Richard Wortley:
-A Word on Women Dramatists

I mentioned Susan Hill previously. Since my central period with drama there has been a large increase, though not the numbers who dominate print journalism; also in women directors.

Fay Weldon discussed her first adult radio play (bags of children's television etc. beforehand) in a really noisy restaurant. She had a very quiet voice and I had no idea what we decided; such a clever person, though, with her seraphic smile. We won a prize with the work called 'Spider' with Henry Woolf adding his extra something to the cast. Henry, alas, emigrated to Canada, teaching theatre, and Fay turned "The Doctor's Wife" (her second radio play) into a novel, with a trademark large quantity of dialogue. As, I believe, she did her third.

Elizabeth Troop had an individual voice, adapting her own and other writers' work for the radio. I relished "The Woolworth's Madonna" (from her novel of the same title). It featured Miriam Margolyes - such versatility - and Elizabeth stoically suffered our visiting Tory MPs asking if we could make each scene the same length and wasn't it a waste of time going into the studio to talk with the actors? I smelled a threat of privatisation.

Jennifer Phillips gave me humorous casting opportunities, especailly with her wryly comic series, "Radio Cars", first off the block before television produced a similar setting. Jennifer, with her insider knowledge of genially crooked minicab drivers, gave me a platform for the neat comedy timing by the likes of Harriet Walter, Gary Waldhorn and Neil Dudgeon.

I had a moment or two with Patrice Chaplin (yes, she was related to Charlie, by law). Her bohemian enthusiasms took her as far as a radio study of Jeanne Hebuterne, main mistress of the painter Modigliani, who committed suicide by throwing herself backwards out of an upstairs window the day after he died. We left this part of the tragedy to the imagination and did not embellish it by sound effects.

I missed out on Caryl Churchill (getting greedy now) but had a stimulating time with a 'sixties' dropout and top-notch single mother, Barbara Anne Villiers and her turnaround version of "Strangers on a Train" entitled "Remaining Strangers" - two women plotting the double murder of their respective husbands.

I followed through two radio dramas with Tom Mallin's son, Rupert Mallin, a genetically unmodified poetic imagination currently toiling in the Arts world of East Anglia.

Maureen O'Brien, super-bright actress and friend, shone in a work by each of the last two writers.

Olwen Wymark, from her stimulating polymorphic background - a sort of American Bloomsbury but not a whiff of Sunnybrook Farm, also provided me with a vehicle for Miriam Margolyes. A play called 'The Child', a further hit for the Giles Cooper blue covers.

My short association with a lady from the shires led to another example of 'printed' radio plays. Dorothy Osbourne of Amersham and her magic realism drama "A Passing Whale" swam towards a newer form of media competition, "The Prix Futura". Though I had not grasped its futuristic potential, it got an automatic co-translation into French and had we entered it under her real name, Nest Entwhistle, we might have won.

I mustered a moment with Jeanette Winterson and her first radio play; such a likeable, feisty Lancastrian, riveting about her Pentecostalist beginnings and cautiousness (at the time) about the Groucho Club.

She may be out of radio range these days with her state-of- the-art word-worked novels and fine polemic journalism. The play was surprisingly traditional in its storyline.

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