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Radio Plays 2008



FORTY-THREE LETTERS....2009
30 Dec 08. By Rony Robinson. A middle-aged man with a teenage daughter receives a bundle of letters from 43 women. They have answered an advert which he definitely didn't place. 45m.

TWO PLAYS ABOUT P.G.WODEHOUSE....2008
Two excellent biographical dramas:

"Wodehouse in Hollywood," broadcast on 15 Dec and "How to Be an Internee with No Previous Experience," broadcast on 16 Dec.

Edited comment from BBC Messageboard: ...........Tim Mcinnerny is absolutely superb in his portrayal of the great English comic novelist and Alex Jennings' re-creation of Malcolm Muggeridge is very convincing too.

It's good to listen and be reassured that the BBC is still capable of giving us quality productions like these.


and another person commented (again, edited for clarity)

"The Empire's Performing Flea" was how PG Wodehouse was described in this afternoon's play by Colin Schindler, which seemed like a fair description to me, but I have never been a Wodehouse fan. An interesting piece it was, with Wodehouse being played for the second time this week by Tim McInnerny.

I don't think Wodehouse intentionally set out to assist the Germans in WWII. The indications are that he was probably as unworldly as Bertie Wooster. However, comparison was drawn in the play between him and William Joyce, and a suggestion made that Joyce was innocent. My understanding is that Joyce, although American born, was a British passport holder at the time of his more serious treasons and therefore was rightfully executed.

    The producer (Peter Leslie Wild) responded as follows:

    "Thank for your comments. Could I just answer a couple of factual points. The play does not suggest that William Joyce was innocent - he was quite clearly guilty. His case is mentioned in the play to show just how high the stakes are for Wodehouse. And Sean O'Casey described Wodehouse as "English Literature's Performing Flea" in a letter to the press which is quoted very near the beginning of the play."

      Broadcast info:

      Play 1: By Tony Staveacre, combining Wodehouse's writings with fictional scenes. With Tim McInnerney, Fenella Woolgar, Fiona Clarke, Rowe David McClelland, Declan Wilson, Paul Ryder. Producer Stefan Escreet.

      Play 2: By Colin Schindler. The action centres on the controversy surrounding Wodehouse when he made broadcasts from a German internment camp during the war. One of his interrogators was Malcolm Muggeridge. The other was Major E.J.P.Cussen, who later became a High Court judge. Cast: Tim McInnerney, Alex Jennings, Anton Lesser, Stephen Critchlow, Gunnar Cauthary. Producer Peter Leslie Wild.
There is an excellent essay by George Orwell entitled "In Defence of P.G.Wodehouse"; I don't have my copy to hand, but it gives a perceptive and thoughtful discussion of the issues involved, and concludes that the Germans' coup in persuading Wodehouse to broadcast wasn't such a good idea as they thought. If you're interested, a Google search will probably find it.


PILGRIM....2008
26 Nov, weekly. A unusual fantasy, in four episodes. William Palmer, also known as Pilgrim, is cursed in 1185 for denying the existence of realms other than the human world. He is cursed with eternal life, and has to walk between the lands of men and magic forever.

This is a little like a cross between 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Dracula'; the plays conjure up powerful images, and the plots are exciting.

Cast: Paul Hilton, Jamie Foreman, Paul Rider, Noma Dumezweni, Janice Acquah, Lloyd Thomas, Inam Mirza, Chris Pavlo, Stephen Critchlow, Agnes Bateman. Producer Marc Beeby.

comment from the bbc messageboard, edited for anonymity:............
    I love this, it reminds me of Alan Garner's stories, where everyday reality is spliced, and spiced, with the magic otherworld. The drama of history repeats itself in the present, and ancient superstitions are a metaphor for our ever-present fears and dreams. A powerful and fascinating drama with great emotional depth. It succeeds in being poetic and convincing at the same time. - ......."h".

    The music for episode of 'Pilgrim' ep. 3 was a track called The Lost Sheep from an album called 'Felefeber', Norwegian Fiddle Fantasia, played by Annbjorg Lien.



THE TWENTY MILE HALL OF FAME....2008
18 Nov 08. By Richard Cameron. Three men in Doncaster, which used to be a mining town, decide to set up a mobile Hall of Fame to inspire kids to make the most of their lives. Stars Lee Ingleby, Steve Garti, Stephen Critchlow,Christian Weaver. Producer Pauline Harris; also involves children from class 8 and class 9 of Waverley Primary School, Doncaster.


TAMBURLAINE - SHADOW OF GOD ....2008
By John Fletcher; 16 Nov 08, Sunday Play, R3, 90m.

Note from John Fletcher:.........this play about Tamburlaine, the world’s greatest mass murderer after Genghis Khan, dwells upon his butchery but also his exquisite aesthetic and intellectual tastes – as he ransacks the world to build his beloved Samarkhand.

Based on historical fact, the play deals with Tamburlaine's genuine intellectual and aesthetic engagement with Ibn Khaldun, the father of modern history, sociology, and economics, and Hafez, the great Persian poet and Sufi mystic.

At a time in the contemporary world of great social, economic, and political instability and fear, this play fiercely debates the reasons why societies collapse, and what qualities and belief systems and circumstances are needed to build them up again and for them then to endure.


More about this play on John Fletcher's page.


THE GOOD SOLDIER SVEJK....2008
Nov 2008; dramatised by Christopher Reason in two 60-minute episodes. This is a very competent version of Hasek's anti-war rant, as voiced by the Good Soldier Svejk. It's much shorter than the version with Richard Griffiths which went out in 1981, so a lot of material is omitted, but it still has the flavour of the original. Stars Sam Kelly, Adrian Lukis, Fiona Clark, Mark Chatterton, Melissa Jane Sinden, James Quinn. Producer Gary Brown.
    Here in Hasek's tale, with all its blasphemy, treason and bawdiness, we can follow the progress of Svejk, the only loyal Czech in the Austrian army of 1914. Enmeshed in red tape, chivvied by police, doctors, clergy and officers, the good soldier, once discharged as an idiot, ploughs his patient furrow towards the crowing moment when he is captured by his own troops. (summary of a note from the Penguin edition of the novel, 1980)

      note from the bbc messageboard: ...."So much of the original dialogue was ignored, especially some of the wonderful dialogue between Svejk & Otto Katz & his creditors. Maybe I'm asking too much, but I'd have loved 4 or 5 episodes instead of 2 with the original dialogue being brought out more. That said, the acting was absolutely marvellous & the Svejk & Katz characters were just right."


There are two more BBC productions of 'Svejk' in existence - one from the mid 80s with Richard Griffiths, and another from the sixties.


OPERATION CHARLIE....2008
By Rhys Lloyd. 14 Nov 08. Based on true events. When we watched the investiture of Prince Charles back in 1969, there was a KGB plot to disrupt the ceremony. This forms the basis of the play. A Welsh professor is caught up in the intrigue. Stars Robert Blythe, Doug Ballard, Dylan Wilkins. Producer Paul Dodgson.


QUARTET....2008
By Donna Franceschild. 13 Nov 08. A musician who was once on the brink of fame finds himself a few years later in a dead end job living in the middle of nowhere. But one by one, musicians start to appear. A comedy starring Gerry Mulgrew, Callum Cuthbertson, Stephen McCole and Katy Murphy. Produced by Kirsty Williams.


KEEP YOUR PANTHEON....2008
By David Mamet. 12 Nov 08. A welcome repeat of a humorous play about ancient Rome. An actor manager and his troupe are short of work, and on the point of being thrown out of their lodgings when news is brought that a rich man wants them to perform for him that very evening.But instead of it being the answer to their prayers, this is where their problems really begin. Stars Martin Jarvis as Strabo, the troupe's leader, with Darren Richardson, Morgan Shephard, Kenneth Danziger, Lloyd Owen, Simon Templeman, Christopher Neame, Alan Shearman, Matthew Wolf; producer Rosalind Ayres.


THE SINGER....2008
By Lizzie Nunnery, 11 Nov 08. Kirsten has a wonderful voice, but she's never sung in public. Martin, an able musician who has never made the big break, is determined to change all that. With Mark Womack, Emma Cunliffe, Liz Carter. Producer Mark Rickards.


VON RIBBENTROP'S WATCH....2008
8 Nov 08; Saturday play by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran. A highly entertaining play about a snobbish wine merchant with a failing business who finds that his watch, inherited from his father, once belonged to a world famous Nazi. He's torn between selling it and perhaps saving his business, or keeping it and watching his business disappear. (Entrepreneurs will suggest a third option: turning the business around - but that's not what the play is about)

Miriam Margolyes plays Lila, the Jewish matriarch from hell, and Allan Corduner is Gerald, the man with the watch. There is a strong supporting cast, including Sophie Winkelman, Nicholas Goodeson, Harriet Walter and Jonathan Tafler. This was one of the best plays of the year. The producer was Sally Avens.


BRIEF LIVES....2008
3 Nov 08; weekly, four episodes. By Tom Fry and Sharon Kelly. Interesting drama about a small legal practice in Manchester, produced by Gary Brown. A bit like the Henry Cecil legal plays, but updated for the 00s. Producer Gary Brown.

SILENT NIGHTS....2008
By David Nobbs: R4, 1415, 22 Sep 08.
.....Moira Petty, in "The Stage" (Oct 08) , said: 'Just as TV is remaking The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, which caught the zeitgeist 30 years ago, its creator...... David Nobbs, has come up with another piece which does the same for our times.' Silent Nights' starred Jonathan Coy as a man driven to excessive means to achieve silence in a noisy, rage-prone world. ....Cast: Jonathan Coy, Doon Mackichan, Stephen Critchlow, Helen Longworth, John Rowe, Dan Starkey. Producer Peter Kavanagh.

H.M.S. SURPRISE....2008
8,9,10 Oct 08. A serial - three afternoon plays broadcast on successive days. From Patrick O'Brien's novel, adapted for radio by Roger Danes. 8,9,10 Oct 08. Naval battles, political intrigue and romantic rivalry on the high seas. Set in 1804-5. Captain Jack Aubrey and his super-intelligent sidekick Dr. Stephen Maturin engage the Spanish at sea and the French on land. David Robb as Aubrey, Richard Dillane as Maturin. Other cast members: Jon Glover, David Timson, Struan Roger, Liz Sutherland, David Holt, Dan Starkey, Lesley Nicol, Sarah Danes. Produced by Bruce Young.


A TOKYO MURDER....2008
This is a thriller in three parts By John Dryden and Miriam Smith about the disappearance in Japan of a young British teacher. The production was recorded in Tokyo. I am grateful to John Dryden who supplied full production details which I've shown, minus spoilers, on a separate page, along with photographs (courtesy of Daan Archer) of some of the recording sessions. Producer Tamsin Barber , director J.D, script editor Mike Walker. There is also a short video clip of John recording part of a scene from the play on "youtube". Click on the link below to see it. You'll need to click the back arrow afterwards to return to this page.

Watch John Dryden's unique style of recording documentary style radio dramas on location

'A Tokyo Murder" was broadcast on BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 16th - Thurs 18th September, 14.15-1500.

This trilogy was re-broadcast on R4 in late 2009, in a different (slightly more effective) sequence, with the director's approval.


PORSHIA....2008
5 9 2008 By Ed Harris. Thomas is a no-hope poet obsessed with Porshia; a young woman at the office. When one day he literally wakes up inside her head; he begins to experience the life of his fantasy woman from closer than he might like; including when her hunky boyfriend pays a visit. There is a particularly fruity orgasm scene, which got lots of write-ups in the papers; you have been warned - it's definitely X-certificate. Cast: Thomas ...... Robert Webb, Porshia ...... Laura Rogers, Ethan ...... Oliver J Hembrough, Louisa ...... Mina Anwar, Eva ...... Ella Kenion, Tim ...... Kieran Bew. Directed by Graham Frost.

SEPTIMUS GREABE....2008
13 Jun 08; by Mike Harris. This play is about Victorian hypocrisy; miserable do-gooders who create vices worse than the ones they try to repress. In the early 1800s, the Society for the Suppression of Vice, inspired by William Wilberforce, would stop at nothing to stamp out corruption and sin. The play invents a character to represent such 'forces for good': Septimus Greabe, whose target is prostitues, drunks, lechers, and others down on their luck. Stars David Troughton, Will Keen, Kellie Shirley, Paul Jesson, Nigel Cooke, Perdita Avery. Producer Clive Brill.

THE INCOMPARABLE WITNESS....2008

By Nicola McAuliffe, afternoon play 12 Jun 08; a drama about Sir Bernard Spilsbury, 'the father of modern forensics'. Cast: Edith (Narrator) ... Joanna David, Bernard Spilsbury ... Timothy Watson, Edith (1900-1910) ... Honeysuckle Weeks, Willcox ... Dan Starkey, Lord Chief Justice ... John Rowe, Dr Pepper/Muir ... Sam Dale, Turnbull ... Stephen Critchlow, Tobin ... Chris Pavlo, George ... Nyasha Hatendi, Gertie ... Helen Longworth; producer Sasha Yevtushenko.

    Background information:

    Spilsbury was born in Leamington in 1877. He was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he took a BA in natural science in 1899. He then studied at St Mary's Hospital in London, specialising in the then-new science of forensic pathology.

    The case that brought Spilsbury to prominence was that of Dr. Crippen in 1910, where he also gave forensic evidence in the trial about the likely identity of the human remains found in Crippen's house. Spilsbury concluded that a scar on a small piece of skin from the remains pointed to Mrs Crippen as the victim.

    During his career Spilsbury performed thousands of autopsies, not only for murder victims but also of executed criminals.

    He was first to recognize the signs of death by rapid drowning, the secrets held in blood spatters, and he devised the best toxicological technique for revealing arsenic poisoning. Over the course of his career investigating English crimes, Spilsbury performed 25,000 autopsies and was an almost daily presence in newspapers. He was knighted in 1923.

    Unfortunately for future forensic specialists, Spilsbury left few written records.

    Spilsbury had one daughter and three sons with his wife Caroline Horton. Two of his sons died during the Second World War, one from ill-health and one during the Blitz.

    The death of his children was a blow from which he never fully recovered. He committed suicide in December, 1947, in his laboratory at University College, London.


DROPPING BOMBS....2008
By Paul Cotter. Play about an ex-RAF pilot who goes to Germany sixty years after the war to apologise for dropping his bombs.But there is no politically-correct nonsense and no 'message'. It's pure comedy, and the humour is in the interplay between the old man, terminally stubborn and selfish, his long-suffering wife, and his young in-laws, the unpaid chauffeurs. Stars Nigel Anthony, Ivan Kaye, Rosemary Leach. Producer Toby Swift.

THE VERTICAL HOUR....2008
Radio 3 broadcast David Hare's latest play, The Vertical Hour, which had its London premiere at the Royal Court at the beginning of this year, starring Indira Varma as an idealistic Yale politics professor visiting her English boyfriend's cantankerous father, played by Anton Lesser. Nadia is an American war reporter-turned-academic. She lives a settled life with her English boyfriend, but when she visits his home and meets his father for the first time, her political opinions and her relationship come under great strain.

The play, which analyses British and American attitudes to the war in Iraq, premiered on Broadway in 2006 before completing a successful run at the Royal Court earlier this year.

25 May 08; cast: Joseph Kloska, Anton Lesser, Wunmi Mosaku, Tom Riley, Indira Varma. Music composed by Nick Powell. (Catherine Bailey Productions).

A WEDDING IN KRAKOW....2008
By Ewa Banaszkiewicz. May 08. Writers through the ages have said that being true to yourself gives the best chance of being happy. The subject of this play, a Polish worker living in Britain as a handyman, has reached middle age without learning this rather obvious truth. He's even told his brother living in Krakow (whom he hasn't seen for years) that he's an optician.

Then he's invited back to Poland to celebrate his daughter's wedding.
    This play attracted lots of comments on the BBC messageboard. Not all of them were about the drama; some listeners commented on three plays out of five that week being about foreigners or foreign countries, and one listener suggested that a better place to air these might be the World Service, not Radio 4.
Returning to the play itself, I found the central character unattractive and self-regarding, and wondered how any woman could possibly put up with him.

A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME....2008
Six 55m episodes, beginning 6 Apr 08. Dramatisation by Michael Butt. (previous dramatisation, produced by Graham Gauld 1979-1982, was in 26 episodes spread over four years and had a cast of about 250.) Narrated by Corin Redgrave. I haven't heard the Gauld version, but the first episode of this new production was entertaining and held my attention.

GOLDFISH GIRL....2008
2 Apr 08. By Peter Soutar, afternoon play. Frightening evocation of what memory loss can do. Ally and Joe were married; she cannot remember him. She asks who her friends are, and why they never visit; he says 'they do'. Two-hander with Juliet Stevenson and Alex Jennings. There is an earlier play on the same topic: "Deficits", by Derek Lister. (q.v.)

CYRANO DE BEGERAC....2008
Sun 23 Mar 08; R3. Welcome repeat of the 1998 broadcast. Kenneth Branagh plays Edmond Rostand's romantic, poet, soldier, here and gentleman. For those who don't know the story, he has one great physical flaw - the size of his nose. Refer to it and a fight will start. In the words of Gillian Reynolds, look at it and it becomes all you see, not the noble nature behind it. It means his love for the beautiful Roxane is doomed, but he puts his devotion into helping the handsome Christian de Neuvillette to pusue her. The problem is that Christian is terribly dim. This is Anthony Burgess's translation; the whole thing is in verse, and it's wonderful. It flows just like speech, and Burgess has packed it with witty asides. Cast: Jodhi May as Roxane and Tom Hiddlestone as Christian. Producer David Timson, and the story is adapted by John Tydeman.


MR. STANDFAST....2008
Mar 08; classic serial in two 55m episodes. Adapted for radio by Bert Coules, with David Robb as Richard Hannay and Clive Merrison as Sir Walter. Producer Bruce Young.

The adaptation attracted favourable comment on the BBC messageboard; for example, from "j"...(which I've summarised and edited)
    Spiffing! Hannay once more fighting single-handed against the Fritzies, but now the moral rot in Britain seems to be caused by the Conchies instead of the dastardly Jews....

    I believe he wrote propaganda in WWI, and this can be heard in the scripts. All the 'good sorts' who are invalided out can't wait to get back to the Front to give the Hun 'what for'.

    Totally politically incorrect by today's standards; rampant stereotyping, oozing gung-ho, but such good fun!

Bert tells us that there's one more Hannay to be done - "The Island of Sheep". Let's hope he gets the job.


BLINDED BY THE SUN....2008
By Stephen Poliakoff. 90m Saturday Play. 8 Mar 08. "Some of his favourite themes are here - an institution under threat, the imperfection of recollection, a cabal of characters locked in against a demon svengali-esque character" (a quote from the BBC drama messageboard). It caught very acutely the claustrophobic mentality of some parts of the academic world. The science was a bit implausible, but Poliakoff isn't a scientist. Nevertheless it was a well-paced play, and it reminded me of the 'cold fusion' episode of a couples of decades ago, when no-one was quite sure whether or not we were on the brink of controllable nuclear fusion. For the radio 4 blurb, see the Bob Thirsk page for 2008.


WHEN GREED BECOMES FEAR....2008
Mar 08. By Dave Britton. A response, in drama, to the crisis affecting Northern Rock, and - probably - having an effect on all of us. Dave Britton: "When Greed Turns to Fear was the result of an unusual rapid-response process in which the script was begun relatively close to the broadcast date, and recorded in the week before it went to air. I found this an exciting way to work, especially since it is something radio can do more quicky and efficiently than any other dramatic medium.
    Like most writers, I'm also fascinated by timeless themes such as love, family dynamics and sacrifice. Weaving the immediate and the timeles together under the pressure of a short deadline was an exciting challenge. What drama does well is to give a human face to something which might otherwise seem remote, and that's what we tried to achieve.

    Not surprisingly, some people prefer one side of the fact/fiction spectrum, some the other. One national newspaper commented that the play's account of the sub-prime crisis was probably easier to comprehend than some business journalism, while others were more interested in its dramatic style, which they described as pacey and feisty. " (summarised comments from the BBC drama messageboard, posted by DB)

    Gillian Reynolds in the Telegraph: 'Maybe there'll be a sequel: what happens when governments buy up banks'!"

    ......other summarised comments from the messageboard ........ cliches in the plot but it got over a lot of explanation about the sub-prime property collapse which now seems to be ensnaring the entire world economy. Not too much heavy breathing, either.

    .......very good the BBC can turn round something as up-to-date as this in such a short time.

SPELLBOUND..2008
Saturday Play, 16 Feb 08. Amanda Dalton's adaptation of Francis Beeding's murder mystery The House of Dr Edwardes, upon which Hitchcock's film Spellbound (scripted by by Angus MacPhail and Ben Hecht) was based. Constance Sedgewick, a newly qualified psychiatrist, and Doctor Murchison, author of several books on psychiatry, arrive at Landry House in Yorkshire. But Murchison is soon suspected of being an imposter. Constance ...... Hattie Morahan, John ..... Benedict Cumberbatch, Nurse Deeling .... Alexandra Mathie, Dr Edwardes .... David Fleeshman, Geoffrey ...... Gerard Fletcher, Ciceley ...... Christine Cox. Directed by Susan Roberts. Note...."Francis Beeding" was a nom de plume adopted by Hilary Saint George Saunders and John Palmer.


Cold Blood....2008
BBC7 commission, Feb 08. Set in 2015, Nathaniel Tuft, winter commander of an Antarctic research base, is about face his worst fears as nature and science clash. A futuristic sci-fi horror tale, written by Simon Bovey, with Ndidi Del Fatti, Helen Longworth, Stuart McLoughlin, Tom Mannion and Tim McMullan.

WHO AM I THIS TIME?....2008
By Kurt Vonnegut, 21 Jan 08. Lovely afternoon play about an amateur dramatics group where the leading man doesn't realise the passion he evokes in a girl who's new to the town. Dramatised by Philip Goulding, with Lou Hirsch, Kerry Shale, Joanne Froggatt and Maureen Lipman. Producer Justine Potter.

FLYING DOWN TO GREENOCK....2008
21 Jan 08; Stanley Baxter Playhouse series. A Glaswegian centenarian remembers his early life and the Blitz as he goes in an aeroplane for the first time. With Stanley Baxter and Patricia Kerrigan. Producer Marilyn Imrie.


PROJECT RAPHAEL....2008
By Jenny Stevens; 14 Jan 08, commissioned for bbc7 and repeated a couple of times on the same station. A very odd and creepy serial involving MI7 agents, both alive and beyond the grave ... in which a psychic is recruited to communicate with a dead special agent. A preposterous plot, but a good buildup throughout the three episodes, and if you can suspend your disbelief it's an enjoyable adventure. There's a good twist at the end, too. 3 x 30m. With Deborah McAndrew, Aneirin Hughes, Dan Hagley and Emily Chennery; produced in Birmingham by Peter Leslie Wild.

MIKE AND MURIEL ARE GETTING MARRIED....2008
14 Jan 08. Andy and Rebecca decide that their respective best mates, Mike and Muriel, are not suited. The problem is that they are getting married. In spite of a disastrous blind date, a tentative friendship develops between Andy and Rebecca, which threatens, in spite of their best efforts, to evolve into something more.

Andy ...... Billy Boyd
Rebecca ...... Gabriel Quigley
Mike ...... Steven Cartwright
Liza/Julie ...... Claire Knight
Oz ...... Grant O'Rourke
Director Gaynor Macfarlane.

UNDONE....2008
This has been one of our most popular new commissions for the 7th Dimension.  So I am delighted that we are able to commission a second series of Ben Moor's sci-fi comedy about London's parallel city. Edna Turner tries to make sense of reality without Undone and the missing Tankerton. Stars Ben Moor, Alex Tregear, Duncan Wisbey, Kevin Eldon, Sophie Duval. Directed by Colin Anderson. (BBC7 blurb, Jan 08)

.....Edna interrogates the prince, takes on the public information porn industry and learns more about her own powers. Starring Ben Moor, with Alex Tregear, Duncan Wisbey, Kevin Eldon and Sophie Duval. BBC7 newsletter, Feb 08

compiled by Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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