The Long Sunset,
by R.C.Sherriff

R. C. Sherriff - The Long Sunset

BBC Radio 4: Saturday Night Theatre

Broadcast: Saturday 10th April 1971 @ 8:30 p.m.

Set in southern England in AD 410, "The Long Sunset" tells the story of the last of the Roman families left in Britain following the collapse of the Empire.

Marcus Septimus, the Tribune (an official elected by the plebeians to protect their interests) visits his old friends Julian and Serena. He finds that they are now farmers with Serena having converted to Christianity. Marcus has been their first visitor in years.

Marcus, who had been stationed up in York, had marched a detachment down to the fort in Richborough. After settling them in, he came over to see Serena and Julian. They had given up their old wine business in Canterbury for the time being since most of the best wine came from Spain, but with so much trouble over there, the vinyards are ruined, and as for Italy, they haven't had wine from them for years. It came by sea and the pirates use to sink the ships. So they decided to be farmers for the time being until things get right again.

Marcus tells them that he can only stay a short time as he and his men will be sailing in the evening. Since they've been isolated in Richborough for so long, Marcus updates them on the year's news. Since the spring of that year, Huns, Vandals, Moors, Goths, and others came together against the Romans. The frontier all around the Empire caved in like a rotten ship - Africa is gone; the Germans are across the Rhine; Spain and Gaul are in chaos; the Goths have invaded Italy and there has been no one to drive them out. The Emperor Honorius has fled and Rome has been sacked without a fight.

Marcus brings the bad news that the Roman Legion has given up on the Island and that it is no longer part of the Roman Empire. The whole army is gone and taken the fleet with it. After the sack of Rome, commanders in Britain took matters into their own hands. They were ambitious men, too big for this small island, and seeing the Empire lying in the gutter waiting to be picked up by anyone with the strength to take it, the four Legions were persuaded to march on Rome

When it was heard that Rome was finished, Welsh tribes came pouring down from the mountains, Scots came flooding across the wall, and the Saxons came sailing in. His group of men that he brought with him are the last Roman soldiers on the island. Every night as they were moving south-east to Richborough, they saw the whole sky behind them alight with burning villages and towns.

Marcus's reason for visiting them is to tell them that there is room for Julian, Serena, and their family on the last ships that are leaving that night. Julian declines but takes up Marcus's offer to call on Arthur in Winchester who has a small, private army of his own and could help Julian and the local landowners defend their lands from the marauding band of Saxons that are nearby.

Adapted for radio from R. C. Sherriff's 1955 play, "The Long Sunset".

With John Rye [Marcus Septimus, the Tribune], Stephen Murray [Julian], Pauline Letts [Serena, Julian's Wife], Jane Knowles [Paula], David Spenser [Otho], Lockwood West [Lucian], John Gabriel [Portius], Julian Glover [Arthur], David Valla [Gawaine], and Edward Kelsey [Lugar, a Servant].

Produced by Martin Jenkins

Re-broadcast on Monday 5th November 1990 @ 3:02 p.m.

90 minutes.

Notes by Jim

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