J. C. Wilsher Plays

J.C.Wilsher has lately been working in television, notably on such series as THE BILL and MURDER IN MIND, but for a dozen or so years from 1978 to 1991 he was one of the most intelligent and interesting of radio dramatists. He began with an amusing short play called THE GHOSTS OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM, in which a writer looks back on his earlier life, and he hit his stride quickly with THE FRUIT OF THE VINE, an exuberant account of life at a vintner's, founded securely on the erroneous assumption of a young recruit to the wine trade that he knows better than the old hands, chief of whom is his uncle (Manning Wilson, very choice).

The comic spirit is strong in Wilsher's work and manifests itself in, among others, SUMMER SCHOOL BLUES, a rueful account of thwarted desire among adult students on a residential course; SUNSET OVER BALDNESS, an extended duologue for two mid-life survivors whose careers have diverged spectacularly but with equal futility; A STATUS PASSAGE, about the extremes to which cuts in academic funding drive the members of an English department (with Jack May as a fearsome vice - chancellor always snapping at their heels); and FADE TO BLACK, where some enterprising blackmailers get their equally clever come-uppance.

A FAIR HEARING and THE GREY AREA are more serious in intent, the former about an electrician who wins at an international tribunal but loses thereafter in his quest for work, the latter about an idealistic young man who muddies the waters for his diplomat father. Three fifteen-minute duologues featured in the late-night series "Just Before Midnight": INTERVAL, in which the projected bit on the side turns on her hopeful escort; MICROCOSM, which demonstrates convincingly that 'technology has its roots in magic and mystery', and MILITARIA, in which a show of aggression gives way to loss of face.

For Saturday Night Theatre J.C.Wilsher wrote A BOX OF TRICKS, a devious thriller living up to its title, and adapted Thomas Keneally's novel, A VICTIM OF THE AURORA, an absorbing mystery set on a Polar expedition.

Barry Pike.

J.C.WILSHER RADIO PLAYS (info. from Barry Pike)

27.6.78 The ghosts of the British Museum 30m
19.10.78 The fruit of the vine 60m
29.12.78 Interval 15m
25.3.79 Microcosm 15m
11.1.80 Militaria 15m (last three "Just Before Midnight")
22.2.80 Summer School blues 60m
8.8.80 A Fair Hearing 60m
30.8.80 A victim of the aurora (from T. Keneally's novel) SNT
17.12.81 Sunrise over baldness 60m
4.6.82 The grey area 60m
26.5.83 A pillar of the society 60m
19.7.84 Orbital Decay 60m
1984 Defensible Space 30m
17.8.85 A box of tricks SNT
4.12.85 A status passage 45m
30.11.87 Fade to black 60m
12.11.91 In-Flight Entertainment 30m

all of these plays exist in collections within VRPCC


A nervous passenger on an aeroplane ... listening to the radio. Things start to go wrong, but there's a strange link between the sounds coming from the radio and the mounting crisis in the air...

By Thomas Keneally [1978 novel] dramatized by J. C. Wilsher. SNT, 30 Aug 80. A detective story involving an ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1910. Sixty years after the events, Sir Anthony Piers, who had been the official artist of the expedition, thinks back on the adventure and the demanding conditions: raging wind, bitter cold, fierce hunger, absolute darkness -- and murder. Captain Sir Eugene Stewart had selected the members of his great expedition with exemplary care, choosing men with the qualities that would enable them to withstand the rigours and awful isolation of the Antarctic winter. He felt certain that he had gathered the cream of British manhood; but in an era when shame was a reality, each man carried his shame encapsulated within him. In the emotional pressure cooker of the expedition HQ and vigorously stirred by arch mischief-maker Victor Henneker, minor irritants swelled to intolerable proportions. Things began to go wrong when Henneker suddenly dies on the day after mid-winter. For Piers the story of the murder -- for murder it proved to be -- is, in miniature, the pattern of a century that turned from simplicity to mendacity. Starring: Sean Barrett [Anthony Piers], Peter Jeffrey [Sir Eugene Stewart], Godfrey Kenton [the older Anthony Piers), Andrew Branch [Paul Gabriel], Michael Spice [Dr. Alec Dryden], Peter Dahlsen [Barry Fields], Christopher Good [Waldo Warwick], Sion Probert [John Troy], Anthony Hyde [the Rev. Brian Quincy], Martin Friend [Victor Henneker], Nigel Greaves [Able Seaman Bernard Mulroy], Gordon Reid [Petty Officer Ernie Henson] and Haydn Wood [Forbes-Chalmers]. Directed by Glyn Dearman.

By J.C.Wilsher. 22 Feb 80. 55m. Two lecturers go to a summer school to teach on a residential course. One is an old hand; for the other, it's his first time. He doesn't realise the extent of the extra-curricular activity. Produced by Michael Bartlett.

Just Before Midnight. A man and a woman at a concert, on a date. Then comes the interval and some plain speaking. Directed by Glyn Dearman.

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