Drama Page 63

Many thanks to David H, Walter C and Janaru for contributions to this page. 

Dickens Confidential-1-1-1Dickens Confidential. Series of plays looking at how Charles Dickens, as the head of a daily paper, would have tackled bringing the news to the masses.

Series 1
Railway Kings. By Mike Walker. Before his novels, famed writer Charles Dickens edited a newspaper. How might he have covered a train crash? Chief Correspondent Jack Marshall investigates the causes of a tragic railway accident, a difficult task since the owner of the railway is a shareholder in the paper and his daughter is in charge of petty cash.

Darker Than You Think. A serial killer is at large. Chief Correspondent Jack is sent to investigate, but Agnes seems rather more interested in her new beau, a pioneering and seemingly philanthropic doctor, than following the progress of his leads.

High Society. By Deborah Davis. Attending the opening of Parliament by the new young Queen Victoria, Dickens finds himself rubbing shoulders with the great and the good, in particular the alluring Lady Kames. Will this elevation compromise his editorial judgment, especially when a scandalous story emerges?

Captain Swing. By Annie Caulfield. Staying at her father’s country residence, Agnes finds herself at the centre of a story when her father’s beloved steam plough is destroyed. Dickens begins an investigation but Agnes realises that there is much more at stake than broken and burnt property.

Foundry. By Mike Walker. Dickens asks Jack to investigate the death of a young boy at an iron foundry. But the story feels uncomfortably close to home for Dickens and he begins to question his motives. He is also still unaware of Agnes’s involvement with the paper.

Innocence. By Mike Walker. Through a chance encounter with a young woman of the night, Dickens embroils the paper in another dangerous investigation. Drawn into the murky world of prostitution and opium, Agnes and Jack encounter a formidable adversary from the past. 

Series 2
Gangs Of London. By Mike Walker. As a newspaper editor, how might Charles Dickens have covered an old enemy’s return? New criminal gangs are active on the streets of London. A mugging of their financier Joseph Paxton points Dickens and his investigative team to a connection between the gangs and a plot to rock the very heart of the financial world.

The Man Who Robbed the Bank of England. Mourning his reporter, Charles Dickens discovers an unexpected ally also wants justice in a cunning plot. Dickens and his investigative team are determined to find the connection between financier Iron Billy and a cunning plot aimed at the heart of the country’s financial system.

Dickens and the Dandy – Dickens and Dizzy. In the weeks leading up to Queen Victoria’s coronation, Dickens meets Benjamin Disraeli, a journalist and ambitious young politician. There is an instant rivalry and unease between the two men, which only increases when the team believe they have uncovered a secret that Disraeli wants to keep hidden.

The Deal. By Rob Kinsman. When a timid doctor is accused of murdering his wealthy older lover, Dickens alone is convinced of his innocence. His journalistic team’s investigations descend into the harsh territory of the debtors’ prison. Everything, it seems, comes down to money.

Murder in the Red Barn. By Mike Walker. When the body of a young baby is found floating on the River Thames, the Herald’s chief correspondent Daniel Parker is given the task of finding out why. While his investigations take him and Charles Dickens into the poverty stricken areas of the City, Agnes is in the thick of philanthropy and theatricals in Belgravia.

Why Are We In Afghanistan? By Mike Walker. Dickens and his team find themselves caught up in a web of espionage, intrigue and dark deeds at the Russian Embassy, culminating in a heroic balloon chase across the London skyline. 

Fame is the Spur-1-1-1Fame is the Spur. By Howard Spring. A tale of ambition, about a man who rises from the most humble of beginnings in Manchester and reaches the very top in politics in the era when the Labour Party was born after a great struggle. Hamer Shawcross is a victim of his own success, and certainly one of the great characters of English literature.   

The Continuity Man-1-1The Continuity Man. A new comedy by Stephen Keyworth. Starring EastEnders’ Nitin Ganatra as himself. Nitin Ganatra is fed up with playing the ‘good family man’ Masood. He feels there is more to him as an actor than playing the nice guy, the good husband. On the advice of his agent, Crawford Bunch, he sets about making his profile a little more ‘edgy’ in order to convince Hollywood producers that he really has what it takes to play the baddie. But unfortunately Nitin is just too nice. And he get’s more than he bargained for when he finds himself head to head with ‘The Continuity Man’. A comedy about getting yourself into deep water and trying to find your way out again. 

The Disappearance of Jennifer Pope-1-1The Disappearance of Jennifer Pope. by Mike Harris in collaboration with Dave and Stefan Pope. The extraordinary true story of the disappearance of an English nurse in Ecuador, and how her husband and son tracked down her abductor. In September 2005 Jenny Pope takes a year off to go back packing alone in South America because she believes her marriage is over. Dave has been living in the shed prior to this for the last 18 months. But they keep in touch by e-mail and, gradually, separation brings them back together again – their love is reignited. By the time Jennifer reaches Ecuador she’s brought her flight forward as she’s missing husband and son. But in January 2006, suddenly her e-mails stop and her credit cards are emptied. Dave and Jenny’s 20 year old son Stefan go to Banyos in Ecuador, to find out what happened. They soon realise that the prime suspect is the security guard at the last hostel Jenny stayed; a man with a violent past who carries a gun and a machette in his car, who’s bank account deposits match exactly those of Jennifers withdrawals. A poignant and life affirming story of how a father and son’s loss and confusion is channelled into energy and determination to find justice for their beloved wife and mother. 

The Forgetting Curve-1-1The Forgetting Curve. By Hugh Costello. As an expert on memory loss, Greg Cooke is asked to invalidate the testimony of an eyewitness in a high-profile murder trial. He undermines the prosecution’s key witness by convincing the jury that we forget as much within 24 hours as we do over a whole year. As a result, a vicious murderer walks free, but Greg is soon to discover – there’s a price to pay. A tense, white-knuckle ride as a rather self-satisfied hero embarks, reluctantly, on a voyage of self-discovery. 

The Lottery Ticket-1-1-1The Lottery Ticket. Black comedy by Donna Franceschild. An unlikely friendship blossoms when an asylum seeker and a migrant worker find a stray lottery ticket and think it may be the answer to all their problems. 

The Magnificent Andrea-1-1The Magnificent Andrea. The Magnificent Andrea is the first original radio play by Nigel Planer, famous for appearances in comedy and drama ranging from ‘The Young Ones’ to the recent ‘Hairspray’ in the West End. Nigel has created two wonderful characters, both in love with the same woman – who has just – tragically – died. One is her former husband, boozy columnist Barry, at the tail end of a career marked by low-achievement in pugnacious, snide journalism. The other is Andrea’s recent partner until her sudden death: alternative but ultra-orthodox, politically-correct naturopath Nigel. We join Barry after a typically hearty breakfast on his way from Chelsea to attend the funeral in South London. (As he succinctly but tellingly puts it: ‘In former times, a breakfast of egg on toast and two glasses of red wine would have cost considerably less than fifteen nicker’) There he confronts his squeaky-clean nemesis Nigel. The lugubrious Barry is appalled at the ceremony: ‘Andrea would have wanted a troupe of African drummers at her sending off, with mytho-poetic speeches by the priest, a Guetamalan shaman. What she got is a couple of hymns, a bit of Bible and a shunt into the automatic incinerator of Wandsworth Crematorium just off the A217’) It is while milling outside that the basically decent Nigel makes the mistake of inviting Barry back to the house – Barry’s house – for the reception. Now the fireworks really start. 

The Old Spies-1-1The Old Spies. A new play by Jonathan Holloway about three former spies in an old peoples’ home. They talk and remember their old missions and rage against the dying of their lights. They now have nowhere to go but hold on to the stories of their adventurous lives as they feel their own minds, memories and personalities shifting.  

TThe Spellbound Horses-1-1he Spellbound Horses. By Julia Blackburn. Julia’s father was the poet Thomas Blackburn. He was an alcoholic before he became a poet, but in spite of his drunken rages, his erratic behaviour and his crazy obsession with death, she always knew he loved her. She learnt the transforming power of words from him, and she clung to them, a life raft in a stormy sea. ‘Find the metaphor, darling!’ he’d say, ‘and when you’ve got that, you’re on the way towards facing whatever it is that needs to be faced!’ Julia is older now than her father ever became, and here is her son Daniel, about to get married. She worries about the impression she has given Daniel of his grandfather. There are no aunts or uncles to give a different twist on Thomas’ life so it has all come from her: stories of bad behaviour and drunken excess, told to make Daniel laugh with disbelief but not to bring him closer to the man who was his grandfather. And what has Daniel inherited as well as that lanky body and those bushy eyebrows? Could there be a locked box of trouble somewhere inside him, a smouldering present from the past? A work of mesmerising delicacy from the winner of the Pen Ackerley prize for memoir 2009. 

The Vertigo Trust-1-1The Vertigo Trust. By Jon Canter. Ronnie Sax is a sixty something multi-millionaire businessman, abrasive, cocky, three times divorced and on wife number four. He’s egotistical and high energy and very much afraid of heights. He lives in a bungalow. His very large office is on the ground floor. Branson keeps inviting him into his balloon but Ronnie always has an excuse. He gives an interview to Deborah – a journalist with some serious copy to fill – and her searching questions turn into a flirtation that Ronnie feels can only be consummated by conquering his phobia. Enter Martin – a ‘Vertigo Counsellor’ who has read Deborah’s article and thinks he can help. Martin’s done his research and Ronnie, impressed, quickly hires him as his very own counsellor (as long as no one knows finds out what he’s doing in Ronnie’s office.) Over a series of sessions, Ronnie gets attached to Martin and quite dependent on him. Martin helps him overcome his deepest fears. But Martin has a secret. A big secret. One that threatens to turn Ronnie’s world completely upside down.  

Titanium-1-1Titanium. By Anita Sullivan. History rarely remembers who came second. If Yuri Gagarin had so much as sneezed on the 12th of April 1961 the honour of being the first man in orbit would have gone to his training partner, Gherman Titov. But Gagarin didn’t sneeze and a disappointed Titov had to climb back down the launch tower. A few months later Titov did launch successfully in Vostock II. He completed 17 earth orbits (got space-sick, ate and slept) and is still the youngest person ever to have gone into space. But he’s largely unheard of because he wasn’t ‘first’. In Anita Sullivan’s play, which marks the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight, the story of the two cosmonauts – their training, their selection, the flight and its aftermath, is told through Titov’s eyes as he waits at Chkalovsky Airbase for Yuri to return from what should have been a routine training flight on the 27th March 1968. 

Western Stars-1-1-1Western Stars. By Lucy Gough. Ash’s mother died some years ago – she is still coming to terms with her loss. She hasn’t sung since her mother’s funeral. Rose, her best friend and colleague at the hated nylon trouser factory, is keen they re-form their band and make a career out of music; her boyfriend Vince is pressuring her to move in with him and say goodbye to any thoughts of career in favour of family with him. Her father, Dai, just wants his daughter to be happy. Then Vince’s get-rich scheme goes horribly wrong – one night, he is collecting a drugs drop in the bay when he crashes into Dai’s boat. Dai is killed and Ash is distraught. The crisis deepens when Vince is arrested for manslaughter and drugs smuggling. How will Ash cope? 

Elidor-1-1Elidor. By Alan Garner. Manchester in 1965 is a place of bomb sites and slum clearance programmes. Mooching around with a football one cold afternoon, the four Watson children roam inside a Victorian red-brick church which is about to be demolished. They can’t find their ball, which was carelessly kicked over the wall, and one by one the children disappear as they go to look for it. When only Roland is left, he finds that the heavy iron-handled door which the mysterious lame fiddler urges him to open, is a portal into the troubled land of Elidor.  

The Inn at the Edge of the World-1-1The Inn at the Edge of the World. (R) By Alice Thomas Ellis, abridged by Alison Joseph and read by Alexandra Mathie. Five guests are drawn to a remote Scottish island, all seeking an escape over the festive season. However, the island isn’t the idyllic haven they had hoped for. 

a bobby's job-1-1-1A Bobby’s Job. By Don Webb. Life looks good for Mark and Helen Bellis. He’s a young detective constable, just passed the sergeant’s exam. That opens the door to a higher bracket, maybe a thirty thousand a year job. With Helen’s job at the bank, they can trade up to a bigger house and start a family. Then the police job cuts loom and suddenly the way forward doesn’t look quite as clear. Helen’s dad, Richard, thinks his daughter married beneath her. He’s an old school businessman, Mason and Golf Club captain. Very conscious of his standing in the community. Local company director. He introduces Mark to his security manager, Joby Dale. He’s an ex Met Commander with a tricky little problem. Someone in the company is thieving. But he doesn’t know how high up the thief is. So, he reckons, with a little help on the side from Mark, he can find out who it is, stop him and, at the same time, move himself up the power structure. Without finding himself in the firing line. Or being blamed for the breach. Mark is intrigued. And he can do with a few quid on the side. What can be the harm?  

believe me-1-1-1Believe Me. By Stephanie Dale. When art teacher Rachel, walking home festooned with end-of-term gifts from her pupils, bumps into Tyrone on his first day in London it is the beginning of a passionate love affair. Soon it makes sense for Tyrone, now working as a chef in a local up-market café, to move into Rachel’s flat. But it’s not long before there are tiny bits of grit starting to despoil the love oyster. As things get more serious issues of control, jealousy, trust and violence rise to the surface in this thriller exploring a lesser-known side of domestic abuse. 

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