Bruce Stewart Radio Plays

BRUCE STEWART comes from New Zealand, and began his career as an entertainer in wartime concert parties. Afterwards he became an actor in theatre and radio in Sydney.

In the 1960s he moved to the UK, where he continued to work as an actor, but also began scriptwriting, for stage and television.


He has written over a hundred scripts for various TV series including SHERLOCK HOLMES, SERGEANT CORK, MANHUNT, THE ONEDIN LINE, and CROWN COURT.

From his Australian days onwards, Bruce Stewart has written for radio. His audio scripts are very numerous - see the list below. He wrote Omega Point and The Tor Sands Experience; both excellent sci-fi, but his output is very varied. Hickey's Collapse is a comic story set in the Outback; he's also done biography, historical settings and tales of adventure.

Penny Fabb has sent the following article from the New Zealand Listener, 8 August 1952:

---Addicts of the kind of thriller in which the Master Mind solves all will be pleased to hear that the doyen of radio Master Minds, Gregory Keen, will be back again. A new Gregory Keen serial feature, "Twenty-Six Hours", has gone into production at the Grace Gibson studios, Sydney.

---The action of the new feature takes place within twenty-six hours which, incidentally, is the actual playing time. There will be 104 episodes of fifteen minutes each. The setting is occupied Berlin. A gang of spies has stolen a set of documents belonging to an American general. World peace is threatened. Enter MI5 man Gregory Keen. The role of Gregory Keen is again played by Bruce Stewart, while others of the cast will include Lyndall Barbour, Moray Powell, Ivan Vander and Gloria Payten. The script writer is Lindsay Hardy. The new production follows up Miss Gibson's successes with "Dossier on Demetrius" and "Deadly Nightshade", two Gregory Keen serials well-known to New Zealand listeners. It will be some time before the serial will be available for broadcast from New Zealand stations.

Jill Murray supplied the following information:

........I knew Bruce back in 1953; he was acting in repertory in the West Country at that time (aged 21 or thereabouts). He told me of ideas he had for plays, and later I heard one of them on the radio (1959 - the Wreck of the Tocki-La). Also, he wrote and performed in a radio play about Archibald MacIndoe, the plastic surgeon (who had repaired my face after a car accident). Archie MacIndoe was one of the Guinea Pigs' surgeons - the mastermind of the project, in fact - and when I had my surgery in 1956 there was still a lot of wartime pilots at East Grinstead (Queen Victoria Hospital) having yet more grafts and reconstructions.

The first tv play of his I remember seeing was Shadow of a Pale Horse. There were also some brilliant plays about the Stuart Kings of England (and he told me he was descended from that line!) He brought a wife and three children to England and then had three more children#. I remember hearing his play about Jim Jones and the mass suicide in Guyana.

Many thanks, Jill ..........N.D.
#Correction from Suzi, Bruce's daughter.

UPDATE, NOV 2005 - obituary notice

The cult 1940s radio series, Dossier on Demetrius, set around postwar London, focused on "Major Gregory Keen of MI5" and his battles with the plots of nefarious Nazi villains. Yet the show was not big in Britain. The reason was that it was made in Sydney, and broadcast across Australasia. Its star, as Major Keen, was Bruce Stewart, who has died, aged 80.

In 1954, just after the Queen's coronation, he came to Britain from New Zealand. Stewart found his first employment as an actor in the new medium, television. By the early 1960s he was moving towards writing; in 1962, he won an award for his play, Shadow of a Pale Horse.

Stewart went on to write approximately 200 plays and scripts for radio, television and the stage. He was a versatile writer; his work included a radio play set in Rome, composer biography, the children's television series Timeslip, a horror film, episodes of The Onedin Line, Secret Army, Sherlock Holmes, some excellent science fiction, and a comic play set in the Australian outback gently sending up old-fashioned attitudes towards Aussies and Kiwis.

Stewart had been born in New Zealand of Irish and Catholic stock. His works often examined religious spirituality and the colonial heritage of New Zealand and Australia . Educated at Mount Albert grammar school in Auckland, he trained for three years with the Marist Brothers in northern New Zealand. His ambition had originally been to become a priest, but he soon realised he did not have the vocation.

Late in his career he was co-chairman of the Writers' Guild. Stewart steered it away from what he considered extreme political tendencies. Back on TV, he featured in Bodyline (1984), an Australian mini-series. A devout but questioning Catholic, he produced work that challenged doctrinal assumptions; his last play, for Radio 4, Soeur Sourire, about the 1960s Singing Nun, questioned the church's stance on suicide.

Shortened extracts from Mark Stewart's obituary of Bruce Stewart, Thursday October 6, 2005, The Guardian, with some additions on the radio work by ND.

RADIO PLAYS (abbreviations: SNT=Saturday Night Theatre; AFT=Afternoon Theatre or afternoon play)

13.10.1956 The Devil Is Driving SNT
26.01.1957 African Interlude SNT
13.07.1957 African Interlude / Tapu Rock (double bill)
25.01.1958 A Time Of The Serpent
17.04.1958 A mind to murder (Thursday play)
15.01.1959 Moonfall (Thursday play)
22.01.1959 Blood on the coral sea (Thursday play)
31.01.1959 Night Of The Gods SNT
21.05.1959 Murderer's handbook (Thursday play)
29.06.1959 Shadow of a pale horse
09.06.1960 Pistols for one (Thursday play)
24.10.1960 Low voice in Rama
09.03.1961 The devil makes Sunday
04.06.1962 The hot and copper sky
30.07.1962 The day of the Galeh (six-part serial, weekly)
01.08.1962 A Touch of the Sun/G.K. Saunders (BS in cast)
01.06.1963 A Town Like Alice/Nevil Shute (BS in cast)
19.04.1964 Fear in the afternoon (six-part serial, weekly)

there followed a ten-year gap in Stewart's radio work....

18.10.1975 Omegapoint* SNT
15.11.1975 The Cop-Out
22.05.1976 Footnote To The Conspiracy
12.03.1977 How Are Things In Portnacrenan? SNT
14.04.1977 Where heroes tread AFT
11.05.1977 Rage among lilies AFT
16.05.1977 A disorderly girl (Monday play)
26.06.1977 Hector's Fixed Idea SNT
05.11.1977 Our Roman Cousins
17.12.1977 Antique Farce* SNT
17.03.1978 Here for the duration, pt.1 AFT
24.03.1978 Here for the duration, pt.2 AFT
01.04.1978 Stars In My Hair SNT
29.05.1978 Cursed be Canaan (Monday play)
31.05.1978 Old man March is dead AFT
28.07.1978 Pope Joan lives AFT
09.12.1978 Laura & The Angel
08.01.1979 The Tor Sands Experience* (R3) and 5.1.79 (R4) AFT
30.04.1979 Shadowfall (Mondat play)
09.11.1979 This time it's Spring AFT
10.11.1979 Stars In My Hair, rpt
06.12.1979 As the sparks fly upward AFT
22.06.1980 Now and at the hour of our birth AFT
07.02.1981 There'll Almost Be An England* SNT
04.07.1981 The Gallows In My Garden SNT
19.01.1983 God in the water AFT
21.01.1984 That Corpse You Planted In Your Garden SNT
03.10.1985 A bloke like Amy
27.01.1986 Old-Tyme Disco
16.01.1988 Lady In The Way SNT
30.01.1988 Our Roman Cousins
26.02.1990 The Isidore Projection* (Monday play)
11.05.1991 The Culper tapes
13.06.1991 Morning darkness
02.01.1992 Symphonic variations
04.04.1992 The San Rocco mob
17.05.1992 Flower of blood
08.06.1992 The Culper Tapes, rpt*
05.04.1993 Angelface
29.05.1994 Speak Low
14.07.1994 Hickey's Collapse*
26.09.2003 Soeur Sourire*

date nk Speak Low
Rage among lilies (1950s?)
Engagement at Manresa

c 1990 A bloke like Amy* (ABC)

asterisked plays exist in VRPCC collections.

compiled from info. supplied by Roger Bickerton, Penny Fabb, Jill Murray and own collection


A Major Keen serial; surprisingly, a recording has survived. Bruce Stewart plays Major Keen.

6x30m. The adventures of Matthew Brady, a young Irishman. Colonel Browning: Austin Trevor, Sergeant Flower: Ronald Baddiley, A railway guard: Peter Noel Cook, Della: Paddy Turner, Brady: Denys Hawthorne, Claude: David March, Max Stahr: Derek Bloemfield, Wally Bowen: John Baddeley, Stonter: Bruce Wightman, Don: Roy Patrick, Sally Granger: Sheila Grant, Curly Grittiths: Bruce Stewart, Steve: Keith Williams, Superintendent Green: Russell Napier, A woman: Shirley Cameron. Producer: Audrey Cameron.

OMEGA POINT....... 1975
Superb science fiction story beginning with the decoding of an electronic message from a remote transmitter. Stars Dinsdale Landen. 90m.

17 Dec 77, 90m.With George Cole, Kate O'Mara, Glyn Owen, Leonard Fenton. Directed by David Spencer. Interesting play set in Roman times. It concerns the fate of a group of actors who are commissioned to ridicule the Christians on the visit of the Emperor. There is a very unusual climax to the play. The story supposedly based on the legend of the patron saint of actors, whose name escapes me....

Berlioz and the Romantics.

Broadcast on R3 and R4 (the latter as Hi-Fi Theatre); sequel to OMEGAPOINT. Excellent science fiction tale, with hexadodecaphonic sound effects (making little impression on my mono machine)...90m. With David Buck as Ellis, Miriam Margolyes as Flavia, Kate Binchy as Verity, Stephen Murray as Philemon; also stars Maurice Denham, Judy Bennett, Eva Stewart, Joe Dunlop, John Bull, Jennifer Pearcey and Adrian Egan. Music by David Kane. Technical realisation by Lloyd Silverthorne. Directed by Glyn Dearman.

The story of Amy Johnson

The literary row between Shaw, Wells, Belloc and Chesterton in the 20s.

play about the Spanish Inquisition. With Michael N Harber, Caroline Gruber, Bill Wallis and Bruce Stewart in the main roles ; also stars Joan Walker, John Moffat, Joanna Mackey, Andrew Hilton, Julia Wynwood, David Goodge, William Eedle. Musical direction by Christopher Francis; special effects by Dick Mills of the BBC Radiophonic workshop. Directed in Bristol by Shaun McLaughlin. (who has just completed a book on the art and craft of radio drama-Jun 03)

Unusual tale about a journalist who goes on a journey to a remote monastery to solve a mystery......who was Culper? Mystic or charlatan? 90m. With Imogen Stubbs as Claire, Julia Hills as Gwenda, and Bill Wallis as Culper. Also stars Clive Swift, Phyllida Nash, Bradley Levelle, Shireen Shah, Peter Copley, Bruce Stewart, Simon Treves, Danielle Allen. Directed by Shaun McLaughlin.

Comic play set in the Australian outback. 55m. With Peter Gunn as Joe, John Turnbull as Bonzo, Devilia David as Wide-Awake Lil, Deborah Berlin as Rosie, John Hollis as Mutt; also stars John Baddelly, Bruce Stewart. Directed by Martin Jenkins.

SOEUR SOURIRE........2003
A play inspired by the life of the Singing Nun, Jeanine Decker, whose song "Dominique" shot to fame in 1963. A wonderful singer, but stitched up by her ecclesiastical bosses and the record company, A & R. There was no happy ending. I think this is Bruce Stewart's first radio play for nearly a decade; Kelly Hunter plays Jeanine; also starring Amanda Root, Jill Balcon, Marion Diamond and Nicola Barber; directed by Jane Morgan. (Friday play)

Remarks by ND...Disgraceful episode in the history of the Church - a nun with a talent for music earns prodigious sums for the ecclesiastical authorities. Years later she is sent an enormous tax bill, but she has no money of her own, and her nunnery ex-bosses don't want to know. Eventually she takes her own life. Hardly the first time that theory and practice in the Catholic church don't match up... and this is only 40 years ago.

Jim Jones and the Peoples' Temple suicide in Guyana

Kurt Weill and Burt Brecht in the USA in the 1940s.

Any sci-fi buffs able to supply synopses for the sf plays?

Thanks to Penny Fabb for some corrections to the above. Apologies for any spelling mistakes in the cast lists, which I've had to get from the recordings.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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