John Spurling Radio Plays

Born in Kisumu, Kenya, July 17th 1936. Educated at Nairobi Primary School; Dragon School, Oxford; Marlborough College; St. John's College, Oxford (BA in Law). National Service Second Lieutenant, Royal Artillery, 1955-7. Plebescite Officer, Southern Cameroons, 1960-1. BBC Radio Announcer, 1963-6. Freelance writer since 1966. Henfield Writing Fellow, University of East Anglia, 1973. Married to the biographer Hilary Spurling since 1961. One daughter, two sons. Lives in London.

Has written 15 stage plays, 4 television plays, 11 radio plays, criticism, 2 novels, and reviews for national newspapers.

John's website is at www.johnspurling.com


1976 Where tigers roam, R3
1982 Dominion over palm and pine (British Empire pt. 1), R3
1982 The Christian hero (British Empire pt. 2), R3
1985 The day of reckoning (British Empire pt. 3), R3
1985 Daughters & Sons (Six-part dram. of I. Compton-Burnett's novel), R4
1988 Fancy Pictures: A portrait after Gainsborough, R4
1989 Discobolus, R3
1993 The butcher of Baghdad, R3
1993 MacRune's Guevara, R3
2001 Heresy, R3
2002 A household in Hove (I. Compton-Burnett biog.), R4

Information supplied by John Spurling and used by permission.
Recordings of all of these plays are held by VRPCC.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity Website


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, Hilary, 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. (ND, VRPCC newsletter)

R3, 21 Feb 89. Helene is a frustrated artist, determined to destroy her own work. Goethe, her satanic cat, has other ideas and draws her back in time to confront her with the truth of history ....

Note by ND: ......the play quickly settles into an interesting biography of the German art historian and archaeologist, Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717 1768), who first articulated the difference between Greek, Greco-Roman and Roman art. Winckelmann was one of the founders of scientific archaeology and an important figure in the discipline of Art History.

With Norman Rodway [Goethe], Imelda Staunton [Helene], Struan Rodger [Winckelmann], Ken Cumberlidge [Marco / Hans], David Timson [The Duke of York], Philip Sully [Lennox / Berendis], William Simons [Cardinal Albani], George Parsons [Cavaceppi / The Director of Glyptothek], Simon Cuff [Hitler], Richard Pearce [Lamprecht], Anthony Jackson [Archinto], Richard Tate [Arcangeli], and Cara Kelly [Terezia].

Other parts were played by Ken Cumberlidge and George Parsons.

    The Discobolus of Myron is a famous lost Greek bronze figure of a discus thrower. It is known through numerous Roman copies, including full-scale ones in marble, and smaller ones in bronze. A picture of the 'Discobolus' at the British Museum, courtesy of the 'Wikipedia' article of the same name, is shown below.

    Townley Discobolus at the British Museum, photo by Valerio Perticone, 20 Aug 2005, from Wikipedia article

Review by 's-j', 'radiofans' - many thanks.

Updated Mar 2010.

All about the Khalif of Baghdad, and how he held his empire together; bloodthirsty in the extreme. Ostensibly set in the present day, but the main story is told within the story.

Note... some of the incidents within this excellent tale take place within another play - "Tamburlaine, Shadow of God" - Nov 2008, by John Fletcher. See John's page.

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