Ten Favourite Plays -
Roger Bickerton

Although I must confess, with shame, that I have had little time to listen to many of the items I have collected over the last 10-15 years, I did come across a listing I wrote in a letter to the Editor of the Writers' Guild about three years ago, and thought I would claim Editorial Privilege by inflicting this on you, so here we go.

John Spurling's trilogy entitled "The British Empire" which was broadcast in 1983, is a monumental drama-documentary, both educational and entertaining. The cast reads like a Who's Who of radio acting, and it is almost impossible to conceive of such a venture being mounted today, possibly because of the subject matter and the passion for "political correctness", not to mention grounds of cost.

The 6-part serial entitled "Maximum Credible Accident" by John Howlett dealing with a potentially catastrophic fault at a Fast Breeder Reactor in Italy proved to be riveting listening, containing, as it did, the battle between conscience and expediency amongst politicians. This was broadcast in May-July, 1982, and never repeated. The cynic would say that this reflected discontent in some circles that the play's content was too near the truth.

Much more recently, Martyn Wade's "Bodies and Souls" - R4, 4 May, 2001. I had no option but to stop the car and listen to this. It was quite hilarious and I will happily revisit it.

"Not a drum was heard", by Henry Reed, first broadcast 6 May, 1959. Wonderful satire. Deryck Guyler as General Gland is priceless. I could easily select more from the 7 plays which Reed wrote and which were broadcast at intervals on the Third Programme between September, 1953 and October, 1959. The fact that several have had up to 7 repeats speaks for itself; the writing and acting are of the highest standard.

"Compensating Error", by R.D.Wingfield (Midweek Theatre, 3 Sept, 1969). A plays which brings back not-so-happy memories of office life back in the 1960s, with its petty backbiting and intrigues, and which has a nice twist in its tail. Splendid characterisations of two crafty old buffers by Deryck Guyler (again!) and George Benson.

"Freedom Farewell", a 5-part serial by Phyllis Bentley, broadcast Sundays, Oct/Nov 1977. This was acquired quite recently, and I have been able to listen to only part of it, but what I have heard is quite excellent and I shall look forward to hearing the remainder. Once more, a product of the BBC's Drama Department's "Golden Age".

"The Clock Strikes Eight", by John Dickson Carr. Broadcast 18 May, 1944 as part of the long-running "Appointment with Fear" series, introduced by Valentine Dyall as "The Man in Black". Grizelda Hervey's tour-de-force as Helen Barton, the woman in the condemned cell, is well-matched by the deep-voiced Richard George as a very believable Dr. Gideon Fell. A most interesting example of a comparatively early thriller.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses" by Choderlos de Lacios (adapted by Polly Coles). In 8 parts, broadcast late evenings from 20 July, 1992, R4. Diana Rigg as the Machiavellian Marquise de Merteuil with a splendid supporting cast.

"The Nuremberg Trials", a superb dramatisation, based on the trial transcripts by Peter Goodchild, originally broadcast 16 June, 1996. Another excellent example of the drama-documentary, as was Spurling's "British Empire".

Paul Temple and the Vandyck Affair", originally broadcast Oct-Dec 1950, with Kim Peacock as Temple. Yes, the pace is rather slow, but the denouement in the last episode is splendid melodrama, and showed that the thriller genre was maturing well. Martyn C. Webster, of course, as the Director.

Roger Bickerton / Diversity website

All of the above plays known to exist in VRPCC collections

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