Born in London, 25 April 1932.
STAGE PLAYS Typhoid Mary (broadcast 1979; produced 1983), Never in My Lifetime (broadcast 1983; produced 1984), Ask for the Moon (produced 1986). 1987, Warrior (produced 1989). 1991.
Shirley Gee has also written for television.
BBC Radio drama is about to embark on a major attempt to give the audience what it says it wants. The Forsyte Chronicles begins on Saturday, a 23-part adaptation of John Galsworthy's dynastic cycle of novels, it is epic in scope, familiar in tone, style and subject, and has the biggest, most star-studded and expensive cast to be assembled in Broadcasting House for many a long year. The aim is simple: to bring the audience back. Saturday Night Theatre, the aural stage the Forsyte Chronicles will occupy, is a hallowed institution.
The decision to go for Galsworthy again, this time to do all nine books for the first time, to give them the best possible radio casts, and put them in the two most celebrated radio drama slots (Saturday Night Theatre for the origination, the Classic Serial spot on Friday afternoons for the repeat) was not universally welcomed inside Broadcasting House. Indeed, among drama producers, there was some outrage. The project was seen as a betrayal of a tradition, of the audience, of writers, of a vast slice of the departmental budget. The other side of the argument had the brute force of necessity. Unless people start listening regularly and in considerable numbers to drama on Radio 4 on Saturday nights, there would be neither tradition nor budget left. Plays may be A Good Thing, but, like flannel vests, if people don't like them, they won't wear them. So, once again, a great deal is riding on the back of Galsworthy. Janet Whitaker, the executive producer, knows it. She was given the project in March last year, and the plan was to have it on the air by last Christmas. It was an excruciatingly tight timetable and, as events turned out, an impossible one. The writers were David Spenser and Shirley Gee. Elspeth Sandys helped out when Shirley Gee was ill. In late summer two contract producers, Sue Wilson and Tony Cornish, were hired. They were to join full-time in January, working until then with Janet Whitaker on reading scripts and casting. They hadn't worked together before, but got on well from the start.
Whitaker knew what she was after for Soames. "I didn't want him to be too likeable. You've got to feel that coldness to begin with. Alan Howard can be quite chilling." Alan Howard has to combine passion with the ice, to age from his late thirties to his seventies. , It is a complex and compelling role, a real challenge, and Whitaker thinks Howard does it wonderfully. When everything else was finished, he came back for a day of re-takes. There were less than two dozen. A radio play is made like a film, in short, separate scenes, with carefully directed movement and effects. The difference is that it is played to the microphone, not the camera. The creak of a garden chair, the rustle of a taffeta skirt, an entry through a shop door, must all be precisely staged.
When they finished at the end of May there was a party. Sir Michael Hordern, the oldest member of the cast, and Sophie Thompson, the youngest, cut the cake.
.............Taken from a much longer article by Gillian Reynolds: Sunday Telegraph Magazine, 23.9.1990.
NEVER IN MY LIFETIME....1983
Nigel Deacon, Diversity website.
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