The writing partnership of Howard Brenton and David Hare features in my wayward memory for their political satire and my further experience of BBC 'language monitoring'.
And David Hare's adaptation of his stage piece 'Plenty' got by after 'horse trading' ('prick in a bucket of lard' came under scrutiny and rejection). Jane Lapotaire illuminated the French resistance worker in search of husband-free mumhood. Also with Howard Brenton's solo work 'Epsom Downs' we substituted rock songs directed by a very special colleague and friend Michael Heffernan, tragically killed (manslaughter) at the age of thirty-eight. When I say substituted, I mean sung in place of the stage 'horses', men ridden by men, their genitals swinging in the theatre lights. So far so good with the singing of Paul Jones and Maggie McPherson but Howard's jockeys said fuck a lot - taboo word number two. Therefore enter more 'horse trading' at its most literal. With us pushed into bleeping, we tried making them an in-house joke, which failed.
The pair (Brenton and Hare) set me up to direct Anthony Hopkins repeating his stage role as the rampant South African press baron and bully Lampert Laroux 'Pravda'. Howard Brenton coaxed the major film star back from America, he with the voice of a Welsh harp and the mimicking powers of Rory Bremner, to make a rare radio appearance and give me unsolicited extra cache. He was about to fly back to America for final dubbing on a newly minted film character called Hannibal Lector.
Away from 'stage work' Peter Everett wrote "The Cookham Resurrection", a radio biography of the English painter Stanley Spencer. This is an early example of my location productions, recording on a Hertfordshire country estate as Cookham-on-Thames is on a relentless flight path (Spencer's home village).
Donald Pleasance, as Stanley, was entertained by our method of coping with the wind and rain. We put three studio screens round the microphone; the same ones used to help create an outdoor acoustic inside the studio. He was less amused by the bone-shaking bus employed to get us there...
"The Cookham Resurrection", well-culled by Peter Everett from the rambling memoirs of the painter, gained me an 'Imperial Tobacco' award (ah, those non-P.C. days) and I found myself shaking the hand of Harold Wilson, sound-alike for Mike Yarwood at the time. In my wobbly acceptance speech, I thanked the wrong writers' group as the co-sponsors.
Philip Martin's "Dead Soldiers" was the other part of my prize, making use of the London Underground as an atmosphere setting - those closing doors and hissing brakes, second only to the dry purr of a travelling Vesper in my view. I learned that 'Dead Soldiers' was slang for empty bottles. Many of my best moments have been in BBC Broadcasting House, London, Studio 6A (a building currently under a five year reconstruction plan). But 'outside' experiences make better copy. Recording 'Swimmer' in a West London swimming pool (Julian Firth and Tilly Vosburgh) meant one of my 'bit-part' actors not only learning his lines but learning how to swim as well. There's dedication!
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