disciples and other "witnesses" as ordinary folk, the portrayal of Jesus' loving compassion and deep humanity rooted in his relationship with his Father. This for me is a triumph of radio drama. No false "modernising", but a depiction of real human beings in the world in which they found themselves.

And I am really enjoying Ernie Rae's little pieces afterwards, especially Tom Wright's contributions.
    "Witness" won the Sandford St Martin Award in a ceremony at Lambeth Palace back in June.



ON MARDLE FEN...2008
Four-episode series beginning 4 Apr 08, set in a restaurant in the Fens. Episode titles:

1.A distant cold light
Trevor Peacock, Sam Dale, Chris Pavlo, Liza Sadovy, Kate Buffery, Liz Sutherland, John Rowe. Producer Claire Grove.

2.Mural
As above, with the addition of Helen Longworth. The grandson of Warwick, the proprietor of the restaurant, stops him from interfering in the kitchen by giving him a project..... Producer Claire Grove.

3.Dark Horse
As episode 2, without Liz Southerland. Samuel brings a noxious object into the restaurant. Producer Claire Grove.

4.The Taste of Success
The restaurant is in financial trouble. What to do? Producer Claire Grove.

The series was repeated during April 2011.


FOUNDLING....2008
Afternoon play, 17 Jun 08.


LAST DAYS OF GRACE....2008
Afternoon play, 45m. W.G.Grace arrives at The Oval late in his career and contemplates another day on the cricket field. But before play starts, he meets a stranger. Stars Kenneth Cranham as W.G., Benedict Cumberbatch as the stranger, and Christopher Martin-Jenkins as 'The Voice of Cricket". Producer Steven Canny.

NOT BOBBY....2010
Part of Gillian Reynolds' piece on radio drama in the Daily Telegraph, Mar 10.....Mackenzie Crook starred as lonely Frank who brings home a pet rabbit which, to everyone’s amazement, learns to write. Frank gets him into his local education system and this is where a brilliantly observed and beautifully paced satire on schooling and its administration began. Peter Kavangh’s direction was impeccable.

SETTING A GLASS.....2010
2 Nov 2010. A guy visits his mother in hospital; she is at the end of her life. A young nurse talks to him ... That's it - but what a play! Beautifully cast, produced and acted.

ON MARDLE FEN....2010
Another series about the wily Warwick Hedges and his restaurant in the middle of the fens. The first episode (6 Dec 2010) was extremely funny - the plot centres around a rare bird and an attractive 'twitcher' who is looking for somewhere to stay. Disaster piles on disaster as the old man tries to extricate himself from the mess he has created by offering her a room. With Trevor Peacock, Same Dale, Kate Buffery, John Rowe, Helen Longworth, Claire Rushbrook. Producer Claire Grove. 45m

TURF WARS....2011
Four episode mini-series by various writers. Nick wrote ep.1. 9 Mar 11; 'Losing the Plot'; a shy, retiring man faces intimidating bureaucracy when he wants an allotment.

TEN LESSONS IN LOVE....2011
Ten short plays broadcast in a 45m slot, 25 Apr 11. Nick wrote one of these. A man uses a machine to look through his memories, hoping to find the moment he fell in love. When it goes wrong, these ten stories emerge. Sean Baker, Nyasha Hatendi, Alex Tregear, Zawe Ashton, Femi Oyeniran, Josie Long, Tim Key, Stuart McLoughlin, Sally Orrock, Daniel Rabin, Jane Whittenshaw. Producer Jane Robinson.

ON MARDLE FEN....2012
29 Feb 2012 and weeks following: More excellent tales about the group of misfits living together in the middle of nowhere, produced by Claire Grove. The titles:

1.If You Build It
The Mardle Fen Music Festival.

2.Wives
Samuel, the old Norfolk man (John Rowe) announces a big event in his life.

3.Goose Feathers
A shadowy visitor arrives and disappears.

4.The Old Lost Road
Mr. Hedges receives an invitation to read a poem in the cathedral... but which Mr. Hedges?


THE PEOPLE'S PASSION....2012
A series of five biblical plays based on the Passion, 2Apr-6Apr 2012:

1.Coming to Jerusalem
2.Betrayal
3.Last Supper
4.Trial
5.The Road to Emmaus


AVAILABLE MEANS....2012
A mild-mannered poet finds unexpected courage on a visit to an Eastern European city.


Another series of 'On Mardel Fen' in November 2012:

16 Nov: 1. Talk to the Bones
Some dodgy builders unearth something which would have been better left alone.

23 Nov: 2. According to Ditcher
There is a problem with the accounts which calls for drastic remedies.

30 Nov: 3. At the Dawning
Heavy rains, and the river comes up ...

7 Dec: 4. Dillie's Day
Zofia's brother is visiting Britain.

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