Radio Plays, 2009

By Willy Russell. Boxing Day 2009. 90m. New radio play (by Russell?) based on 1980 drama about a hairdresser who hungers for an education. Bill Nighy & Laura Dos Santos.

Russell's play has plenty to say about the impact that qualifications can have on our potential as human beings, and about the influence the class system has over our lives. ..... David Brown, Radio Times.

THE LOOP....2009
18 Nov 09. By Nick Perry. This little gem of a play - possibly the best of the year -was described on BBC messageboard as 'faultless'. I've heard a lot of plays over the years, but it took my breath away. A guy finds himself on the telephone talking to someone in America but ... it gradually transpires that over there, it's fifty years earlier. It sets in motion a whole train of events. Directed by Toby Swift, with a perfect cast: Ivan Kaye, Edward Hogg, Peter Marinker, Emerald O'Hanrahan, Rhys Jennings, Melissa Advani. I hope this one is entered for the Imison Award - it would qualify, because it's Nick Perry's first radio play.

4 x 30 Minute Episodes neginning 16 Nov 09, weekly. BBC blurb: Mark Maier's comedy is more an emotional roller coaster, less an intercity train journey. For starters, most of the staff can't square up to the job. They're suffering the torments of unrequited love - for each other... Ticket-inspector Robin's marriage has fallen apart and, in a horribly doomed last-ditch scramble, he's staking all on Nadine, the restaurant-car chef who is scarcely aware Robin exists. Nadine is besotted with rogue-ish buffet-car manager Carl, who is completely in love with himself. Robin, in turn, ignores the forlorn flirtations from dippy trolley-attendant Carol. Cast: Robin ...... Jeremy Swift, Nadine ...... Alex Kelly, Peter ...... Malcolm Tierney, Carol ...... Tessa Nicholson, Carl ...... Nicholas Boulton, Diana ...... Melissa Advani, Linda ...... Kate Layden, Keith ...... Stephen Hogan. Other parts played by Philip Fox and Joseph Cohen-Cole.

28 Sep 09. Alan Stafford's play about the life of Gerard Hoffnung, the well-known musical cartoonist and humorist, raconteur, tuba player, 'One Minute Please' participant and organiser of three of the most extraordinary concerts ever to take place at the Royal Festival Hall. Matt Lucas as Hoffnung, with Gina McKee, Stephen Boswell, Nicholas Jones, Jon Glover, Hugh Bonneville, Felicity Montague, and a guest appearance by Annetta Hoffnung. The play marks the 50th anniversary of Hoffnung's death. Producer Adam Bromley; director Lissa Evans.

    Adam Bromley adds:

    Matt Lucas peforms all the Hoffnung you hear, including the famous bricklayer routine. We've used the original archive for timing and the laughter, but it's Matt's voice.

    We recorded it line by line, using the original as reference; I have to say that in the studio, on high quality monitor speakers, it was almost impossible to differentiate Matt from Hoffnung. Uncanny. (I can second this - I thought the 'bricklayer' material was taken from an old Hoffnung recording - Ed)

    We put some selective EQ and processing on voice on the Bricklayer material to make it sit with the texture of the laughter and atmos from the archive recording. This makes it feel different to the rest of the show.

    The real Annetta Hoffnung appeared at the very end of the play, doing the closing speech. Alan Stafford, the writer, met with her many times and we had her support throughout the production.

    She was with us in studio for a morning and she had a lovely time. Over lunch, she told us more about Hoffnung and it was heartbreaking to hear how young and how suddenly Gerard died. He was a true original.

1 Aug 09. Saturday play by ex-SAS soldier Andy McNab. Should be compulsory listening for all MPs. A young lad in the army, and his experiences in Afghanistan. A realistic and uncompromising portrayal of army life. With Russell Tovey, Damian Lynch, Stephen Hogan, Lloyd Thomas, Paul Ryder, Caroline Guthrie, Janice Aqua, Matt Addiss. Producer Verney Samuel.

Comedy drama by Christopher William Hill, R4 30 Jul 09, afternoon play. A novelist finds that his French translator has reworked his latest spy novel as his autobiography. Will he own up or not? After all, spies generally get the pretty girls. Cast: Patrick Bradyn ...... Bill Nighy, Hannah Olrod ...... Penelope Wilton, Delphine Barbret ...... Rachel Atkins, Ken ...... Geoffrey Whitehead, Lottie ...... Claudia Elmhirst, Barlow ...... Adrian Scarborough. Original music by Lucinda Mason Brown; produced by Gordon House. Production company: Goldhawk Essential for radio 4.
    This was a good comedy with an excellent cast. It attracted some interesting comments on the BBC messageboard. I'm editing and reproducing some of them below:

    m.f.: .....I suspect the writer knew who was going to play the parts. It just felt right.

    l.r.m.:...........Loved it, suppose the resolution was that he goes for the money and fame plus the wishes of the woman who loves him and never mind the consequences or indeed the truth.

    More information on Gordon House's page.

15 Jul 09. Based on an extract from Quintin Hogg's diaries. In 1964 a gang of students at Aberdeen University had attempted to kidnap the Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who had temporarily taken over the leadership of the Conservative party after the ill-health of Harold MacMillian. This is a dramatic reconstruction by Martin Jameson of what might have happened. The cast: Tim McInnerney as Sir Alec, Chris Starkie, Benjamin Askew, Michelle Duncan, Grainne Dromgoole, Annabelle Dowler, David Hargreaves. Producer Jeremy Mortimer.
    The play was well received, as the following edited message from the BBC messageboard shows: ........A beautiful play. I know little of the politics of the era, but it evoked great sympathy for Sir Alec D-H. I must learn more about recent politics (I was in my teens in the sixties). A recent play addressed the fall of the Callaghan government in a very human way*.

*the play 'How are you feeling, Alf?' (see below)

1,2,3 Jul 09, afternoon plays. Here were three episodes written for radio of a popular TV science fiction series. I don't have a TV so am not familiar with its plotlines or characters. As radio drama it wasn't to my taste, but Gillian Reynolds of The Daily Telegraph liked it, as did many others writing to the BBC messageboard. Each to his own, I suppose, though I'm going to listen to the recordings again. The titles were: Asylum, Golden Age and The Dead Line. John Barrowman played Captain Jack Harkness.

THE HOST....2009
Another sequel to Journey into Space, created by Charles Chilton; written by Julian Simpson, broadcast 27 Jun 09.

    Gillian Reynolds (Daily Telegraph) commented on Charles Chilton's hugely industrious and successful BBC career, encompassing features, Variety, Westerns and science fiction. David Jacobs plays "The Host" in this very effective one-hour play. Toby Stephens played Jet Morgan (better casting, perhaps, than "Frozen in Time") and Charles Chilton himself (93 in Jun 09) read the closing credits. David Chilton, Charles' son, was responsible for sound design and music, and the producer was Nick Russell-Pavier of Goldhawk Productions. The play was reviewed by Paul Donovan for the Sunday Times, 21 Jun 09; the article is online. (date is correct; reviewers get preview discs)

Roger Howe of VRPCC has interviewed Charles Chilton, and his interesting account is shown on the radio articles page.

By Edson Burton. A young man converts to Islam, with disruptive effects on his family. The play explores the issues sensitively and intelligently. 24 Jun 09.

POWER PLAY....2009
22-23 Jun 09, afternoon play. The fascinating story of the collapse of ENRON, the biggest power company in the world. Done as a drama-documentary. Producer Sarah Davies. By Margaret Heffernan.
    Seven years ago one of America's apparently most successful companies collapsed spectacularly amongst accusations of insider trading and corporate greed. The play dramatises the fall of Enron, illustrating some of the ruthless ethics and language of the trading floor and using compelling archive material from the Senate Committee Hearings into the financial scandal.

    Senator Byron Dorgan, 18 Dec 2001: Hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation. .............'The subject of the hearing today is the meltdown and bankrupcy of the Enron Corporation in just several months. This is not your average business failure. This is a tragedy for many including workers and investors who it appears to me have been cheated out of billions of dollars. It's about an energy company which morphed itself into a trading company involved in hedge funds and derivatives. It took on substantial risk, created secret off-the-books partnerships, and in effect, cooked the books under the nose of their accountants and investors. More than sixty billion dollars in value has been lost in months, some of those at the top of the pyramid got rich, those at the bottom lost everything. It appears to me to be a combination of incompetence, greed, speculation with investors' money, and perhaps some criminal behaviour'.

      The play was discussed on the BBC messageboard, where the reviews were favourable. Margaret Heffernan contributed a few remarks:

      .............When I was researching it, I was horrified by how exactly the collapse of Enron presaged everything that happened with the banks. Unfortunately, I think that means that we learned nothing then and I rather wonder whether we've learned anything now. My personal belief is that the clue to these rotten companies isn't the accounting detail but the culture.

      One listener suggested that a drama-doc. approach might have been better. MH answered as follows:

      Sorry you found it hard to follow; we tried SO hard to streamline it! I'm not sure a documentary approach would work. Two reasons: first, it gets really complicated and abstract and second, in the end, I think the story is about more than the facts. It is about what happens to people - perfectly nice, normal people - when they work in an environment like this. That seems to me to be the long lasting story that's important: not the accounting detail but the personal corruption of people like you and me.

Cast: Andrea LeBlanc, Jin Suh, Hilario Saavedra, John Fleck, Mary Lou Rosato.

Political play about the last days of the Callaghan government and the beginning of the Labour Party's years in the wilderness under the shadow of Mrs. Thatcher. The main character in the play is 'Alf', an elderly MP in poor health who is almost too ill to attend the House for crucial votes. With Geraldine McEwen, Julia Ford, Laura Mowat, Robert Lonsdale, Philip Jackson, Janice Aqua, Jonathan Tafler. Producer Claire Grove. Afternoon play, 45m.

Hyde Park-on-Hudson....2009
A play by Richard Nelson, blending history and conjecture. R3, 7 Jun 09, 8pm.

No reigning British monarch had ever been to the United States before George VI's visit in 1939, just on the cusp of a new world war. History was in the making when the King and Queen arrived at President Roosevelt's upstate New York home, with a promise of politics, a picnic and hot dogs. But the private life of the President provided a whole new dimension to an epochal moment, at least in the memory of his lover.

Older Daisy, a woman in her 90s ...... Barbara Jefford
Daisy, her younger self ...... Emma Fielding
Franklin Delano Roosevelt ...... Tim Pigott-Smith
Missy, his secretary ...... Nancy Crane
Eleanor, his wife ...... Julia Swift
Mother, his mother ...... Sylvia Syms
Tommy Qualters, his bodyguard ...... John Chancer
Bertie ...... Corin Redgrave
Elizabeth ...... Kika Markham
Cameron ...... Jamie Newall
Directed by Ned Chaillet.

    ...........Gillian Reynolds (Daily Telegraph) described this play as being based on Richard Nelson's discovery of some letters and diaries of Daisy Suckley to her distant cousin, the American President. It's the inside story of the royals' visit in 1093, just before WW2. King George and Queen Elizabeth accepted an invitation to visit the President's family home. Ned Chaillet, who also directed the 'J. Edgar Hoover' plays a few years ago, produced and directed.

By Julian Gough, 15 May 09. Very original comedy which tells us how the stock market bubble burst. It all starts when a goat gets run over in Somaliland. I think this originally appeared in the financial pages of one of the National papers, but it makes an excellent play. It won the BBC short story prize in 2007. With Hugh Quarshie, Stephanie Flanders, Sam O'Mahoney-Adams. Producer Di Speirs.

DOLLY (R4, 1415, 16 Apr 09), by Christopher Douglas, was a dramatisation of the D'Oliveira Affair, which made national headlines almost forty years ago. D'Oliveira, from the South African slums, had worked his way up as a club cricketer and now made a living playing for Worcestershire. He was an exciting batsman and a talented medium-paced swing bowler. His form was so good that he eventually made the England team. In the late sixties he was selected to go on a winter tour of South Africa, which was still under the rule of apartheid.

However, the South African Prime Minister, Vorster, refused to recognise the English team because D'Oliveira was a 'Cape Coloured' - a player who would not be able to sit in the same railway carriages, attend the same functions, or drink in the same bars as his white English and South African counterparts. To the MCC's credit, in the face of such overt and disgusting racism, they called off the tour, and South Africa played no more test matches for about twenty years.

Dickie Bird, the world-famous umpire, was one of the first cricketers to go and coach black children in Soweto. He has strong views on apartheid. In Dickie's words, taken from his autobiography ....when I arrived at the venue...not a soul to be seen....then...they came over the hill....ragged, patched-up pants, no shoes....very different from the magnificent facilities enjoyed by their white counterparts. Even the practice pitches in Johannesburg were out of this world, and here were these black lads with not a cricket stump, bat or ball between them, turning up to play on waste ground....

In the play, D'Oliveira was played by Jude Akuwudike, his wife by Rakie Oyola, and Peter West by the author; the producer was Roland Jacquarello.
    When this play was repeated during 2011, the ex-radio 4 blog contained an interesting discussion about the affair. One post replied to my review of the play and made some corrections. I am reproducing it here, edited for anonymity and clarity. Thank you, 'm44'.

    ..........I don't consider the MCC to have come out of this affair with any credit whatsoever. They were aware of the "overt and disgusting racism", to use your phrase, and had had been told, in no uncertain terms by SA, that any team that included Basil D'Oliveira would not be acceptable. To appease the 'sensibilities' of the racist SA government, and to ensure the tour would be allowed, the MCC concocted several implausible excuses for not selecting D'Oliveira.

    It was public opinion, and a sympathetic press, which forced the MCC selectors to change their minds. Even then their announced reasons for D'Oliveira's belated inclusion were fabrications.

4 Apr 09. By Ed Harris. Robert has left his girlfriend. He has all sorts of problems. He gets too involved with people, and too emotional. He finds a man who can remove his soul. It doesn't help him very much. With Martin Freeman as Robert, Pip Torrens as the Doctor, Clare Corbett as the cousin, and Polly Lister as the girlfriend. Producer Chris Wallis.

1 Apr 09. By Andrew Lynch. Two jobbing plasterers are called in refurbish the Public Records Office. With Johnny Vegas, Ricky Tomlinson, Timothy Bentinck (David, from 'The Archers'). Hilarious. Produced by Dirk Maggs.

DEWEY EYED....2009
Vera's husband has died, and she is finding it difficult to focus on life. Her daughter tries to get through to her using the only language they have in common - the Dewey Decimal system. They're both librarians. With Olivia Colman, Sheila Reid, Caroline Guthrie, Paul Rider. Producer Jessica Dromgoole.

11 Mar 09; by Anita Sullivan. Outstanding sci-fi play about a stranded alien. Stars Mark Heap, Paul Ritter, Maxine Peake, Susan Jameson, Ewan Bailey, Mia Soteriou. Producer Karen Rose; director Anita Sullivan. Reminded me a little of the famous short story 'Meteor' by John Wyndham.

Sat 31 Jan, "The Wire", 60m, R3. Drama about a broadcaster on a major news network who has to face a crisis on-air. I thought this Mark Lawson's best radio play so far. Gillian Reynolds wrote of it, in the Daily Telegraph: ..............it took place in a radio studio, was about the news and what lies behind it. It had the convincing ring of close observation, brimming with gossipy detail.

Tim Freeman, played by Tim McInnerney, presents a three-hour midday news magazine. He's an old hand; his yound female sidekick is making her debut. It's an ordinary day: an interview with a minister in a radio car, listeners 'phoning in and texting opinions, traffic and travel, headlines, sport.........an unexpected story breaks: some young men are holding hostages in a city bank. Shots have been heard.

We hear the producer react, and Tim's inner dialogue; Tim on-air; Tim off-air in the studio. Eoin O'Callaghan did this script proud. (For those who haven't yet heard the play I've only quoted a small part of Gillian's review, and taken out 'spoilers' - ND)

Cast details: Tim McInnerney, Lia Williams, Amy Marston, Inam Mirza, John McAndrew, Pamela Miles, Paul Panting, Michael Elwyn. Producer Eoin O'Callaghan.

By J.Horwood, C.Perkins, Al Smith and C. Thorpe. Repeat of the 2007 broadcast; Friday Play. A man wakes up in a Berlin hospital with no memory. He starts to think that this is not his real life. Producer Lu Kemp.With Tom Brooke, Liz White, Federay Holmes, Pieter Lawman, Chris Thorpe.

16 Jan 09. Sherlock Holmes; another Bert Coules original.

    Excerpt from David Brown's review, Radio Times: ....Overcrowded housing in London has murderous consequences in this latest extension to the Baker Street saga. Writer Bert Coules hangs a typical Holmesian mystery around one of the great social schisms of Victorian London - dilapidated accommodation and the unscrupulous property owners who exploited the people flocking to the metropolis....
With Clive Merrison, Andrew Sachs, Stephen Thorne. Producer Patrick Rayner.

9 Jan 09. Sherlock Holmes: a Bert Coules original story (3rd out of a series of 4 stories). Clive Merrison, Andrew Sachs, Nigel Anthony and Sion Probert. Producer Patrick Rayner. See Bert's website for details about these plays and informatiion about Clive Merrison and Andrew Sachs.

6 Jan 09. Should creationism be taught as a science in schools?
    Twenty years ago this would have been a non-question. Science is science; the study of repeatable phenomena, entirely based on evidence. Incredibly, this is now a topical issue. By the writer of 'King Street Junior', Jim Eldridge. Producer Peter Leslie Wild. Cast: Richard Katz, Anna Madeley, Robert Lister, Terrance Hardiman, Miranda Keeling.

5 Jan 09. The only play I know where a man learns to pilot a glider. Interesting. A repeat from a year or two ago, by Jonathan Davidson. 45m. Producer Tim Dee.

R3, 90m. 4 Jan 09. Another excellent play by Charlotte Jones. A play about a man whose marriage is falling apart. He has no alternative but to lose his memory. With Adam Godley, Amanda Lawrence; producer Claire Grove.

3 Jan 09. By Melissa Murray.The convoluted world of a Russian electronics expert and spy. 60m. This was the guy who invented the only musical instrument which has to be played without touching it. Producer Marc Beeby.

1 Jan 09. Short, rather effective love story. Afternoon play. 45m. By In-Sook Chappell. Producer Abigail le Fleming.

compiled by Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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