RONALD FRAME RADIO PLAYS
Ronald Frame is a well-regarded Scottish novelist who has also made a valuable contribution to radio drama. His work ranges from a Victorian thriller and a popular series set in a smart Scottish hotel to sophisticated plays about writers, musicians and artists. He is an acute observer of human behaviour, forming intricate patterns of personality and motive, exploring the secrets, the dark areas from the past, newly illumined or re-considered. Some of the plays reveal a particular sympathy with the young, at odds with their elders and with a distinctive perspective on them.
Frame began in 1985 with a prize-winning play called WINTER JOURNEY, charting a senior diplomat's progress from Prague to London in the freezing cold of a European winter. His wife and small daughter accompany him, and the latter, now adult, narrates and sets everything in context. The play is pure radio, oblique in narrative, advancing subtly through its dual time-scale. There is more to it than meets the ear. It has the benefit of two remarkable performances, by Jane Asher as the wife amd mother, a bitter, destructive woman who knows how to wound and makes it her business to do so, and by Tim Pigott-Smith as the enigmatic husband and father, her principal victim. Theirs is a marriage of Strindbergian hellishness.
R.F. adds: we had three Sony Award nominations for ‘Winter Journey. ‘The Financial Times spoke highly of it; I was very grateful - could a new and unfledged playwright have hoped for a luckier start?!
MARINA BRAY (1989) is an elusive, impressionistic play about a significant novelist whose death is announced early in the action and again towards the end. She appears to have killed herself by crashing her car, but the causal links between her life and death are implicit and never spelt out clearly. The play examines every aspect of Marina's life from the moment of her birth to the crash which ends it- and her work, too, is analysed, chiefly through an admirable imitation of a literary radio feature. In this way, the inter-relation of her work and life, the dependence of the one on the other, becomes the continual theme. Deborah Findlay as Marina conducts us through the maze, seeking herself to understand.
A WOMAN OF JUDAH (1993) takes us to the Dorset of the 1930s, where the unconventional wife of a rather dodgy doctor sets the town by the ears. The summer is exceptionally hot and she habitually displays more of her person than is considered seemly. She befriends the male narrator who, as a younger man and a fledgeling lawyer, conducts her case in an action for slander brought against her detractors. A verdict is achieved, but it is not necessarily the correct one. Ruth Gemmall plays the woman with polite, cool detachment and listeners must decide for themselves how they wish to judge her.
THE LANTERN BEARERS (1997) is a haunting play about betrayal, of a boy by his divorcing parents and of the composer with whom he works on a musical masterpiece for solo treble. Both are betrayed by his breaking voice, but a more destructive betrayal awaits the man. Geoffrey Lee is outstanding as the boy, Neil, both speaking and singing exactly as the part demands.
THE HYDRO is a superior soap opera, which ran for twelve episodes between 1997 and 1999. Each episode includes a separate story about visitors to the hotal while simultaneously advancing the continuous action involving owners and staff. The cliff-hangers between series compel the listener's return and the professionalism of the entire enterprise makes for agreeable listening.
HAVISHAM (1998) is a powerful play extrapolated from GREAT EXPECTATIONS and telling Miss Havisham's story to the point where Estella arrives at Satis House. Emma Fielding plays her most movingly, encompassing beautifully all aspects of the part - the intelligence, the vulnerability, the pride, the desperate need for emotional and physical love. The play exposes her to every sort of betrayal and the tragedy of Dickens' novel becomes inevitable.
MAESTRO (1999) is perhaps the richest and most ambitious of Ronald Frame's plays. It returns us to the interlocking, overlapping technique of MARINA BRAY and again engages with the theme of the personal life of the artist. This time he is a musician, at frist a child prodigy at the piano and later an eminent conductor, uneasy about Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis", which he fears may be beyond him. At his agent's behest he assembles the pieces of his life, ostensibly for a projected autobiography. He has been less admirable as a man than as a musician, as the illustration in 'Radio Times' showed, with its image of a small, insignificant man dwarfed by the shadow of a conductor, baton in hand. Joss Ackland's rich, warm voice sifts through the memories - of the women, the rivals, the enmities and betrayals, the doubts and decisions, the dishonesties and easy choices.
PHAROS (2000) is an engaging play set in southern France, where the wily widow of an esteemed Scottish painter guards his legacy. The arrival of visitors from Scotland precipitates a complex sequence of events, resolved to the eventual satisfaction of all concerned, even the least deserving. Among the most endearing features of the play is the rapport between the old lady and the teenage son of the visiting family. Eileen McCallum and Mark Bonnar are exemplary in these roles.
SUNDAY AT SANT'AGATA was a post-Christmas treat in 2001, a gentle, reflective play about Verdi towards the end of his life, with his last opera behind him. To his home at Sant'Agata come his sometime Aida Teresa Stolz and two prickly, opinionative students who, to some extent, have the wind taken out of their sails. Also on hand is Sir John Falstaff, with the ripe voive of Roger Hammond, mischievous and provocative in an altogether more genial way.
Ronald Frame's latest play, GREYFRIARS (2002) is also his simplest. It's a Victorian thriller drawing on the legend of Greyfriars Bobby, the Greyfriars police dog.
Update from RF: I had two weeks of Carnbeg-set short stories on Radio 4 this autumn, and another Carnbeg story on Radio 3 - read by Janet Suzman - in late August 2004.
....Ronald now has a website, containing many of his short stories: click on the link:
BBC BROADCASTS: RADIO PLAYS
17.11.85 *Winter Journey r. 5.7.86
03.04.86 Twister r. 10.2.87
27.04.88 Rendezvous 45m
27.06.89 *Marina Bray 75m
16.08.93 *A Woman of Judah r. 20.8.94
17.02.97 *The Lantern bearers 75m
30.04.97 *The Hydro r. 25.10.97 4 x 45m
16.08.98 *Havisham r. 19.12.99 120m
25.08.98 *The Hydro 2, r. 28.9.99 4 x 45m
20.06.99 *Maestro 120m
26.10.99 *The Hydro 3, 4 x 45m
??..??.99 Don't Look Now (adap): du Maurier & 09.12.01
02.06.00 *Pharos 60m
30.12.01 *Sunday at Sant'Agata
16.08.02 Permanent Violet (readings) 10 x 15m.
31.08.02 *Greyfriars 60m
??.07.03 Carnbeg Stories (readings)
18.12.05 The Razor's Edge (Maugham, dram) part 1
31.12.05 The Razor's Edge (Maugham, dram) part 2
12.05.07 The Servant (adap) 45m
09.10.06 *A Tiger for Malgudi (adap) 45m
12.11.07 *The Blue Room (adap) 45m
14.02.08 *The Shell House, 45m
14.09.08 *Blue Wonder, 90m (R3)
06.02.09 *Monsieur Monde Vanishes (adap)
11.05.10 *Sunday (adap) 45m
17.12.10 *Striptease (adap) 45m
27.07.11 *Three more Simenon stories (adap) 45m
List of plays compiled by Barry Pike.
Those with asterisks known to exist in VRPCC collections.
........a 4-part series of plays based in a luxury hotel in the Scottish Highlands, starring Eliza Langland & David Rintoul (R4, 1402 beginning 30 April, 1997). The plots were interesting, the characters well-drawn and the plays held the attention throughout. (ND, VRPCC newsletter)
‘Don’t Look Now’....c1999
Dramatisation of the work by Daphne du Maurier.
The leads were Michael Feast and Anna Chancellor.
Permanent Violet ....2002
By Ronald Frame. Readings - Eilidh reflects on love and art as she looks back on her life with artist Colin Brogan. 10 parts; read by Eileen McCallum. Aug 02.
GREYFRIARS....2002, rpt. 2004
31 Aug 02. Following the adventures of an Edinburgh policeman and his dog. Petty thieves and housebreakers ensure that a policeman's lot is not a happy one.
29 May 04. RT blurb: Greyfriars Bobby's master, John Gray served as an Edinburgh policeman for several years and like other officers on the beat at the time he had to provide his own police dog. In this new adventure specially written for radio, Ronald Frame follows the fortunes of John Gray and his dog, Bobby. With petty thieves at work in the High Street and a gang of ruthless house breakers at work in both the Old and New Town area of the city, the new recruits have their work cut out.
Bobby ....... Crawford Logan
Jocki (John Gray) ....... Paul Young
Aeneas Cauirncross ........ Kenny Blyth
Bridie ........ Gayanne Potter
Lachlan Cairncross ........ Simon Tait
Sergeant Mitchell ......... Iain Agnew
McCrae .......... Steve McNicholl
Lady Cairncross ........ Vivienne Dixon
Producer David Ian Neville
THE RAZOR'S EDGE....2005
An adaptation of Somerset Maugham's book, being recorded in October and
scheduled for broadcast later in the year
as a Classic Serial.
RF: I have an adaptation going out of Robin Maugham's novella
"The Servant" around September - we
ought to have been recording this month (May) but the dates have been moved
to August. It's set just after WW2, in 1946-7. It's the dusty, rather
rackety world to be found between Chelsea and Knightsbridge - and from
there via Clubland to Piccadilly.
A TIGER FOR MALGUDI....2006
R.K.Naryan's allegory, adapted by Ronald Frame. It's
told in the style of a fable about an old tiger; trapped,
apparently doomed, but ultimately liberated.
ND adds ... I think this is the same tale which was dramatised by Bill
Ash in 1991, as "The Man-Eater of Malgudi".
R.K.Naryan's greatest novel, it tells the story of Nataraj, owner of a small printing press, and his house guest Vasu, who moves into Nataraj's attic with a menagerie of dead animals.
THE BLUE ROOM....2007
Crime story by Simenon, adapted by RF. Adulterous meetings in a hotel
room lead to a double murder. A tale of passion and poisoned love set in rural
France. With Nick Underwood, Lucy Paterson, Richard Greenwood and
Nick Farr; produced by Patrick Rayner.
THE SHELL HOUSE....2008
Recorded Jan 08; transmitted as a Valentine Day treat, 14 Feb 08. A single lady, a scientist, meets an exiled Czech architect. She commissions him to design and build a house for her - the Shell House - on the Suffolk coast. But - does he come with the house - or not? With Sylvestre le Touzel as Barbara and Struan Rodger as the architect, Jaromir. Produced by Patrick Rayner.
Set during the Cold War; the miserable world of the Romeo Spies and the way they targeted suitable women. Alice, from London, becomes involved with Otto, an East German spy. Their lives are changed forever.
Cast: Clare Corbett, Jamie Glover, Nick Sayce, Gunnar Cauthery, Stephen Critchlow, Cressida Trew, Dan Starkey, Liza Sadovy. Produced by David Ian Neville.
MONSIEUR MONDE VANISHES....2009
Broadcast 6 Feb 09. Dramatisation of another Simenon novel.
R4, Tues 2 Mar 2010; set in the new immigrant community in America in the 1840s. Scotsman Allan Pinkerton turns detective when an influx of fake money threatens the local economy. Cast: Forbes Masson, Rachel Ogilvy, Sam Dale, Marcella Riordan, Alison Pettitt. Robert Jezek, John Biggins, Bruce Alexander. Producer David Ian Neville.
Two new adaptations, "Striptease" and "Sunday" were broadcast during 2010. These stories make first-rate radio plays.
RF also tells me that he has dramatised three further Simenon tales (5,6,7) which will be heard during 2011.. Broadcast dates not yet known. -....ND
UPDATE: The three Simenon tales were broadcast as follows:
27 Jul 11: In Case of Emergency; A lawyer falls for a jewel thief after assisting her in a court case. Jimmy Chisholm, Lisa Gardner, Sarah Collier, Laura Smales, Kenny Blyth.
3 Aug 11: The Little Man from Archangel; A bookseller's wife disappears after a series of affairs. Steven McNicoll, Crawford Logan, Francesca Dymond, Kenny Blyth, Eliza England, Gavin Kean.
10 Aug 11: The Cat; a husband and wife loathe each other; their attempts at reconciliation wrecked by the sudden death of two family pets. Christian Rodska, Joanna Tope, Irene Allan, Carol Ann Crawford, Mark McDonnell.
They were repeated on 15 Aug 2012 (In Case of Emergency)); The Little Man...(16 Aug 2012); 17 Aug (The Cat 2012).
The three plays were produced by Bruce Young.
Ronald Frame has been busy adapting more of Georges Simenon's non-Maigret stories. They remind me of de Maupassant; peculiar little tales showing how people behave when put under stress. The three new dramatizations began in early November. THE NEIGHBOURS (R4, 1415, 8 Nov 12) was about a man becoming obsessed with conversations heard through the wall of his apartment. A couple are talking about goings-on at a sleazy club where quite a lot is on offer. Eventually the man goes there in the middle of the night and finds trouble. In THE VENICE TRAIN (R4, 1415, 15 Nov 12) a man gets into hot water after he is asked by a stranger to deliver a briefcase; he encounters murder and more. The series producer was David Ian Neville. (ND, VRPCC review, Dec 2012)........
Nigel Deacon / Diversity website.
I am grateful to Margaret Hobbs for filling in some of the gaps in my information.
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