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Martin Esslin Radio Plays

An interesting programme about Martin Esslin went out as "The Archive Hour" on Radio 4 on 1st June, 2004. It contained interviews and comments, some of which are paraphrased and reproduced here:

The pre-war influx of European Jews had raised Britain's profile in classical music, painting and drama and all the art forms, and academic subjects, including psycho-analysis. This was followed in 1956 by a second wave of Hungarian intelligentsia following the short-lived uprising against the Russians. They colonised the higher echelons of the BBC in particular; it was not uncommon to overhear loud and angry discussions of the English sense of humour in the corridors of Broadcasting House, all in the accents of Budapest and Vienna.

John Tydeman:
"I can remember one time at a Radio 3 meeting - I think I was the only person of British origin there - there were people like Hans Keller, Stephen Hurst, and the whole thing was somehow conducted in a Hungarian accent ... and they'd sometimes get things wrong.......Martin, who had a very good grasp of English was describing one play - and the plays were getting ruder and ruder at that time - and he was telling the story with great animation ..............entt he putts the preservatiff on his ... errr....Jonn Tomass.........of course, we all fell about with laughter; the idea of someone putting jam or marmalade on their anatomy ..........but of course, preservatif is a condom........."

At that time, Esslin was Head of Sound Drama. Here is his reply to being criticised on-air by four listeners in the 70's about his decision to axe the highly popular serial, "The Dales":

".....I'm highly gratified that a programme which my department has been providing now for 21years, and for which I've been responsible for eight years, has had such a tremendous success to evoke this kind of reaction when it's being taken off. The only thing I would like to say is that if we have been able to provide such a successful programme, trust us that we know our business well enough to know why and when to take it off. Perhaps also we know our business well enough to put on something which is an equivalent or even a better programme. "

Hallam Tennyson commented on Esslin's drama work:
".......... Martin's influence is very much with ideas. He has a fairly blank spot, in my view, on language. Speaking so many languages so well, he wasn't in my view sensitive to nuances, or language as such. He could say, for instance, that The Jew of Malta was a greater play than anything written by Shakespeare because it foreshadowed the Theatre of the Absurd. Well, this to me was a grotesque statement that leaves out the whole power to move the imagination and emotions through the gift of language and psychology, which The Jew of Malta, for all its brilliance of a "comic-strip" kind, hasn't got. This kind of statement did occasionally leave one aghast. But it didn't happen very often, and this is a very minor criticism of his remarkable mental and intellectual abilities."

John Tydeman...
"...........Martin was not really the best of directors. We always used to say that rather than rehearse-record, Martin would record-rehearse.....there was the story that someone who was playing in one of those rather remote plays, and he said "I can't quite get this character.....not at all", and Martin said "He's Jewish, he's Jewish"........and he replied "but Martin, later on he's in the confessional.......he's a Catholic". Martin replies ".......so - .............he's a Catholic Jew.....". He had an answer for everything."

Esslin also maintained the tradition of presenting classics from the European Theatre, many of which can, in retrospect, be seen to be ancestors of the theatre of the absurd. John Hurt playing Wozzek, for example, doomed killer of his own lover......

The two 'Lulu' plays, written at the start of the twentieth century, were performed as a single play in Britain for the first time only in a version by Peter Barnes, which Martin Esslin promptly transferred to radio in 1975. Anna Calder Marshall plays the heroine, every man's erotic fantasy, and therefore, worst nightmare as well.

By the end of his career, Martin Esslin had a reputation like those of the authors he championed, which went far beyond the British airwaves. He'd written books on Pinter, on Beckett and the other playwrights grouped under the "Theatre of the Absurd", and on Brecht, subtitled "A Choice of Evils". Like most of Brecht's admirers, he had to deal with the way the playwright continued to support the cause of Communist Socialism when its totalitarian practices, comparable with those of Nazism, were already widely known. These books meant that he knew he could always get an academic post if he got fed up with the BBC, as people sometimes do.

Martin Esslin's daughter Monica:
"Daddy went to Stanford University in 1976, when he retired from the BBC and radio drama. He took up the post of Professor of Drama; he was there for six months every year, and he not only taught about 4 - 6 graduate students each year, but he also taught undergraduate classes - enormous classes - of anyone from a baseball player to a potential doctor, and he also directed quite a large number pf productions.

What is interesting is that he also took the opportunity to learn from his colleagues, and one of the first things he did in his first semester out there was to go to a series of lectures by one of his much younger tutorial colleagues, Bill Edelman, who was a design specialist, who was looking at the implication and the impact of design on entyrances and exits in theatre. The first thing that Daddy did after this first lecture was to say to Bill "Can we go and have dinner together - I really want to talk to you". Bill said to me afterwards, more recently, I was terrified - here was this great man, this huge figure of European theatre saying to me, a young lecturer, "please could we go away and talk". He was immensely open to all sorts of new ideas ...........

If anyone who has worked with Martin Esslin is prepared to write about it for us, or to talk to me.. ... our readers would be very interested.......

Nigel Deacon



NOTES

LULU....1975
Lulu, a 2-play cycle - Earth Spirit (1895) and Pandora's Box (1904) by Frank Wedekind. R3. English adaptation for radio by Peter Barnes, with Anna Calder-Marshall, Derek Godfrey, John Rye and Peter Woodthorpe. Music composed and conducted by Hans Heimler; produced by Martin Esslin

First broadcast 18 May 75. Peter Barnes' adaptation of Lulu was staged in 1970.

The rise and fall of Lulu, the archetypal seductress, embodying the sexual impulse and leading all to disaster. A pre-Expressionist classic.

http://www.kutheatre.com/performances.html#Lulu:
Wedekind's Lulu tells of a young woman who goes from love to love, taking herself out of the streets where she began as a flower seller, making herself into a high society wife, and ultimately going back into the streets again. Wedekind's heroine journeys from Berlin to Paris to Jack the Ripper's London, to meet her fate in this "sex tragedy." The audience must decide if Lulu is a lethal love-goddess who destroys men who want her or a sexually vital woman who falls prey to heartless men.

Cast:
Lulu.......................................Anna Calder-Marshall
Ludwig Schon, a newspaper tycoon..................Derek Godfrey
Alwa Schon, his son....................................John Rye
Schwarz, a painter.............................Peter Woodthorpe
Schigolch, a tramp....................................Joe Melia
Countess Geschwitz...................................Dilys Laye
Rodrigo 'The Strongest Man in the World'.......Francis de Wolff
Casti-Piani.........................................Hugh Burden
Goll..............................................Malcolm Hayes
Ringmaster.......................................Stephen Thorne
Escherich, a reporter.............................Nigel Lambert
Prince Escerny......................................David Ryall
Alfred Hugenburg, a schoolboy......................Sion Probert
Ferdinand, the butler.............................Kerry Francis
Jack the Ripper................................Peter Woodthorpe
Bob...................................................John Bull
Kunga Pobi..........................................Paul Gaymon
Hunidei..........................................David Ericsson
Dr. Helti........................................Michael Deacon
and the voices of Liane Aukin, Carole Boyd, Kate Colridge, Emily Richard and Hector Ross.

Notes by 'S-J'; thank you - ND

Rudkin's Dream....1973
Dir. Martin Esslin. An English businessman is tortured by a recurrent dream, in which he is in a Soviet prison in the thirties.


ANDROMACHE ....1972
03/07/1972: With Sheila Allen, Freda Dowie, Marius Goring, Alec McCowen. This, one of the greatest works of the French classical theatre, tells the story of Hector's widow Andromache who was brought as a slave to his capital city by Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, who fell in love with her.

Orestes, Prince of Argos Alec McCowen
Pylades, his friend John Westbrook
Pyrrhus, King of Epirus Marius Goring
Phoenix, Achilles' old tutor, Pyrrhus' adviser - Ralph Truman
Andromache Sheila Allen
Hermione, Princess of Sparta, betrothed to Pyrrhus - Freda Dowie
Cleone, Hermione's friend Pauline Wynn
Cephisa, Andromache's friend Betty Hardy
Producer- Martin Esslin.
The action takes place at Buthrotum capital of Epirus, some time after the Trojan War.

The Death Of Anton Webern....1971
3 Oct 71. A Counterpoint of voices. By James Schevill. With music by Anton Webern and Humphrey Searle. Producer Martin Esslin. More details on 1971 page.


The Generalís Dog....1971
By Heinar Kipphardt translated from the German and
adapted for radio by Michael Bullock.

With Marius Goring, Kenneth Griffith, William Fox and
Anthony Jacobs.

Heinar Kipphardt (born 1922) is one of Germany's leading
younger playwrights. The General's Dog, first performed in
1962, is a witty attempt to illuminate the problem of war guilt
through the exploration of a minor and basically ludicrous
incident.

Hill Director of Prosecutions-Hector Ross
Rampf, Author, formerly a General commanding a division on the Eastern front-William Fox
Proffessor Schweiggis, Historian: Anthony Jacobs
Graubunder, Defence Counsel -John Dearth
Dr. Fillisch, Public Prosecutor- Preston Lockwood
Capt. Vorderwuhlbeck, General Rampf's Adjutant -John Baddeley
Schievland, former Divisional Chaplain -Austin Trevor
Pfeiffer, proprietor of a lending library, formerly a private in General Rampf's Division - Marius Goring
Cpl Czymek-Kenneth Griffith
Schlindler -Geoffrey Mathews
Partisan Franz -Timothy Harley
An Infantry Captain -Duncan McIntyre
Lt. Faber -Michael Deacon
Paschke -Gordon Faith
Col. Fahizogen -John Westbrook
Produced by Martin Esslin




25/12/71 My Father's Mantle
By Heddy E Rossi adapted by Margaret Etall.
Maxine Audley, Austin Trevor & Frederick Treves

The fate of Europe might have been different if the Emperor Frederick of Germany, who succeeded to the throne in 1888 had lived. He was an enlightened and liberal man and would certainly have prevented the rivalry with Great Britain which launched his son William II on the road to World War 1.

Narrator Godfrey Kenton, Fritz (Crown prince Frederick, Later Emperor Frederic III Of Germany) Austin Trevor, Vicky(lCrown princess Victoria, later Empress Victoria) Maxine Audley, Princess Moretta of Prussia Patricia Gallimore, Sandro(Prince Alexander of Battenberg) Gabriel Woolf, Baron Kaminsky Garrard Green Countess Rattern Kathleen Helme, Willy(Prince William of Prussiia , later Emperor William II) Frederick Treves, Proffessor Wegener John Gabriel, Proffessor Schroder Charles Simon, His Excellency James Thomason, Proffessor Bergmann Hector Ross, Dr. Mackenzie Duncan McIntyre, Eulenberg Clifford Norgate, Kiddern Wilfred Carter, Queen Victoria Margot Boyd, Producer Martin Esslin.


Above plays known to exist in vrpcc collections.

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