Susan Roberts is a radio producer who works for BBC Radio Drama North. She was heavily involved (though not as producer) in the 27-episode series of Zola adaptations which recently ended and which received an award for the Best Adaptation 2017.
Radio drama is not a place for those with big egos; it is a team effort, and many of the key personnel (script editors, production managers, sound engineers and others) rarely get a mention....
A few of the plays which Susan has produced or directed are listed below, in reverse chronological order.
24 Apr 16: Classic Serial slot: Missing Presumed Dead: The Odyssey
By Simon Armitage. A modern version of the Greek myth. A disgraced government minister is plunged into the anicent past, and must brave many dangers to return to his own time. Smith/Odysseus: Colin Tierney, PM/Cyclops: Simon Dutton, Anthea/Athene: Polly Frame, Penelope: Susie Trayling, Magnus: Lee Armstrong, McGill/Eurylochus: Roger Evans, Kite: David Hartley, Reynolds: Ranjit Krishnamma, Fenton/Perimedes: Chris Reilley, Soli/Polites: Sule Rimi, Circe/Briseis: Danusia Samal. Producer: Susan Roberts.
14 Feb 16: Classic Serial slot: Victory
By Gwyneth Hughes. A play about the triangular relationship between Admiral Lord Nelson, William Hamilton and Lady Hamilton following their return to England from Italy, where they had been living together. Horatio Nelson: Ronan Vibert, Emma Hamilton: Imogen Stubbs, William Hamilton: Stuart Richman, Mary Cadogan / Fanny Nelson: Fiona Clarke, Young Emma / Kitty: Verity-May Henry, Edmund Nelson / George III / William Beatty: Seamus O'Neill, Greville / Prince of Wales / Hardy: Andonis James Anthony, Beckford / Lord St. Vincent / Pitt: Jonathan Keeble, Horatia Nelson: Sophie Downham. Producer: Susan Roberts.
24 Jan 16: Sunday afternoon slot: Utopia
By Thomas More (500th anniversary of the book), dram. Michael Symmons Roberts. It is about an explorer who discovers an unusual society on a remote island. This is how the word 'utopia' became part of the English language. Raphael Hythloday: Raad Rawi, young Raphael: Nacho Aldeguer, Thomas More / Achorian: Michael Peavoy, Peter Giles: Cameron Bailey, Abraxa: Emily Pithon, Barzanes: Jonathan Keeble, Macaria: Fiona Clarke. Producer: Susan Roberts.
21 Jan 16: Bang Up
By Sarah Hehir; her first play for radio, rpt. It was inspired by her work in an institute for young offenders. Creative writing teacher Emma is suddenly contacted by her estranged father who has news of the birth of a baby. As a coping mechanism she throws herself into teaching young offenders in a detention centre where one of the students surprises her with the sensitivity of his work. Lee, the student: Samuel Holland, Emma: Gillian Kearney, Bruce: Simeon Truby, Patrick: Paul Sockett, Ray, segregation guard: Matt Sutton, Ishan: Faz Shah, Guard: James Quinn. Produced by Susan Roberts.
7 Jan 16: 79 Birthdays
By M.S.Roberts. One of the first radio dramas was broadcast in 1928 with the title "Kaleidoscope". It was about an ordinary British man's life and his 70 years. No script or recording exists, but the idea appealed to Michael Symmons Roberts, who wrote a play based on the same plan. It has 79 scenes (since the average lifespan is now 79, not 70) and birthday by birthday, it tells the story of Jimmy, a man who loses his life before it begins and who persuades his guardian angel to show him how things could have worked out. (incidentally there was another play about a guardian angel on 7 Dec 2015 called Further From Heaven.) Jimmy: Nico Mirallegro, Leila: David Calder, Marie: Kate Coogan, Helen: Emily Pithon, Psychiatrist: Russell Dixon, Pit boss: William Ash. Producer: Susan Roberts.
31 Mar 15: Three Soldiers
By Amanda Dalton. The play is about the lives of three Mancunian 15-year olds who have all been affected by war in different ways. Refugee Angel was forced to become a child soldier. Ryan is a reserved boy who wants to join the army. Carly is a troubled teen with an unhappy home life. They meet at Ryan's hideaway just off a riverside path. Angel: Marlene Madenge, Ryan: Ben Ryan Davies, Carly: Shannon Flynn, Police officer: Chris Jack, Social worker/police officer operator: Verity-May Henry. Produced by Susan Roberts.
7 Feb 15: Saturday Drama slot: Four Quartets
By Tom Eliot. Not a drama - this is poetry, read by Jeremy Irons. The four parts are Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages and Little Gidding. Producer: Susan Roberts.
5 Feb 15: Men Who Sleep In Cars
By Michael Symonds Roberts. Rpt. Three men whose lives have been turned upside-down by the recession sleep in their cars on the streets of Manchester. In the build-up to the World Cup they listen to their radios for company. This play was nominated for an Audio Drama Award. Maxine Peake narrates, with Nick Haverson, Robert Haythorne, Rob Edwards and Pat Nevin. Produced by Susan Roberts.
11 Jan 15: Classic Serial: The Last Days of Troy
By Simon Armitage. Dramatization of The Iliad, by Homer. Ep. 1 of 2: The Greeks have Troy under siege, to win back their abducted queen, Helen. But the war drags on, there is much killing, and there is still statemate. Both gods and mortals squabble for the spoils of war and the hand of victory. Agamemnon: David Birrell, Achilles: Jake Fairbrother, Zeus: Richard Bremner, Odysseus: Colin Tierney, Hera: Gillian Bevan, Andromache/Thetis: Claire Calbraith, Hector: Simon Harrison, Helen: Lily Cole, Paris: Tom Stuart, Athene/Briseis: Francesca Zoutewelle, Priam: Gary Cooper, Patroclus: Brendan O'Hea, Astynax: Luca Rawlinson. Producer: Susan Roberts.
3 Mar 14: Porcelain: The Trial for the Killing of Sophie Lancaster
Drama-doc with dramatised scenes by Ian Kershaw. Sophie Lancaster was a young student who was attacked in Stubbeylee Park, Bacup, Lancashire. Sophie suffered fatal injuries while cradling her boyfriend Rob's head in an attempt to protect him from an attack by a group of youths. Rob survived but Sophie went into a coma and never recovered. The programme contains interviews with Sophie's mother. Melanie Hill, Robery Haythorne, Conrad Nelson, Terence Mann, Henry Devas, Samantha Power, Reece Noi. Produced by Susan Roberts.
8 Feb 14: Saturday Play: The Sleeper
Sci-fi thriller by Michael Symmons Roberts. In a futuristic Britain where society is strained to breaking point by 24-hour wakefulness, a teenage girl with the ability to fall asleep is ruthlessly pursued by the authorities for being subversive. She takes refuge with a wealthy man who says he will protect her. Matthew Beard, Sarah Churm, Henry Devas, Rachel Austin, Jason Done, Maxine Peake, Danielle Henry, Kevin Doyle. Producer Susan Roberts.
26 Jan 14: Classic Serial: The Warden
By Anthony Trollope, dram. M. Symmons Roberts. From the first of a series of satirical novels published between 1855 and 1867. The gentle Mr. Harding finds his peaceful, privileged life dusrupted when his prospective son-in-law calls into question the large income he receives as warden of Barchester almshouse. Maggie Steed, Tim Piggott-Smith, Andrew Sachs, Claire Price, Malcolm Sinclair, Bryan Dick, Charlotte Emmerson, Georgie Fuller, Sean Murray, Nick Brimble, David Seddon. Producer Charlotte Riches; director Susan Roberts.
27 Aug 13: Bad Elvis
By Katie Hims. Aidan, deaf, checks into the hotel he used to stay in with his mother and father as a child. During the evening an Elvis impersonator starts to sing at the wedding downstairs, interrupting his rest.Aidan-David Bower, Snow White-Sally Carmen, Rachel-Janice McKenzie, Elvis-Terence Mann,
Landlord-Terence Mann, Linus-Matt Sutton. Third in a series of plays commissioned for Deaf actor David Bower. Produced in Salford by Susan Roberts.
2 May 13: Afternoon Drama - The Colour of Milk
From her novel, by Nell Leyshon. It's 1830. Mary is fifteen. She lives a quiet life on a farm with her mother and father. She's never spent a night away from her home, until the local vicar asks for help with his sick wife. Sexual desires have brutal consequences.
Mary ....... Carly Bawden,
The Vicar ....... Peter Hamilton-Dyer,
Father ....... Jonathan Keeble,
Produced in Salford by Susan Roberts.
Nell Leyshon's play, THE COLOUR OF MILK (R4, 1415, 2 May 13) was set in 1830. A farmer's young daughter is asked to care for the vicar's sick wife, and live in. The invalid gradually deteriorates and dies, but the girl is kept on. The vicar starts to teach her how to read and write. But there is a dark side to the drama; to paraphrase Jane Anderson in RT: She's direct and outspoken and bold, but the vicar seems to enjoy her frankness; he pleasures in her company too much. He makes excuses to keep her in his service and takes her new duties to an unpleasant new level. The cast included Carly Bawden, Peter Hamilton Dyer and Jonathan Keeble; the producer was Susan Roberts. (.....ND, Diversity website review, Sept 2013)
16 Apr 13: Afternoon Drama - The Flea
By Michael Symmons Roberts. It is 1601 and John Donne, a 29-year-old scholar, poet and diplomat, makes the decision which will change his life. He is working as Chief Secretary to the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, Sir Thomas Egerton, at his Palace in London's Strand. By night, he is living a life of excess in the fleshpots of the city. His famously erotic love poems are unpublished, but widely circulated in literary London.
However, the poet has begun to fall in love with his boss' niece Ann More. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch memorably described his love poem 'The Flea' as the most disgusting in the language.
The Flea ...... Toby Jones,
John Donne ...... Conrad Nelson,
Ann ...... Natalie Grady,
Egerton ...... Malcolm Raeburn,
Brooke ...... William Ash,
Essex ...... William Ash,
Sir George ...... David Fleeshman,
Priest ...... David Fleeshman,
Beth ...... Claire Brown.
Produced in Salford by Susan Roberts.
30 Mar 2012 The Waste Land
Read by Jeremy Irons and Eileen Atkins, producer Susan Roberts, introduced by Rowan Williams, Jackie Kay, Matthew Hollis and Sean O'Brien.
23 Jun 2011: Afternoon Drama - Crimes of Mancunia
Criminals' loved ones are being kidnapped around Manchester. When the kidnapper starts asking for very specific amounts of ransom money, word soon spreads that he is an ex-cop with a dangerous grudge against the criminal community. DCI Lise Lazard and DI Mikey Finn take up the case before time runs out for the kidnapper's victims. A noir drama in verse by Michael Symmons Roberts.
8 May 2011: Classic Serial - The Prelude
2 x 55m. William Wordsworth's autobiographical poem. Recorded in Wordsworth's home in Grasmere, Cumbria.
Wordsworth believed that poetry should be written in the natural language of common speech, and in that way it was revolutionary in its time. The Prelude is read by Sir Ian McKellen with specially composed music by John Harle, performed by John Harle on Saxophone and Neill MacColl on guitar.Produced in Manchester by Susan Roberts.
11 Mar 2011: Afternoon Drama - Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster
An elegy to the young gap-year student who was attacked in Stubbeylee Park, Bacup, Lancashire. She later died on August 24th 2007. This is an elegy to mark the anniversary of her death, four years later. Aged twenty, Sophie suffered fatal injuries while cradling her boyfriend Rob's head in an attempt to protect him from a ferocious attack by a group of youths. Rob survived but Sophie went into a coma and never recovered.
Sophie was an intelligent bookish child who showed signs of wanting to be different from an early age. Political, vegetarian, a pacifist, Sophie had left school with A levels and was thinking about what to do with her future when it was taken so brutally from her.
Sophie and Rob dressed in a unique way, expressing their individuality as creative artistic people through goth-style clothes, piercings and make-up, which provoked the fatal attack in the early hours of that Saturday morning. Sophie had been dating Rob Maltby, a 21-year-old art student for three years.
SOPHIE ...........Rachel Austin. Poetry by Simon Armitage. Produced in Manchester by Susan Roberts.
18 Jul 10 Classic Serial - The Glass Bead Game
3 x 55m.
Dramatisation of Hermann Hesse's classic novel set in a futuristic, utopian society.
Starring Derek Jacobi. Joseph Knecht is a rising star in the Castalian Order, a band of elite intellectuals who live a closeted life of study and Glass Bead Game playing. But Joseph's elevation to one of the highest and most respected ranks of the Order coincides with a crisis of conscience, as his ever deepening doubts about this idealistic and sanitised society threaten to topple its very foundations.
Joseph Knecht...Tom Ferguson,
Young Joseph...Aidan Parsons,
Music Master...Malcolm Raeburn,
Teacher/Van Der Trave...Terence Mann,
Father Jacobus...David Fleeshman,
Elder Brother/Bertram...Jonathan Keeble.
String Player...Kevin Flynn.
Dramatised by Lavinia Greenlaw.
Producer: Charlotte Riches.
Director: Susan Roberts.
22 Apr 10 A Man in Pieces
Conor volunteers to test a new medical sonic scanner which records the sounds inside the body. From this recording an analysis of the patients health is drawn. The Goldberg Scanner could revolutionise medical science. But Conor finds he's being searched so deeply that he's losing his identity.
Conor.....Graeme Hawley ,
Jen.....Gillian Kearney ,
Doppelganger.....Clive Russell ,
Margaret.....Sue Jenkins ,
With specially composed music by John Harle
Directed in Manchester by Susan Roberts.
23 Feb 10 War Bride
By Nell Leyshon.(R)
The Second World War is over and Eleanor and Clarence are on a ship, emigrating to Canada. Young Eleanor is running away from the farm she grew up on - and her parents don't know. When Eleanor discovers that her childhood sweetheart Frank is also on board, she starts to retreat from Clarence into the world of her imagination. Eleanor is vulnerable a long way from home. Who can she trust?
Eleanor ...... Charlotte Emmerson,
Clarence ...... Simon Lee Phillips,
Frank ...... Joseph Kloska.
Directed by Susan Roberts.
15 Jan 10 Maine Road
By Sarah McDonald Hughes.
As the last game at Manchester City's Maine Road stadium approaches, a family in mourning for a grandmother face their own struggle to survive.
Elaine ...... Siobhan Finneran,
Jade ...... Sarah McDonald Hughes,
Leo ...... Keaton Langley,
Clive ...... Lee Boardman,
Darren ...... John Catterall,
Aaron ...... Thomas Rolinson.
Directed by Susan Roberts.
4 7 7 2009 Tuesday BBC Radio 4 14:15 Afternoon Play Chameleon
Comedy thriller by Vicky Meer. Mo is being relocated under a witness protection scheme; his previous identity totally eradicated. How will a Porsche-driving London drug dealer adapt to life as a vegetarian postman living in a former council semi in Gretna? Mo ...... Navin Chowdhry, Vadim Andreyev ...... Serge Soric, Charles ...... James Quinn, Shahanah ...... Thushani Weerasekera, Donna Marie ...... Hilary MacLean, Jimmy ...... Glenn Cunningham, Svetlana/MrsC ...... Christine Brennan. Directed by Sue Roberts. Broadcast Mon 10 Dec 2007.
26 4 2009 Sunday BBC Radio 4 15:00 Classic Serial, Troilus and Criseyde
2 x 55m. Dramatisation of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. One of the great works of English literature; this powerful; compelling story explores love from its first tentative beginnings through to passionate sensuality and eventual tragic disillusionment. Lavinia Greenlaw's new version for radio brings Chaucer's language up-to-date for a modern audience while remaining true to his original poetic intention. After seeing the beautiful widow Criseyde at the temple in Troy; Troilus falls instantly in love with her. Inexperienced in love; he is unable to act on his feelings and locks himself in his room to compose love songs. Pandarus; worried for his friend; eventually persuades Troilus to tell him why he is so miserable and is delighted to hear that the cause is Troilus' love for his niece Criseyde. Worried about her reputation; Criseyde is at first reluctant to enter into a relationship with Troilus. After much cajoling and manipulation; she reluctantly comes around to the idea. Pandarus is frustrated that the relationship is moving too slowly and engineers a complex plan to get Criseyde and Troilus in bed together. Troilus ...... Tom Ferguson Criseyde ...... Maxine Peake Pandarus ...... Malcolm Raeburn Servant 1/Woman 1 ...... Kathryn Hunt Calchas/Servant 3/Man 2 ...... Kevin Doyle Priam/Servant 2/Man 3/General 1 ...... Terence Mann Hector/Diomede ...... Declan Wilson With music composed by Gary Yershon and performed by Ehsan Emam; Tim Williams and Mike Dale. Directed by Susan Roberts.
2 7 2008 Wednesday 14:15 War Bride
By Nell Leyshon. WWII is over and Eleanor and Clarence are on a ship; emigrating to Canada. Young Eleanor is running away from the farm she grew up on - and her parents don't know. When Eleanor discovers that her childhood sweetheart Frank is also on board; she starts to retreat from Clarence into the world of her imagination. Eleanor is vulnerable a long way from home. Who can she trust? Eleanor ...... Charlotte Emmerson, Clarence ...... Simon Lee Phillips, Frank ...... Joseph Kloska. Directed by Susan Roberts.
24 Dec 2007 Aesop's Fables
Michael Morpurgo's imaginative and humorous retelling of a clutch of Aesop's best-known stories; adapted from a stage production. With Chris Bianchi; Tom Wainwright; Benji Bower. Music composed and played by Benji Bower. Directed by Susan Roberts.
19 Jan 2006: The Eve of St Agnes
By John Keats. Keats' atmospheric poem telling the story of the lovers Porphyro and Madeline and their secret meeting on St Agnes Eve - introduced by the poet Laureate Andrew Motion. Madeline is desperate on that bitterly cold night for a vision of her dearly loved Porphyro who is neither of her place nor of her race. The relations between their families are so hostile that Porphyro's arrival at the castle of the wealthy sire of Madeline is considered taboo. Angela, the Beldame, takes pity and hides Porphyro in Madeline's bed chamber so the two can meet. The tense and tricky Angela quite literally holds the key to the couple's fulfillment of love. Narrator ...... Samuel West , Porphyro ...... Daniel Evans , Madeline ...... Zoe Henry, Dame ...... Ann Rye. Music composed by Gary Yershon. Lute ...... Jacob Heringman, Flute ...... Catherine Greenwood. Director Susan Roberts.
THE HOUSE IN THE TREES....2004
R4, 22 Dec 04. Mary lives alone with her father
in a house with an eccentric garden he has made, which
is open to the public. Teased at school for being
"the garden girl", Mary decides it's time to find out
more about her absent mother. With Carly Bawden as
Mary and Peter Hamilton Dyer as her father. Written
by Nell Leyshon; directed by Susan Roberts.
PRODUCERS' CHOICE...BBC7, 2004
Sue Roberts takes time out from directing drama in Manchester to choose her top productions.
Sue's favourites include:
Room of Leaves by Amanda Dalton (first tx 28/10/1998)
People Come Here to Cry by Char March (first tx 02/03/1999)
The Unhearable by Pam Leeson (first tx 03/01/2002)
The Woman with the Fork and Knife Disorder by Jackie Kay (first tx 07/08/2003)
Tue 3 Feb 04, 11:00 - 11:45 45 mins (28 October 1998)
Room Of Leaves
Using poetry and prose, Amanda Dalton's poignant story tells of how a jilted 70-year-old woman is found dead in a room of leaves, with supermarket eggs clustered in the grass of her garden and pink ribbon everywhere. With Emily Woof, Christopher Eccleston and Ann Rye.
Wed 4 Feb 04, 11:00 - 11:45 45 mins
People Come Here To Cry
Deborah is in need of counselling - but is she better off without?
Thu 5 Feb 04, 11:00 - 11:45 45 mins (31 January 2002)
Michelle is suffering from the hearing condition Meniere's disease, and wonders who is really listening to her as she faces the prospect of going deaf
Fri 6 Feb 04, 11:00 - 11:45 45 mins
The Woman With The Fork And Knife Disorder:
Mary Ann hates everything about her mother - blaming her for the day her father took a machete to his marriage and walked out.
.......and Tony Mitchell sent me the following information
about more Sue Roberts plays broadcast on BBC7 later in the year:
Mon 29 Nov: Pam Leeson - The Unhearable
Tues 30 Nov:Amanda Dalton - Room Of Leaves
Wed 1 Dec: Char March - People Come Here To Cry
New ones (not previously broadcast on BBC7):
Thur 2 Dec: Nell Leyshon - Glass Eels
Fri 3 Dec: Brian Willis -Sophie
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