Richard Wortley Radio Plays

This is the page I originally wrote about the UK's most experienced radio producer...Richard subsequently supplied me with a fifteen thousand word essay on his radio career, and this is on the associated pages. To get to them, click on

Some Reflections on a Lifetime in Radio

Richard Wortley is an Oxford graduate in Modern History who has followed a career in directing radio drama with 3000 plays to his credit. His latest was a study of Van Gogh in March 2003. He won the Italia Prize for radio drama with "Scenes from an Execution" by Howard Barker, starring Glenda Jackson. The actors he has worked with include Peggy Ashcroft, Peter Jeffrey, Judi Dench, John Gielgud, Corin Redgrave, Anthony Hopkins, Bill Nighy, Eleanor Bron and Juliet Stephenson.

Like many experienced radio producers, Richard Wortley can turn his hand to most kinds of radio drama. But he is often associated with plays which are a little unusual. If you hear a play with a surreal plot, and which can only be done on radio, there's a good chance that Mr. Wortley is in charge. For example: NOTHING PERSONAL, by Perry Pontac, is the play about the bank manager with links to the eskimo community and stars Norman Bird as Mr. Pinsley-Weatherthorne along with Stephen Thorne and Caroline Gruber.

A DIFFERENT WOMAN , also by Perry Pontac, is in a similar mould. "You'd look, I'm sure, quite lovely without your glasses, Miss Dinnage. And without your nose, those particular teeth, and of course with a body considerably re-designed and re-proportioned ..." A pompous plastic surgeon proposes marriage to his dowdy receptionist in order to use her as a showcase for his talents, remodelling her from top to bottom into a "different woman" indeed. A deliciously macabre bit of nonsense in which the author casts a jaundiced eye over the world of cosmetic surgery, and Richard Wortley again directs.

Here are some short reviews of his work:

Michael Bartlett's first radio play; an entertaining, off- beat comedy. Derek Seaton as Harold, Rolf Lefevre as Dunwoody, Jane Knowles as Rosamund, Prunella Scales as Vera, Edward Kelsey as Hockley, John Rowe as Kenneth, Leo MacGuire as Victor, Hilda Schroder as Mrs. Hockley; also stars John Sampson, Nigel Graham. Produced by Richard Wortley.

TOTALLY GUTTED....1991, by Alick Rowe:
A local football team is faced with a bizarre new management including a middle-aged striker with a wooden leg. The sound effects of his running for the ball are wonderful. An excellent comedy with Timothy Bateson as Tommo, Geoffrey Mathews as Cyril, Terence Edmond as Shafter, Norman Jones as Nudger; also stars Stephen Thorne, Tessa Worsley, Elizabeth Kelly, Norman Jones, Richard Pearce, Paul Downing, Alice Arnold, Mark Straker, Nigel Carrington, David Bannerman, Stephen Garlick, Nicholas Gilbrook, James Simmons, Alan Barker. Directed by Richard Wortley.

An entertaining radio-3 style play from 1993. An inventive double setting mixing ancient greek legend with a modern English cricket team. With Anthony Jackson as Ajax/Sulk, Bill Wallis as Agamemnon/Skip, Stephen Tomkinson as Menelaus/Breeze, Dominic Letts as Odysseus/Wheedler, Jane Slavin as Tecmessa/Janet, John Baddeley as the other captain, and Steve Hodson and Keith Drinkel as The Chorus. Directed by the expert in unusal plays, Richard Wortley.

I seem to remember the Test Match Special team putting in a cameo appearance in this play........ND

A beautiful little play, Ninety Percent Penetration in Finland, by C.Seal and D. Black (R4 1415, 2 Mar 01) was a love story with a difference; two people seek refuge in the same telephone box during a storm. They are six inches apart, but can they communicate with each other? This story was similar to a more unpleasant but equally well-written play by Emma Clarke and directed by Richard Wortley, Shaft (R4 1415, 26 Feb 01), where a man and a woman are stuck in a lift for a night.

Mr. Wortley has directed 3,000 plays over a long career, and perhaps opportunities for the more unusual have diminished slightly. But whenever you see his name attached to a play, you can be sure that it has a decent script and will be well worth hearing.

Nigel Deacon


10/05/1972; with Jon Rollason as Tim. 'Let's have a look what sort of day . . . . . oh yes, same as usual; the sun peeping, sheepishly through the smog; the trees across the way still withering, and the two men still digging up my front lawn. Oh yes, a normal ......... digging up my front lawn!

Bill Ronald Herdman
Sid Peter Pacey
Jon Douglas Blackwell
Computer Leslie Heritage
The Voice Joy Harrison

Producer Richard Wortley

DIAL 999
By Archie Hill. 22 Mar 72.

Edward Kelsey as Sgt Moore
Sean Arnold as Sgt Ward
Nigel Anthony as Billy

Ward: You Were Hard On Them, Joe; too hard
Moore: Not hard enough
Ward: You listen to me - no don't try to pull rank. I'm a three striper as well as you......these two lads are good uns, They've got their jobs at heart. They faced a gunman tonight.

PC Thomas Laurence Harrington
PC Rogers John Samson
Mr. Young Lewis Stringer
Jackie Wheatley Judy Bennett
Mrs. Wheatley Katharine Parr

Producer Richard Wortley

SWIMMER ....c1985
Highly stylised play by Chris Russell about a disabled youth who becomes a superb swimmer. The other swimmers do not give him an easy ride...but this is not the main plot; he has a secret, which is revealed in a grim climax. With Julian Firth as Neil, Tilly Vosburgh as Michel, and John Rowe as Ken. Also stars Jane Wenham, James Brice, Alex Jennings. SMs: David Greenwood, Paul Pearson and Vanessa Elner; location recording by Cedric Johnson, Julian Walfer and Brian Prior. Directed by Richard Wortley.

...........John Spurling wrote an interesting biographical play about the Compton-Burnett family entitled "A Household in Hove" (R4, 1415, 19 Apr 02). Ivy Compton-Burnett's novels of family life were written late in her life, and she said that her early years in Sussex had been uneventful. John Spurling's wife, Hiliary, is Ivy Compton-Burnett's biographer; she appears in the play and reveals that the first part of Ivy's life was so traumatic that she could only come to terms with it by writing. Richard Wortley directed.

DEAR BROTHER...,by Penny Gold (R4 2 Apr 03 1415)was a well-cast dramatisation of the last years of Vincent van Gogh, broadcast to coincide with the 150th anniversary of his birth. It was based on letters and memoirs of the time, including those to his brother Theo, who was also his friend, his mentor and his picture dealer. After settling in the sunny climes of Arles, Van Gogh hoped to establish a community for struggling artists with his friend and fellow painter Paul Gauguin, but Gauguin was not impressed, and soon returned to Paris.

Theo continued to help and encourage his brother, but Vincent was now mentally ill, and the remaining letters mirror his decline. Robert Glenister was van Gogh, with Jonathan Firth as Theo, Kika Markham as Joanna, and Kenneth Cranham as the irritable Gauguin. The director was Richard Wortley.

By Patrick Hamilton, 28 May 04. New production of a play broadcast in 1937. Directed by RW. Afternoon play, 45m.

OLD MAN GOYA....2005
A severe illness leaves the famous painter stone deaf. By force of an iron will he manages to produce some of his greatest work. By Penny Gold. With Sean Barrett as Goya.. Music- Mike Syles and Paul Aguilera.

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