Many thanks to Alan K and Jim D for contributions to this page.
A Stranger in the Tea Leaves. By William Ingram. Welsh take on Gogol’s great comedy of errors in which the corrupt burghers of a small town suck up to a penniless fraud after mistaking him for a government inspector.
Find the original ‘Government Inspector’ on Drama Page 10.
A Two Pipe Problem/Two Pipe Problems. By Michael Chaplin. Set in The Old Beeches, a retirement home for elderly thespians. Inmates William and Sandy still nurse a certain affectionate animosity towards one another since they starred as Holmes and Watson in a 1960s television series.
A Two Pipe Problem. William is moved into ‘The Old Beeches’ after nearly burning his house down and is horrified to find that his old partner, Sandy, is also a resident. Putting their differences aside the two members of the entertainment industry tackle a mystery involving sibling jealousy, a lost ventriloquist’s dummy and a spot of ill-judged fire-raising.
A Streetcar Named Revenge. William and Sandy are haunted by the return of two characters from the past. Sandy becomes amorously involved through the medium of a shared passion for crosswords.
The Trusty Valet and the Crusty Butler. William and Sandy venture outside the Old Beeches to a movie set, accompanied by the intrepid care assistant Karen, as they take on the world of celluloid.
Love is in the Air. (Not the official title) The pair become embroiled in making sure that the course of true love does run smooth. It begins with a proposal of marriage, but they are once again pressed into service to solve a mystery. Just why does the bridegroom suddenly call the wedding off?
Have You Come Far? Sandy appears in the honours list but a trip to Buckingham Palace to collect his award provides another mystery for the veteran sleuths to solve.
Right Old Charlie. We revisit The Old Beeches retirement home for members of the theatrical profession and discover that new odd job man Geordie is making care assistant Karen’s heart beat faster, but is he hiding something from her? Ageing, once-famous stand up comic Charlie Fisher regales the inmates with a few too many very old gags, but when his joke book and a large sum of money go missing, resident sleuths Sandy and William have a few tough questions to ask of the inmates, the new odd job man, and Charlie himself.
The Memory Man Forgets. Billy Small is a rare talent; one of the few surviving “Memory Men” Music Hall variety acts who had total recall of a huge range of entertaining facts. Billy is 85, and after a trip home to his native Yorkshire, he returns to The Old Beeches totally devoid of any memory of who he is or of any of the amazing facts he used to be so proud to display. Our resident sleuths William and Sandy fancy a mini break away from the Home, and take Billy back to Little Fell, the old mining town where he grew up. There they meet his daughter and his granddaughter, but discover that Billy not only alienated the whole mining community during the last miners’ strike by supporting his pitman son in returning to work, but appears now to have lost the love and support of his daughter. Can William and Sandy solve the problem?
Here Doggie. The Old Beeches care-worker Karen has a new pet; Poppet, a rambunctiously badly behaved Scottie dog. Manager Mary issues an ultimatum – the pet goes, or you both go, and Sandy persuades another resident ,a retired variety artiste called Norman Naylor who once had a dog-novelty act, to start training the dog on the nearby common. His wife Nelly, who also lives in the home, sees this as yet another opportunity for her husband to return to his old philandering ways. And one day, he doesn’t return, and neither does Poppet.
The Case of the Missing Meerschaum. William and Sandy are to appear at a Sherlock Holmes Convention, held at a hotel just around the corner from Holmes’ mythical haunts in Baker Street. Sandy isn’t keen but succumbs
A Rose By Any Other Name. In tribute to Richard Briers who co-starred in this series for six years. Sandy and William find a cardboard box in the doorway to the Old Beeches; inside, a tiny baby, clutching a small toy. There is no message and no sign of the mother. From the moment Sandy carries the box into the breakfast room, the discovery causes a sensation in the closet world of the home. Everyone is enchanted by the child – a little girl – and horrified at the implications of her being abandoned.
I Love A Lassie. Sandy decides to travel to Greenock on Clydeside to collect his Freedom of the City award. As he has no living relatives or close friends, he invites William to accompany him on condition he behaves himself. When Sandy and William arrive in the old shipbuilding town, they meet the Provost’s secretary Moira. It becomes clear that his hosts really know virtually nothing about Sandy – in fact Moira asks to interview him so she can write up the Provost’s speech for the ceremony. The following day, Sandy shows William around his birthplace. They visit the tenement where he was born and meet a man he was at school with. He isn’t wholly friendly and, when they return to the hotel, there is a message: “Do you know how much pain you left behind. Why?”. Sandy is anxious, especially when another message appears on the morning of the ceremony: “Why, oh why? Now it’s your turn to feel the pain. You will suffer as others have suffered”. So the race is on to uncover who exactly is out to get Sandy and why. The solution to the riddle is finally revealed at the Freedom of Greenock ceremony, when the roots of everyone’s resentment are uncovered.
I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends. A new chef is in the kitchen at The Old Beeches and he’s cooking up a storm and delighting the residents, with Sandy as his willing and enthusiastic sous-chef. But things begin to go badly wrong after a visiting concert party sing a Beatles song which triggers unhappy memories for Albie the Chef.
The House on the Marsh. William and Sandy travel to a windswept wintry Suffolk in search of William’s inheritance, where they are haunted by ghosts from the past and threats from the present, and William makes a life changing decision about his future.
All Quiet on the Western Front. By Erich Maria Remarque and dramatised by Dave Sheasby. Considered one of the greatest war novels of all time, it is the haunting, comic, lyrical and desperate story of a group of young German soldiers enduring and coming to terms with the realities of the First World War.
A Clergyman’s Daughter. By George Orwell. A young woman put upon by her clergyman father rebels against his blind ignorance and runs away. While roughing it she has adventures and meets various British character stereotypes. Then, having both lost her faith and rejected her one real chance of escape, she returns to become her father’s drudge again.
Writing on Wigan Pier. By George Orwell. David Pownall’s play has strong resonance for today. In 1936, George Orwell embarked on a visit to Wigan, a typical coal-mining town in industrial Lancashire in order to write a book about the people, their experiences and their struggle to cope with the effects of the Depression. Determined not to be dismissed as a dispassionate observer, he resolves to spend time living with and amongst the people. However, he brings with him his self-guilt, his obsession with the English class system, his fiercely-held preconceptions of the working-class and his remarkable cut-glass voice, of which he is all too painfully aware. The visit is both revealing and humorous.
Animal Farm. By George Orwell. Mr Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs Napoleon and Wellington leads to the animals taking over the farm. Vowing to eliminate the terrible inequities of the farmyard, the renamed Animal Farm is organized to benefit all who walk on four legs. But as time passes, the ideals of the rebellion are corrupted, then forgotten. And something new and unexpected emerges. “Animal Farm” – the history of a revolution that went wrong – is George Orwell’s brilliant satire on the corrupting influence of power.
Down and Out in Paris and London. By George Orwell. Written when Orwell was a struggling writer in his twenties, the book documents his ‘first contact with poverty’: sleeping in bug-infested hostels and doss houses, working as a dishwasher in Paris, surviving on scraps and cigarette butts, living alongside tramps, a star-gazing pavement artist and a starving Russian ex-army captain. Exposing a shocking, previously hidden world to readers, Orwell gave a human face to poverty, and in doing so, found his voice as a great writer.
Clarissa: The History of a Young Lady. By Samuel Richardson. Pressured by her unscrupulous family to marry a wealthy man she detests, the young Clarissa Harlowe is tricked into fleeing with the witty and debonair Robert Lovelace and places herself under his protection. Lovelace, however, proves himself to be an untrustworthy rake whose vague promises of marriage are accompanied by unwelcome and increasingly brutal sexual advances. And yet, Clarissa finds his charm alluring, her scrupulous sense of virtue tinged with unconfessed desire. Told through a complex series of interweaving letters, Clarissa is a richly ambiguous study of a fatally attracted couple and a work of astonishing power and immediacy. A huge success when it first appeared in 1747, and translated into French and German, it remains one of the greatest of all European novels.
Educating Rita. By Willy Russell. Rita, a witty, 26-year-old working class British hairdresser who decides to seek an education at Open University. Rita needs a tutor, and she selects Dr Frank Bryant , an alcoholic college literature professor whose life is a shambles. Divorced, Bryant’s new lover is now having an affair with his best friend and he’s increasingly depressed, seeking solace in whisky. Bryant’s domestic turmoil is mirrored by Rita’s, as she has opted for college over motherhood, a source of friction between her and her husband. As Rita blooms intellectually under the tutelage of Bryant, she realizes that what she really lacks is self-confidence, not education, and a gentle romance blossoms between her and Bryant. At home, however, Rita’s newfound self-respect and intelligence cause her even greater pain.
Flashman at the Charge. By George Macdonald Fraser. Adventurer, cad, lecher and coward Harry Flashman suffers the ill fortune of being caught up in the Charge of the Light Brigade. His resourcefulness in surviving the debacle finds him in the frozen Russian wastes, with cruel enemies on one side and bewitching beauties on the other.
Flash For Freedom. By George Macdonald Fraser. Flashman is shown at his vile best in this installment of his saga. Signed unknowingly onto a slave ship by his malicious father-in-law to get him out of the country following a scandal, Flashman plunges up to his whiskers into that century’s nastiest business. Sailing under an insane, Latin-quoting captain, who brings his tea-serving, equally insane wife along for the voyage, Flashy’s misadventures take him from the Slave Coast of Africa to the whorehouses of New Orleans, from the back roads of Mississippi to the frozen Ohio River.
Royal Flash. (R) By George Macdonald Fraser. Flashman tangles with femme fatale Lola Montez and the dastardly Otto Von Bismarck in a battle of wits which will decide the destiny of a continent. Did Flashman’s adventures in the Duchy of Strackenz provide the inspiration for The Prisoner of Zenda? The similarities are certainly there as Flash Harry becomes embroiled in a desperate succession of escapes, disguises, amours and (when unavoidable) hand-to-hand combats in an epic adventure that takes him from the gaming-halls of London to the dungeons and throne-rooms of Europe. And for once Flashman’s talents for deceit and treachery are matched by those of Otto von Bismarck and the beautiful but deadly Lola Montez.
Parisians. By Graham Robb. “The idea was to create a kind of mini Human Comedy of Paris, in which the history of the city would be illumined by the real experiences of its inhabitants.” So says the author Graham Robb about his new book ‘Parisians’. And a whole host of characters walk, scuttle jump, run and flounce across his pages, beginning with the French Revolution and ending in more current times. These inhabitants are natives and visitors, and it is the likes of Charles Axel Guillaumot, Marie Antoinette, Alexandrine Zola, Adolf Hitler and Charles de Gaulle who lighten and darken the city’s streets. The narrator is Stephen Boxer.
The A-Z of Dr Johnson – Boswells Life of Johnson. Dramatisation by Robin Brooks of James Boswell’s biography of Samuel Johnson, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Johnson’s birth. Johnson was an English writer and critic, and one of the most famous literary figures of the 18th century. His best-known work is his ‘Dictionary of the English Language’.
A documentary on Dr Johnson is available in the ‘People’ section of the …of interest pages.
The Clothes they stood Up In. By Alan Bennett. Maurice and Rosemary Ransome are a typically dissatisfied, middle-aged, middle-class couple, childless and emotionally withdrawn. “They had no children and but for Mozart would probably have split up years ago. Mr Ransome always took a bath when he came home from work and then he had his supper. After supper he took another bath, this time in Mozart”. However, one night, after returning from a performance of Cosi fanTutte, bath, supper, Mozart and everything disappeared. “There is a limit to what burglars can take: they seldom take easy chairs, for example, and even more seldom settees. These burglars did. They took everything”. What unfolds is a brilliant account of the ways in which the lives of the Ransomes are subtly but profoundly changed forever, as Rosemary discovers the joys of shopping at the local Pakistani shop and the limits of counselling, and Maurice fantasises about new CD equipment with which to listen to Mozart. However, just as life begins to return to normal, a letter arrives which throws new light on the Ransome’s extraordinary burglary.
The Cocktail Party. By T.S. Eliot. Edward and Lavinia Chamberlayne are separated after five years of marriage. She leaves Edward just as they are about to host a cocktail party at their London home, and he has to come up with an explanation for why Lavinia is not present, in order to keep up social appearances. Lavinia is brought back by a mysterious Unidentified Guest at the party.
The Colliers Cathedral. By Robin Brooks. In this very funny comedy, Sam Lender looks back to the turning point in his life which caused him to leave his poor family to seek fame and fortune. Much of the daily life at the time remains in the recess of his recollection, but one event he remembers only too well when he was 15-years-old…
Jacob, Sam’s father, was an uneducated, unwashed alcoholic coal-miner with the manners of a wild beast (not too dissimilar from most of the blackened creatures he shared the long daily decent into the bowels of the pit). One day, his mother Lottie receives bad news – there was an explosion in the pit. The rescue team went down as soon as they finished their tea and found everything blown to smithereens. All that was left of Jacob was his snap box and sandwiches. After taking donations from other miners, Lottie is given a small leather purse which had the collective opinion his father’s mates – one shilling and tuppence. Along with the shilling a week from the union, it won’t be enough to feed her and her seven children, so she has to work – and work she does – day and night. Soon, after turning 16, Sam wants to get a job. Being much older than his six siblings (the reason for age difference was that Sam’s father worked nights in the pit when he was born), Sam wants to be a writer or a musician while his mother wants him to go down the Pit. When another accident occurs, the decision is made for Sam…
The Labyrinth Makers. By Anthony Price. When an RAF Dakota, presumed lost at sea in 1945, is discovered in a drained lake in Lincolnshire, together with its pilot and a cargo of worthless rubble, it falls to David Audley of the MOD to puzzle out just why the Russians are so interested, and what the plane was carrying that is important enough to kill for.