Cherry Cookson Radio Plays

By Martyn Wade, 28 Nov 12, R4. This play was a biographical treatment of part of Rachmaninov's life. It began at the point where the composer had just finished writing his first symphony. This was given an indifferent first public performance by Glazunov, who didn't really like or understand it; and then it was badly reviewed by the critics. Rachmaninov fell into depression and was unable to write any more music. He visited Tolstoy hoping for some sensible advice and was disappointed to meet an irritable old man with few redeeming qualities and nothing useful to say. Unsurprisingly, mixed in with his depression was an unhappy love affair. He was lucky to meet, through a friend, a psychoanalyst who happened to be a good musician, and the treatment and friendship he received from this amiable and likeable man changed his life.

The writing of his second piano concerto marked his recovery, and he subsequently married the woman who had helped him through his black years. Rachmaninov was played by Jamie Glover, Anna by Lydia Leonard, with Alison Pettitt, Philip Voss, Stephen Critchlow and Ian Masters. The producer was Cherry Cookson. (......ND, Diversity website review, Dec 2012)

Dawn Lowe-Watson comments: ......This mysterious and haunting play by Judith Somerville took me into it and has left such resonances..... the aura of the place, the plot, the writing, the characters of Hans and Anna, the two lead characters - all these have left me dreaming and faintly uneasy.

There's a sense of dread, of fear. It isn't just a beautiful landscape peopled with friendly islanders who dig their potatoes and feed guests well; and it's this sense of dread that stays and leaves one with such strangeness. This is poetry but never pretension, and has the unmistakable hand of producer/ director Cherry Cookson bringing it all to life with consummate artistry and conviction.

Mon-Fri, 1415, 23-27 Jan 06, successive afternoon plays. By R.F. Delderfield, dramatised by Shaun McKenna. With Oliver Milburn as the teacher, and John Wood as the headmaster. Also stars John Rowe, Anthony Calf, Alison Pettitt, Delroy Brown, Josh Freeborn, Steven Williams, Gerard McDermott, John Cummins, Harry Francis, Anthony Glennon, Clive Merrison, Kate Buffery, Steven Roberts.... Producer Cherry Cookson, director Marc Beeby.

R.F.Delderfield's public school novel "To Serve Them All My Days" was one of the publishing successes of the 1970s. It was on TV; now it's been reworked for radio. It covers several decades, starting in the first World War and ending with the second.

Oliver Milburn stars as the shell-shocked young man who recovers from his experiences of the trenches during his first job as a teacher in a small school in Devon. He starts off befuddled, traumatised and alienated, a Welsh working- class socialist in a public-school environment. Gradually he grows into a mature figure whom many people respect.

Cherry Cookson commented that the story appealed to her because she has two sons who are currently going through school, and it reminded her that a good, inspiring teacher can set a young person on the right track. She had one she remembers to this day, and her sons are similarly fortunate. "The good teachers are always the slightly anarchic ones, who say "b...er the headmaster; we're going to do things my way".

31 Jan 05; by Jill Hyem. A beautiful but lonely part of Dartmoor is the setting for this psychological thriller about the past haunting the present as a woman who has been involved in a sailing accident tries to come to terms with her feelings of guilt. A creepy tale to put alongside "Remember Me". With Helen Longworth, Jamie Glover, Becky Hindley, and Jessica Crossley. Director Cherry Cookson. 45m.


It's taken Cherry Cookson ten years to transform THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES and THE PALLISERS into radio dramas. Cookson and Martyn Wade have given themselves a freer hand with the later, political novels. "It seemed sensible to tackle the Palliser novels as a sequence", says Cookson, "because there are characters who run right through, and there are long chunks one wants to leave out, so this gave us the freedom to concentrate more on four of the six original novels". The result is this 12-part Classic serial which owes something to a recent TV adaptation but which is significantly different from it.

Cookson believes that a factor in Trollope's popularity os the strength of his women characters. "He portrays men of that time as feckless whereas the women are strong, feisty and could easily do their husbands' jobs.......the whole thing sets off with a Victorian lady being forced to abandon-quite rightly- a reckless young man and marry someone who, at first sight, seems rather dull. Their story is dominant and the novels are all about the consequences of marrying for position or money rather than for love...............after recording PALLISERS in November, my resolution was not to do another serial"......however, Cookson is lined up to produce three Women's Hour serials this year.

Cast -David Troughton, Ben Miles, Sophie Thompson, Anastasia Hille, Adrian Lukis, Frances Jeater, Mark Bazeley, Bertie Carvel, Chris Moran. Music by Elizabeth Parker.

5 Feb 2004, 15.45 (15 mins): The Radio Producer And Composer.

Cherry Cookson is an experienced producer of radio drama with a flair for music (she is a trained musician). Elizabeth Parker is an experienced composer with a flair for radio (she worked in the BBC's renowned Radiophonic Workshop for 18 years). Their most recent collaboration is The Pallisers, the adaptation of Anthony Trollope's political novels which is the current Radio 4 Classic Serial.

In this programme, Cookson and Parker talk about how, through their collaboration on many radio dramas, they have formed a close working relationship.

    ...........excerpts from the programme:

    EP- I write incidental music for radio and television programmes.

    CC- I've been working at the BBC for thirty years. I've worked in radio drama all my career and I'm currently a senior drama producer.

    EP- I read music at University and did an Electronics post-graduate degree, and then I joined the BBC as a studio Manager (SM) and eventually joined the Radiophonic Workshop, which is where I first started to compose and follow my interest in sound design.

    CC-I've always been passionately keen on music, and my job, which involves using music and working in drama has been the perfect career for someone who is keen on dramatic form but who is also keen on music.

    EP-I was at the Radiophonic Workshop from 1978 until it closed in 1996. It was really the prime place that people could come to and order their music.

    CC-It was a wonderful resource available to us; particularly in those days to come up with bizarre sound effects for plays. Elizabeth was recommended to me about twenty years ago. When I first met her she was like a breath of fresh air, because if something wasn't quite right she was totally open to re-writing it, and she wasn't worried about me saying "I don't like that". I hadn't come across that before in the rather male world of the Radiophonic Workshop.

    EP-I think the BBC had quite a male culture in the 70s amd 80s, and there was enormous pressure to do twice as well as the men. I remember a colleague once saying that I would only succeed if I had all of them behind me to help me and to pick up the pieces ....outrageous, because I've done very well since I've left.

    My first impressions of Cherry were quite scary. I was not very experienced and I knew of her as someone who was very professional and wouldn't broker any nonsense. Naturally I was quite wary about working with her.

    CC-One of the first plays we worked on was a play by Martyn Wade about the childhood of the Bronte sisters.

    EP-The thing about writing for radio drama is that you haven't got to worry about the television pictures or anything like that. You've got this marvellous view in your mind which you can expand on; it gives you so much scope for working.

    CC-I always put the music on in the studio if I can, which is complete anathema to most of my colleagues. I've found that to get the right rhythm from the actors or to know how to direct the nuances of the script, it is essential for the actors to know (provided they're not tone deaf) what the music sounds like.

    EP-It is quite unusual to ask for the music before the script is recorded, but it's the most artistic and the best way in which I like working, because it gives me flexibility to let my imagination go wild and try things out. It makes it into such a creative process.

By Geoffrey Parkinson (q.v.): - years since I heard this, so can no longer remember the plot, but this is darker in content than the "Parkinson" plays...stars William Nye as Rufus Love, Mary Wimbush as his mother, Anthony Jephson as Tom, Steve Hodson as Peter, John Bott as the vicar, Joan Matheson as Mrs. Jarvis, Eva Stewart as Miss Salter, with Pater Baldwin, John Webb, Norman Bird, Christopher Scott as the probation officer, Michael Tudor Barnes, John Baddeley, Barbara Hicks, Brenda Kaye, Garrard Green, Gordon Reed, Alan Dudley, Hilda Kreisman, Zela Clarke, Caroline Gruber. Directed by Cherry Cookson.


    In Producers Choice this week, we're showcasing five plays directed by Cherry Cookson, a well established Radio Drama producer much of whose work you may well have heard before on BBC7. Cherry's chosen pieces for next week are:

    * Bodies and Souls by Martyn Wade, (Original TX 29/6/99); a play in which reincarnation spices up a long and tedious marriage
    * Strange Meeting by Peter Wolf, (Original TX 11/11/98); a play inspired by Wilfred Owen's poetry.
    * Apostle of Light by John Pilkington, (Original TX 14/1/98); a play centred on the inventor of Braille.
    * The Peacock Path by Jennifer Curry, (Original TX 10/11/00); a portrait of the famous English war artist Paul Nash.
    * Hard Row to Porlock by Eric Pringle, (Original TX 4/2/98); based on a remarkable true-life rescue story.

    Mon 16 Feb, 11:00 - 11:45 45 mins (29 June 1999) Bodies and Souls By Martyn Wade.
    Harry's long and tedious marriage to selfish Joyce reaches an all-time low when she begins to experience reincarnation. Her claims that the simplest domestic item contains the soul of a long-lost loved one has Harry reaching for desperate measures. With David Horovitch, Marcia Warren and Gerrard McDermott.

    Cherry Cookson- "One of the joys of radio drama is having one of those ideas which couldn't possibly work in any other dramatic form. Bodies and Souls, one of the most popular afternoon plays of recent years, was written by Martin Wade. The theme of this domestic black comedy is revenge; one of the main roles is that of the talking mynah bird who is bought by the husband to annoy his very irritating wife. She has become obsessed by the idea of reincarnation, convinced that everything around them, even the plants in the garden, have been taken over by the souls of various famous personalities. The husband plans his revenge with a visit to the local pet shop. David Horovitch and Marsha Warren join forces with Gerard McDermott as the bird in this entertaining comedy".....

    Tue 17 Feb, 11:00 - 11:45 45 mins Strange Meeting:
    A play examining the futility of war, inspired by a poem by Wilfred Owen.

    Wed 18 Feb, 11:00 - 11:45 45 mins (14 Jan 2002) Apostle of Light: By John Pilkington.
    The life of Louis Braille, who was determined that he and the other blind children at their Parisian institution should cease to be social outcasts

    Thu 19 Feb, 11:00 - 11:45 45 mins (10 Nov 2000) The Peacock Path By Jennifer Curry.
    A portrait of war artist Paul Nash, who struggled for most of his life with the asthma which prevented him from achieving his life-long ambition: to learn to fly. But his personal life was enriched by a passionate affair with Surrealist painter Eileen Agar. With Alex Jennings, Samantha Bond, Lorna Heilbron and Terence Edmond.

    Fri 20 Feb, 11:00 - 11:45 45 mins (4 Feb 1998) Hard Row to Porlock:
    The story of a huge vessel in trouble off Porlock Weir at the turn of the century and the brave volunteers who attempt a rescue.

...see also DAWN LOWE-WATSON page for details of other plays which Cherry Cookson has directed.


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