The Rescue
by Edward Sackville-West

Edward Sackville-West - The Rescue

BBC Radio 3

Broadcast: Sunday 22nd July 1973

Edward Sackville-West's best-remembered fictional work is "The Rescue: a Melodrama for Broadcasting", based on Homer's Odyssey for which Benjamin Britten produced the score. It was first performed and broadcast on the BBC over two evenings, Part 1 on Thursday 25th November 1943 and Part 2 on Friday 26th November 1943. In this performance of "The Rescue", the play receives its first stereo production.

The action focuses on the events of the two days when Odysseus returns to Ithaca, falling into two parts which were originally broadcast on consecutive evenings. In part one we are introduced to the principal characters. The island of Ithaca has fallen into the unprincipled clutches of the suitors for the hand of Odysseus' wife Penelope, lining their own pockets at the expense of the starving people. In the second part, Odysseus awakes and is disguised as an old man by the Goddess Athene. He reveals himself to his son Telemachus, and travels to his palace.

Music by Benjamin Britten played by Sinfonia of London conducted by Ray Jenkins.

With Jill Balcon [The Goddess Athene], Marius Goring [Phemius, the Poet], Leslie French [Irus, a Spy], Stephen Murray [Odysseus, Lord of Ithaca], Rachel Gurney [Penelope, his Wife], Hugh Dickson [Telemachus, their Son], George Hagan [Mentor, a Watchman], Vernon Joyner [Eurymachus, a Suitor], Haydn Jones [Halitherses, a Fisherman / A Sailor], Katherine Parr [Halitherses's Wife], Bonnie Hurren [Callidice, their Daughter], David Timson [Leodes, a Priest], Diana Bishop [Eurynome, Servant to Penelope], Wynne Clark [Euryclea, the Old Nurse of Odysseus], Robin Browne [A Coxswain], Fraser Kerr [A Sailor / Peisander, a Suitor], Will Leighton [Eumaeus, Odysseus's Swineherd and Friend], Clive Swift [Antinous, a Suitor], Peter Williams [Agelaus, a Suitor], and John Forrest [Amphinomous, a Suitor].

Mourners, Naiads, and Sirens were sung by Marian Dodd, Yvonne Newman, Veronica Lucas, and Leonie Henshilwood.

Produced by Raymond Raikes.


Information taken from the article by Lewis Foreman, published in Tempo, New Series, No. 166, (Sep., 1988), pp. 28-33, summarized by ND.

Ben Britten wrote a large amount of music for film and for radio. He composed the score for Louis MacNeice's well-known play "The Dark Tower" (1). But since Britten's death in 1975 the BBC has investigated his less well known scores including T. H. White's "The Sword in the Stone" (2), J. B. Priestley's "Johnson Over Jordan" (3), and most recently Auden and Isherwood's "The Ascent of F6" (4). A suite extracted from "The Sword in the Stone" has been recorded (5). Another score, "Men of Goodwill" - the incidental music from a 1947 BBC Christmas Feature - has also been heard again and has been published and recorded (6). Both "Johnson Over Jordan" and "The Ascent of F6", originally stage plays, worked well on radio.

1. The Dark Tower, last produced on BBC Radio 3 on 25/11/1973; repeated on 3/3/1974.
2. The novel by T.H. White dramatized by Neville Teller (its third production), broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 26/12/1981.
3. Johnson Over Jordan: a modern morality play by J.B. Priestley, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 9/9/1985 and subsequently repeated on BBC R3.
4. The Ascent of F6 adapted for broadcasting by Glyn Dearman, broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 17/6/1988.
5. The Suite extracted from The Sword in the Stone was first performed at the 1983 Aldeburgh Festival and was broadcast on 22/1/1984. A recording by the Richmond Symphony Orchestra is available in the USA on Opus One 100.
6. Men of Goodwill, published by Faber Music (1982); recorded by the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Neville Mariner, EMI Angel DS-38049.

The different radio productions of 'The Rescue' are listed below.

Date / Producer / Conductor / Odysseus
1943 / John Burrell / Clarence Raybould / Denis Arundell
1948 / Val Gielgud / Walter Goehr / Clifford Evans
1951 / Val Gielgud / Clarence Raybould / James McKechnic
1956 / Val Gielgud / John Hollingsworth / Stephen Murray
1962 / Val Gielgud / John Hollingsworth / Stephen Murray
1973 / Raimond Raikes / Rae Jenkins / Stephen Murray
1988 / Ian Cotterell & Chris de Souza / Simon Joly / Richard Pasco


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