Ian Billings Radio Plays

28 Dec 19:Saturday Play - Puckoon
By Spike Milligan, adapted by Ian Billings. In 1924 the Boundary Commission was given the job of working out the new boundary between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Because of the usual cock-ups and the incompetence of the officials, the border ends up going through the middle of the small town of Puckoon. The Daily Mail said 'Pops with the erratic brilliance of a careless match in a box of fireworks'. In the foreword, Milligan said that writing it nearly drove him mad, and he signed off by thanking the human race for being the butt of all of his jokes. Dan Milligan: Ed Byrne, Spike Milligan: Barry Cryer, with Pauline McLynn, Kate harbour, Jane Milligan, Wilf Scolding, David Shaw-Parker, Colm Gleeson and Tom Alexander. Producer: David Morley, director: Dirk Maggs.

23 Dec 19: Happiness
By Ian Billings. A comedy drama about the Liverpudlian comedian and singer Ken Dodd as he faces tax evasion charges in 1988, tracking his year-long battle with the tax man, including the 1989 trial. Ken Dodd (and Dicky Mint): David Threlfall, George Carman Qc: Clive Hayward, Bennett: Will Kirk, Mr. Justice Waterhouse: Neil McCaul, Brian Leveson QC: Ian Conningham, Albert: Greg Jones, Eileen: Laura Christy, Croupier: Adam Courting, mother: Heather Craney, Usher: Ikky Elyas. Producer: Gemma Jenkins.

    Ian Billings' tribute to the brilliant comedian and singer Ken Dodd, HAPPINESS (R4, 1415, 23 Dec 19) was set in the year in which the Inland Revenue accused the madcap comedian of tax evasion. Ian also wrote 'Spike and the Elfin Oak' in which David Threlfall won the Audio Drama Award for best solo performance when he played Spike Milligan. In 'Happiness', David gave another uncannily accurate impersonation. The play imagines what it must have felt like for a man confronted with the prospect of being cut off from doing what he loves most in the world: performing in front of an audience and making them laugh. The story tracks his year-long battle with the tax-man including the 1989 trial where the entertainer is finally acquitted on all charges. The tax fraud allegations came to light in 1989 and related to activity by the Liverpudlian spanning about 15 years. Dodd even had his passport seized to stop him fleeing the country. The court was told about his eccentricity, including hiding wads of cash in wardrobes, cupboards and under the stairs. He escaped the criminal charges largely thanks to the brilliance of George Carman QC who insisted the case must be heard by a jury in Liverpool. As a friend remarked at the time ' there's no way Dodd will be found guilty in his home town.' George Carman was played by Clive Hayward, the judge by Neil McCaul, and the music was arranged and performed by Neil Brand. The producer was Gemma Jenkins. (.....ND, Diversity website radio drama review, Dec 2019.)

23 Jan 19: Spike and the Elfin Oak
By Ian Billings, rpt. from 2018. First-class comic fantasy inspired by Spike Milligan's attempts to preserve the Elfin Oak in Kensington Gardens fifty years ago. Spike: David Threlfall, young Spike: Charlie Brand, Norma Farnes: Kerry Gooderson, Laura: Rosie Boore, Sile: Charlotte Emmett, Mother Superior: Georgie Glen, park keeper: Luke Bailey, Mrs. Grumples: Lauren Cornelius, Groodles: Ryan Early, Huckleberry: Clive Hayward, George: Neil McCaul, council boss: Philip Bretherton, vandal: Rupert Holliday Evans, man with dog: Ghazanfar Hyder. Producer: Gemma Jenkins. David Threlfall won the Best Actor in a Radio Drama award for his performance as Spike, and the play reached the finals (down to the last 3) for the Imison Award 2019. Note also the presence of young Charlie Brand (son of Neil Brand, the composer) in the cast list. Original broadcast: 16 Apr 2018.

Nigel Deacon / Dec 2019

Back to top

Radio Plays
Wine Making
Cosby Methodist Church
Gokart Racing
Links to other Sites
Contact Us