Drama Page 41

Many thanks to John H and Peter P for contributions to this Page.

TroyTroy. By Andrew Rissik. “Anyone who doubts the right of Radio 3 to exist – low listening figures, large budget, elitist agenda – should be locked in a darkened room for an afternoon with tapes of Troy. He will emerge sadder, wiser and in a state of cathartic enchantment, for Jeremy Mortimer’s production of Andrew Rissik’s trilogy is probably the greatest radio drama he could ever hear. In these plays, passionate love, bloody revenge and furious argument with the whimsical gods are expressed in language that is spare, poetic, beautiful. Now and again it zooms forward into our century – as when Hekabe complains that her baby son Hektor would be less inhibited if his father spent more time with him, or when the full-grown Hektor is described as fighting ‘sitting on his arse’. Sometimes it slips into the sonorous rhythms of iambic pentameter: ‘Should I pretend to have no mind, no thoughts, for fear of hurting or offending you?’ More often it reaches for elemental imagery – when Helen remembers making love to Paris in an open boat during a tempest, while ‘god-light arched across the bay and the clouds split open’, or the grieving Andromache longs for quietus: ‘For me, death will be like the moment when, at last, the storm blows itself out, and the sky clears, and the light is clean.’ But words on the page are only half the story. This production was broad and spacious, uncluttered by effects — save for a wave washing on the shore as Achilles broods or the wind forcing itself through cracks in Agamemnon’s palace. And besides, you had to hear Emma Fielding’s whispering, tragic Andromache, or Paul Scofield’s lofty, wise, world-weary Hermes, or Julian Glover’s dignified, heart-broken Priam, gazing down at the mangled body of his son. ‘This it is to father children’, he says quietly; ‘to love them without reservation, to keep them at the centre of every thought, every dream, then to see them lying in the earth before their time. Does anything survive?’ Distant thunder rumbles and a woman, far away, keens in harsh anguish. In the end, lovely Helen, the excuse for it all, lives on, disfigured, into old age, and the mighty, belligerent cities, beggared and depopulated by warfare, return to sand. ‘Legends’, says Hermes ‘are like dreams: they tell us what we need to know.’ The wheel turns and humanity moves on.” (Sue Gaisford, The Independent On Sunday).

More Greco and Roman drama can be found on the Greco-Roman Drama Pages.

odysseyThe Odyssey. By Homer. A full-cast production of Homer’s epic seafaring adventure, dramatised by award-winning poet Simon Armitage, and starring Tim McInnerny and Amanda Redman ‘My fame is written in the heavens, and my fate too…’ So speaks Odysseus as he starts to recount his struggles to sail home to Ithaca, in one of the greatest pieces of storytelling in Western literature. “The Odyssey” is his incredible traveller’s tale – and also the story of his faithful wife, Penelope who waits for him, besieged by suitors, and their son, Telemachus who has a quest of his own. In a twenty-year journey, fabulous fantasy mixes with extraordinary reality as Odysseus encounters enchantresses, nymphs, monsters, prophets and ghosts. From the temptations of the lotus flowers and the Sirens’ song to the horrors of the Cyclops’ cave and the Land of the Dead, the story of his encounters is riveting. We hear of Circe, who turned his men into swine; Calypso, who held Odysseus prisoner for seven years; and tthe dreadful six-headed monster Scylla who devoured some of his crew. And we hear of the Gods, who have a vital role to play…;Dramatised by major contemporary poet Simon Armitage to celebrate the return of the Olympics to Athens, this full-cast production brings Odysseus’s adventures to vivid life, conveying all the excitement, suspense and poetry of the original. A stunning aural rollercoaster ride, “The Odyssey” will have your heart in your mouth and stir your soul.

More Greco and Roman drama can be found on the Greco-Roman Drama Pages.

dionysusDionysos. By Andrew Rissik. A strong king who rules by the sword is forced to consider the big questions in Dionysos. An unwelcome visitor, the charismatic Dionysos, self-proclaimed ‘incarnate son of God’, argues that ‘there is no power or wealth which will endure: there is only truth. King Pentheus (Toby Stephens) replies angrily: ‘What is truth? A word as light as the feathers of a duck.’ The play is loosely based on the story told by Euripides in the Bacchae. When Dionysos arrives in Thebes he soon has everyone under his spell, including the king’s mother Agave (Dame Diana Rigg) and his grandfather Kadmos (Paul Scofield), but Pentheus is enraged at this decadent new cult and vows to assert his authority. This drama is one that has added resonance in the light of recent law and order crises in Iraq. (Stephanie Billen, The Observer)

“A stunning and provocative new play … set in ancient Thebes …dramatised the clash between a Christ-like Dionysos and the autocratic King Pentheus. The all-star cast included Diana Rigg, Toby Stephens and Paul Scofield, who gave one of the outstanding performances of his career. Yet Dionysos was largely ignored. Why? Because it was a radio play. Welcome to the strange, self-effacing world of British radio drama.” (Adam Thorpe, The Guardian, Jul 03)

More Greco and Roman drama can be found on the Greco-Roman Drama Pages.

MedeaMedea. By Euripides. The play tells the story of the revenge of a woman betrayed by her husband. All of the action of the play is at Corinth, where Jason has brought Medea after the adventures of the Golden Fleece. He has now left her in order to marry Glauce, the daughter of King Creon. (Glauce is also known in Latin works as Creusa. The play opens with Medea grieving over her loss and with her elderly nurse fearing what she might do to herself or her children. Creon, also fearing what Medea might do, arrives determined to send Medea into exile. Medea pleads for one day’s delay. In the next scene Jason arrives to confront her and explain himself. He believes he could not pass up the opportunity to marry a royal princess, as Medea is only a barbarian woman, but hopes to someday join the two families and keep Medea as his mistress.

More Greco and Roman drama can be found on the Greco-Roman Drama Pages.

OedipusOedipus the King. By Sophocles. The protagonist of the tragedy is the son of King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes. After Laius learns from an oracle that “he is doomed to perish by the hand of his own son”, he tightly binds the feet of the infant Oedipus together with a pin and orders Jocasta to kill the infant. Hesitant to do so, she orders a servant to commit the act for her. Instead, the servant takes baby Oedipus to a mountain top to die from exposure. A shepherd rescues the infant and names him Oedipus (or “swollen feet”). The shepherd carries the baby with him to Corinth, where Oedipus is taken in and raised in the court of the childless King Polybus of Corinth as if he were his own. As a young man in Corinth, Oedipus hears a rumour that he is not the biological son of Polybus and his wife Merope. When Oedipus questions the King and Queen, they deny it, but, still suspicious, he asks the Delphic Oracle who his parents really are. The Oracle seems to ignore this question, telling him instead that he is destined to “Mate with [his] own mother, and shed/With [his] own hands the blood of [his] own sire”. Desperate to avoid his foretold fate, Oedipus leaves Corinth in the belief that Polybus and Merope are indeed his true parents and that, once away from them, he will never harm them.

More Greco and Roman drama can be found on the Greco-Roman Drama Pages.

The Carhullan Army-1The Carhullan Army. By Sarah Hall. A serious political novel that convincingly explores the mindset of fascism, and a haunting story of how far we will go to be free, it’s also a kind of Cumbrian western, peopled with heroic personalities out of an all-female version of “The Iliad”. It’s a blistering achievement: darkly violent, funny, tender and gripping, “The Carhullan Army” is like nothing else. In an unspecified near-future, life in Britain has become unrecognisable: the floodwaters have risen, food and fuel are scarce, and the country is run by the sinister Authority. All women are forced to wear contraceptive devices. Sister, as the book’s narrator calls herself, escapes this repressive world and heads for a mysterious, quasi-mythical commune of women high in the Cumbrian fells, led by the legendary Jackie Nixon. The journey is a challenge but arrival is only the beginning of Sister’s struggle.

Bird CloudBird Cloud. (R) By Annie Proulx. Pulitzer prize-winning writer, Annie Proulx, sets out to build her perfect home in a remote corner of Wyoming. Proulx’s first work of non-fiction in twenty years tells a personal story of designing and constructing a house in harmony with her interests, work and personality. Having lived a peripatetic life, Annie Proulx decides to build a house where she can end her days. It does not quite work out that way when she falls in love with a 640 acre of remote Nature Conservancy land in Wyoming.

Chronicles of AitChronicles Of Ait. By Michael Butt. From ‘The Turn of the Screw’ to ‘Torchwood’, spooky children have long been used to add menace to many an eerie tale, and Michael Butt’s unsettling drama about a young girl’s visions of future events is a fine addition to the casebook. Openminded Dr Linus Scott is pitted against sceptical child psychologist Alice Pyper-think The X-Files in East Anglia-as they try to puzzle out the strangely disturbed behaviour of nine-year-old Linny Custer. But what could be nothing more than an effective spine-tingler soon morphs into a deftly handled meditation on loss and family as motivations and background histories rise to the surface in the mysterious coastal community of Ait where the regular rules of science and memory appear not to apply. (Radio Times)
Chronicles Of Ait-Echo Beach. By Michael Butt. The remote east coast settlement of Ait is reckoned to have siren-like powers to entrap and enthral its visitors – and that, at least, is how it appears to disaffected writer Linus Scott when he arrives from London in search of oblivion, for his first encounter is with a mermaid emerging from the North Sea. Actually Alice Pyper isn’t strictly speaking a mermaid, just a lovely local woman taking a cold swim, but Scott is captivated by her beauty and, on a later meeting, with other paraphernalia of enchantment, for she insists on telling him a local story of passionate concern to her, a legend-like narrative of unexplained tragedy and loss on nearby Echo Beach. Scott’s dormant writer’s appetite is awakened and, rather against his will, he finds himself caught up in both a beguiling story of family treachery, and a tantalising love affair. Echo Beach is the second story from the Chronicles of Ait, connected to the first tale only by the location and the names of its two main characters.
Chronicles of Ait-The Saxon Stones. By Michael Butt. Chronicles of Ait-The Saxon Stones finds author and one-time TV historian Linus Scott returning to the remote east coast settlement of Ait to attend the funeral of his childhood mentor, Kenrick, a scholar of Old English who had rescued the young boy from a problem background. But also attending the ceremony is a stranger, Alice Pyper, who, to Scott’s surprise, appears to have had some connection to the deceased man. When Alice begins snooping around Kenrick’s house, Scott confronts her, and the first door is opened onto a labyrinthine mystery that leads deep into the history of the Saxon Stones and the ominous myth of Dracamuth.
Chronicles of Ait-Magpie. By Michael Butt. Linus Scott’s niece Lollo becomes convinced that reality is being influenced by forces which no-one has the power to stop – and that the plunge towards emotional disaster is unavoidable.
Chronicles Of Ait-The Lotos Effect. By Michael Butt. Linus Scott is a General Practitioner dealing with the normal range of ailments when he is called to the home of a young woman struggling with a recurring nightmare. But after a second teenager independently reports the same dream, something happens which moves events into a more sinister dimension.
Find ‘The Turn of the Screw’ on Page 29.
Find ‘Torchwood’ on Page 40.

The Conspiracy of the IlluminatiThe Conspiracy of the Illuminati. By Nigel Baldwin. A historical mystery set in Arras in the lead up to the French Revolution, looking into the suggestion that the Bavarian Order of the Illuminati were behind some of the key figures of the time.

To a Mountain in TibetTo a Mountain in Tibet. (R) By Colin Thubron. “By trekkers’ standards our party is small and swift: a guide, a cook, a horse-man, myself. We move scattered above the river, while loan traders pass us the other way, leading their stocky horse and mule-trains between lonely villages. They look fierce and open, and laughingly meet your eyes. The delicacy of the plains has gone…” Renowned travel writer Colin Thubron is about to climb Mount Kailis in Tibet, one of the holiest places in the world and hardly visited by westerners. Its slopes are rugged, glacial, and peopled by the toughest types alive. Its slopes are also full of stories.

chittybangChitty Chitty Bang Bang. By Ian Fleming. An eccentric professor invents wacky machinery, but can’t seem to make ends meet. When he invents a revolutionary car, a foreign government becomes interested in it, and resorts to skulduggery to get their hands on it.

Anna of the Five TownsAnna of the Five Towns. Arnold Bennett’s powerful story of love, tyranny and rebellion set against the vitality and harshness of life in the Staffordshire Potteries in the late nineteenth century, dramatised by Helen Edmundson. Brought up in the repressive tradition of Methodism by her miserly father, Anna Tellwright dreams of independence and freedom. On coming of age she learns that she is to inherit a fortune and realises that she is loved by the charismatic Henry Mynors. But with the money comes responsibility and a growing bond with one of her tenants William Price.

Show BoatShow Boat. By Edna Ferber. No little girl had a more enchanted childhood than Magnolia Hawks. Her daughter Kim, a famous actress, begins to tell the tale to a journalist from ‘The New Yorker’. Andy Hawks, Magnolia’s father, a river boat captain, buys the Cotton Blossom Floating Palace Theatre, much to the dismay of Parthenia, his wife. Parthy doesn’t approve of the stage but Magnolia loves the actors and actresses who play to the audiences each night on a glittering show boat which proceeds up and down the Mississippi River. For Magnolia the Show Boat is a magical place full of wonderful company members. There’s the beautiful and talented Julie, kind Schultzy and Jo, a black member of the crew, who plays the banjo and has the most amazing soulful voice that seems to seep up from the river itself when he sings ‘Deep River’. Magnolia is destined to become a performer and before long her name is famous up and down the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri Rivers. Then the handsome and charming Gaylord Ravenal joins the company. Gaylord is actually a riverboat gambler and on the run from debts but he manages to bluff his way onto the boat by pretending to be an actor. But does anyone know his secret?

The Mauritius CommandThe Mauritius Command. Patrick O’Brian’s naval epic set in 1809, dramatised in three parts by Roger Danes. Starring David Robb as Captain Jack Aubrey and Richard Dillane as Doctor Stephen Maturin. Following his adventures in HMS Surprise, Jack Aubrey has been kicking his heels at home when his old friend, Stephen Maturin, comes knocking at his door with welcome news. Jack is promoted to Commodore, and is to lead a squadron of English ships, charged with taking the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and RĂ©union from the French. In the course of the novel Jack must succeed against superior odds at sea and on land. Yet, in his new role as Commodore, Jack will need subtlety and subterfuge to win over the crews and subordinate captains of his own fleet. Based on a naval campaign in 1809-10 when Britain and France were bitterly engaged in protecting their trade routes around the southern tip of Africa.

Spring Storm,Spring Storm. By Tennessee Williams. With Inroduction from director Laurie Sansom. A radio adaptation of the Royal and Derngate, Northampton production, broadcast to mark the centenary of the playwright’s birth. Heavenly Critchfield has almost everything a young woman could desire, but when she’s forced to decide between respectable suitor Arthur and handsome, wild lover Dick, her actions cause a chain of consequences that tear their lives apart.

The Devil in AmberThe Devil in Amber. (R) By Mark Gatiss. Dandy secret agent Lucifer Box investigates who’s behind dodgy, drug-related dealings in 1920s Manhattan. Read by the author.

PilgrimPilgrim. By Sebastian Baczkiewicz. What if all the myths and folktales of these islands were true? And what if they were not only true but present now in our world? All the spirits, existing, as they have always existed, in the gaps between tower blocks, in the shadows under bridges, in the corner of our vision. An ancient and eternal world which has existed alongside ours since time immemorial and will exist long after we have gone. Enter Pilgrim… In 1185 William Palmer was making pilgrimage to Canterbury. Unbeknownst to him his fellow pilgrim was the Lord of Faerie. When William claimed that the Church would wipe out the belief in the Faerie world, he was cursed by the Faerie Lord and condemned forever to the walk between our world and theirs. The plays in Pilgrim are thrilling, dark and contemporary yet, they’re set in a very recognisable, very real present but a present haunted by the folktales of these islands: drowned villages, changeling children, werewolves, Puck, unruly nature spirits. Pilgrim is graced by some truly wonderful acting talent.

Series 1
He Who Would Valiant Be. Pilgrim is summoned to help retrieve an egg stolen from the Lady Ursula – a huge, powerful dragon. The egg has been stolen by the outlaw Faerie, Puck, who has holed up in a house in a small town on the outskirts of Birmingham. Puck has recruited a bunch of feral ‘estate lads’ to his army. Indeed, he has bewitched the whole town. Pilgrim must retrieve the egg before Ursula can exact a terrible retribution.
Then Fancies Flee Away. Travelling through Yorkshire, Pilgrim meets Noreen, whose son has been in a strange coma for the past seven years. He lies in his bed, surrounded by a huge growth of thorns. How can this enchantment be broken? As Pilgrim investigates, he is drawn inexorably towards the darkness beneath the mysterious Round Barrow of Willy Howe.
No Foes Shall Stay His Might. Haddonfield is a powerful City banker. More powerful than he has any right to be. But perhaps that’s because he’s also a collector of the occult and has some very potent items in his collection. He’s recently captured that rarest of things – a young girl who is also a werewolf. Now, he’s after Pilgrim himself.
‘Gainst All Disaster. Pilgrim’s toughest adventure. Joseph of Arimethea, guardian of the sleeping Knights who will wake only in Britain’s hour of greatest need, is being held captive by Malachai Styler – a very malevolent angel. Styler is bent on the destruction of the Greyfolk, the Knights and the balance between the worlds. If Pilgrim is to save Joseph, it will be at the most terrible cost to himself.

Series 2
The Drowned Church. Pilgrim comes to Skaymer, a seaside town in Norfolk, to investigate the strange appearance of a young man believed drowned in the great flood of 1757. Humanity’s ageless champion returns, this time to stop a sinister church congregation under the sea.
The Lost Hotel. Pilgrim has to return a changeling child – Ray Norris – to his rightful father, the King of the Greyfolk. Ray, meanwhile, is beginning to feel the benefits of his faerie lineage, with remarkable success on the stock market.
The Lady in the Lake. In search of runaway ward, Freya, Pilgrim goes to Hollisale Well and discovers a small community dedicated to the memory of a woman lured into the water seven years ago by a magical being.
Hope Springs. Pilgrim is the most reluctant father of the bride. He struggles to balance the prospect of being the quarry in a savage hunt forever and a day with seeing his daughter Doris condemned to an eternity married to Puck.

Series 3
Crowsfall Wood. Pilgrim is called upon to help an old friend who is possessed by a deadly forest spirit. The first of four new dark fantasy adventures featuring the immortal William Palmer.
Sookey Hill. When Pilgrim investigates a story about a man being turned into a hare, he meets a dangerous new enemy. The second in a new series of dark fantasy adventures.
Aisley Bridge. Following the mysterious absence of a local girl, Pilgrim is drawn into the strange world of the lanes, and the immortal children who live there.
Lindie Island. In exchange for a precious bargaining chip in his negotiations with the King, Pilgrim is asked to sacrifice a man he has kept safe for centuries.

Series 4
Mullerby Fair. In an attempt to settle an age old dispute, Pilgrim must confront the ruthless Mr Speed, but he has a secret weapon.
Tregarrah Head. Birdie continues her war of attrition, leaving a wake of innocent victims. Pilgrim has to rescue the Old Man of Tregarrah Head from his fate as the changeling baby of devoted West Country parents.
Wedlowe Sound. Pilgrim must tackle an old adversary and save the community of Wedlowe Sound when it is threatened by a giant.
Bleaker Lake. The showdown. At Bleaker Lake, where Merlin is held sealed up under the water, Pilgrim hopes to find an end, at least to the war of attrition with Birdie, at best to his own immortality.

Series 5
Lyall Park. William Palmer comes to Lyall Park where he uncovers an astonishing and disturbing family secret.
Gallowstone Hill. In search of the Radiant Boy, Pilgrim comes to a village cursed with a dangerous collective madness.
Woolmere Walter. Pilgrim is forced assist a mismatched couple in their very unusual courtship.
Parsons Mount. Pilgrim’s quest for the Radiant Boy forces him to travel to the one place he has been forbidden to go.

Series 6
Jackson’s Mill. Pilgrim discovers that an old friend is being haunted by a malevolent spirit. Meanwhile, homeless people are disappearing from a local shelter.
St Lewin. In search of silver and gold, Pilgrim comes to St Lewin where the malevolence of a powerful old enemy is causing havoc in the lives of ordinary people.
Ouldmeadow Jack. Still in search of gold to rescue the people trapped in Hartley’s mine, Pilgrim comes to Ouldmeadow where he helps an old friend make a final river trip.
Daventree Mansions. Having acquired copper silver and gold, Pilgrim returns to Jacksons Mill where his friend Morgan and the spirit Hartley have prepared a nasty surprise.

Series 7
Clennan Court. Pilgrim is on the trail of murderous magician Morgan Hambleton.
Stickton General. Mushrooms and a dead body help Pilgrim track down his former close friend Morgan Hambleton.
Shoulder Hill. Pilgrim meets some old friends when he takes Morgan Hambleton to a stone circle.
Caudley Fair. Pilgrim learns that Mr Delancey’s daughter, India, has been abducted.
Bayldon Abbey. Mr Delancey must release Pilgrim and his daughter from the enchantment of Caudley Fair.

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