Frederic Mohr Radio Plays

DAVID McKAIL is well-known in radio and television as an experienced actor and writer. From 1965-1968 he was part of a collaboration with John Cargill-Thompson, using the pen name "John Mohr" which wrote several TV plays and a situation comedy. One play, "No Kind of Hero", based on McKail's experiences in the army while doing National Service, was televised by Scottish Television and broadcast in December 1966. McKail played the leading part.

Since then he has written using the name Frederic Mohr.

He has been broadcasting since 1951. On radio, his most recent acting work has been in "Adventures of a Black Bag", in David Ashton's "McLevy", and in an episode of the comedy "The House of Milton Jones". David has written six radio plays, and these are listed below, along with a few of those in which he has acted.


McLevy: A Good Walk Spoilt ....2003
27 Aug 03. A body is found on Leith Links on the eve of a major golf championship. But McLevy is no fan of the Royal and Ancient Game, and soon finds himself deep in the rough. Stars Brian Cox, Michael Perceval-Maxwell, David Ashton, Tracy Wiles, John Bett, David McKail, Carolyn Bonnyman, and David Bannerman. Director Patrick Rayner.

Strait Is the Gate....1999
David McKail reads Andre Gide's story of lost love. Translated by Dorothy Bussy, abridged by Morag Lyall (5 episodes).. 15Mar99.

By John Buchan; 3 episodes, R4 3.1.1988 - 17.1.1988, with Roy Hanlon/David McKail/Sharon Maharaj.


11 Mar 89. By "Frederic Mohr"; with Eileen McCallum, Miriam Margolyes. This is a biographical play about the Scottish opera singer, Mary Garden, directed by Patrick Rayner, broadcast on radio 4 and on World Service.

In the words of the writer: "The Scottish American soprano has returned from signing her Last Will and Testament, to give a talk to a ladies' luncheon club in Aberdeen the city of her birth to which she has retired after a long career as a Diva in France and America. She has been doing these lectures for some time now in America but this is the first in her native city, on her own doorstep as it were, and she is more circumspect in her disclosures."

Some believe that Mary Garden was the greatest singer-actress of the twentieth century. There is no doubt that her performances were sensational. She researched her operas meticulously, 'becoming' the character she was playing. A quick image search on the internet will show that her beautiful appearance was a publicist's dream.

    Mary Garden was born in Aberdeen in 1874. Her father worked in an Aberdeenshire ironworks as a clerk. When she was six the family moved to Chicago. In the USA she started singing and was taught by Sarah Robinson-Duff, who secured her a position as nanny to the children of David Mayer in return for her lessons. Later she studied in Paris. She was signed on by the director of the French Opéra-Comique and made her debut in 1900 in Gustave Charpentier's 'Louise', taking the title role after the soloist had to withdraw partway through the performance. This launched her public career.

    Her first record was produced in 1903. She was Mélisande in Claude Debussy's opera Pelléas et Mélisande in 1902. She made many records, including opera excerpts, French songs and Scottish folksongs. She was leading soprano with the Chicago Grand Opera for 21 years. Though a Scottish American Soprano, Mary Garden would sing her roles in French. As a lyric soprano, she excelled in coloratura roles such as Carmen, Violetta, Juliette, Ophélie and Salome and appeared as Tosca, Cléopâtre, Charlotte, Sapho.

    Mary Garden appeared in two Goldwyn Pictures films which were a silent version of Massenet's Thaïs in 1917 and The Splendid Sinner film in 1918.

    Advertisers used her to advertise make-up and other products. She retired from public performances in 1931 but continued working by lecturing, giving master classes and recitals and as a talent scout for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for another 20 years. She made around 50 musical recordings and appeared in about 35 operatic roles. In 1951 she published her autobiography.

    In 1961, when aged 87, she was interviewed by Madeau Stewart for BBC radio in her own house. Her sister can be heard walking around and occasionally adding a few remarks. A recording of the programme survives in VRPCC archives. She died in 1967.

"Bozzy" is James Boswell, the writer of the well-known biography of Samuel Johnson. This is a 'retrospective' of his life, as told to a young man who visits him for advice. The stage version runs to 90 minutes plus an interval; it was premiered in 1981 at the Edinburgh Fringe, with David McKail as Boswell, directed by John Carnegie. It received a "First Fringe Award" from the Scotsman newspaper. The director of the radio version, broadcast by BBC Radio Scotland, was Patrick Rayner, and the producer was Stewart Conn.

Miranda Barry attended Edinburgh University Medical School in the early 1800s, masquerading as a man. She was commissioned into the British Army Medical Service after graduating as and remained there, as 'Dr. James Barry', for many years, rising to the rank of Major General. At some point during her service she had a child. We first meet her about to go into labour and feeling apprehensive. She speaks to us, the audience, as if we are the local midwife (who may or may not speak English), and confides to us the events which brought her to this moment. The play was premiered in 1983 by Aspect Theatre in New Jersey, USA, with Jane Sharp in the dual role. Direction was by Allan Harari. In 1984, it was given its UK premiere at the Traverse Theatre Club, with Barry played by Gerda Stevenson, directed by Stephen Unwin. It was revived as part of the Traverse Festival Fringe Season later that year. The radio version was broadcast in 1983.

In 2008, the 25th anniversary of the first production, Rowan Tree Productions presented a revival which toured the Scottish Borders. Production was by Judy Steel, direction by John Carnegie and the part of Barry was played by Isabella Jarrett.
    A later dramatisation of this fascinating story was broadcast on 19 Aug 92, as an afternoon play, entitled "Dr. Barry", by Jean Binnie. To paraphrase "Radio Times", ........... the story of this remarkable woman who, determined to excel as a medic, disguised herself as a man and rose through the ranks of the army, challenged the appalling conditions under which doctors usually worked, had a baby, and performed a caesarian operation without anaesthetic. Narrator Maggie McCarthy, with Veronica Quilligan in the title role, along with Gordon Reid, Jonathan Tafler, John Fleming, Burt Caesar, Richard Earthy, John Webb, Joanna Wake, Matthew Morgan, Jonathan Adams, Nicholas Murchie; producer Martin Jenkins.

John Paul Jones, "The Father of the American Navy", dying in Paris in 1792 of interstitial nephritis enjoyed a period of remission and held a party in the garden of his lodgings for a few of his friends including the US Ambassador. They have been urging him to make a will but he will have none of it. Why should a man who has led his charmed life and is enjoying a bout of good health think of wills; a man who came from nowhere to command ships of war for the fledgling navy of the rebellious American colony and Catherine the Great's Imperial Russian Navy? He reveals that he is on the brink of his greatest command having survived a life time of penny-pinching bureaucrats and devious politicians. But it is clear that his body will be his final betrayer; he will die, his will made, three days later. The play is an attempt to reconstruct that garden party, in which "he talked wonderfully".
    The stage version was premiered in the Theatre Royal, Dumfries on 15 July 1993, 201 years (to the day) after the events are purporting to take place. The part of Paul Jones was played by Jimmy Chisholm and direction was by John Carnegie. It was revived for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and was awarded a "Fringe First Award". It is played in real time in two acts and runs for 90 minutes plus an interval.

ACTING UP....1997
Charlotte Charke, the 18th Century actress and writer, has returned from the life of a strolling players in the provinces to London, scene of previous theatrical triumphs and disasters, to embark on a new life. In her rented hovel in on the lower slopes of Islington she has gathered some publishers to pitch her memoirs for publication. It is January 1755. Before reading the text to the audience she reminds them of the excitements in store, the rebellions against her actor-manager father, Colley Cibber, Patent Holder at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and Poet Laureate; satire and politics with Henry Fielding's company which changed the course of theatre history in England; the highs and lows of the acting life and above all the dedication and the commitment of the artiste. This meeting is recorded in history and this play exploits the interstices of the bare account left to us.
    The play is performed in real time and the stage version lasts 90 minutes, in two parts plus an interval. It played for three weeks during Mayfest in Glasgow from 2nd May 1997 at the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre's Circle Studio. Directed by John Carnegie, the part of Charlotte was played by Maureen Beattie.

compiled by Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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