44 Scotland Street. By Alexander McCall Smith. A dramatisation of Alexander McCall Smith’s acclaimed series based on the residents of a fictitious tenement building in a real Edinburgh New Town street, inspired by Maupin’s Tales of The City (see below). Anthropologist Domenica MacDonald observes the lives of her neighbours and the neighbourhood in Edinburgh’s New Town. Pat, a new young tenant, arrives at 44 Scotland Street to flat share with Bruce. Bruce is a surveyor with more of an eye for the ladies than a sound property. We’re introduced to five-year-old Bertie, who is controlled by his pretentious and intellectual mother Irene – he’s learning the saxophone, speaks Italian, and is extremely knowledgeable about many subjects. And then there’s Matthew, setting up the Something Special Gallery with little knowledge of artists or paintings! With its multiple-occupancy flats, Scotland Street is an interesting corner of the New Town, verging on the Bohemian, where haute bourgeoisie rubs shoulders with students and the more colourful members of the intelligentsia.
A Kind of Loving. By Stan Barstow. Vic is attracted to the beautiful but demanding Ingrid, and as their relationship grows and changes, he comes to terms the hard way with adult life and what it really means to love. Sean Bean reads Stan Barstow’s 1950s novel which became a classic of postwar working-class fiction.
A Man Called Ove. By Fredrik Backman. Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. Every morning he makes his rounds of the local streets, moving bicycles and checking the contents of recycling bins, even though it’s been years since he was fired as Chairman of the Residents’ Association in a vicious coup d’etat. But behind the surly pedant there is a story, and a sadness. When one morning his new neighbours in the house opposite accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it sets off a comical and heart-warming tale of unexpected friendship which will change the lives of one man – and one community – forever. The word-of-mouth bestseller in Sweden is Fredrik Backman’s debut novel. The main protagonist was born on his blog, where over 1000 readers voted for Backman to write a book about a man called Ove.
Tales Of The City: 1 Tales Of The City. By Armistead Maupin. Seeking a change in her life, Mary Ann Singleton moves to San Francisco in 1976, soon finding herself living at 28 Barbary Lane. Her life becomes intertwined with those of her varied neighbors and myriad colorful characters.
Tales Of The City: 2 More Tales of the City. By Armistead Maupin. The story begins about a couple months from where Tales of the City ended. Michael (“Mouse”) Tolliver and Mary Ann Singleton go on a cruise, thanks to money given to her by her former boss, Edgar Halcyon.
Tales Of The City: 3 Further Tales of the City. By Armistead Maupin. Further Tales of the City takes place in 1981 during the first year of the Reagan Administration and imagines that the real-life figure of Jim Jones survives the Jonestown massacre. Further Tales of the City also captures the tail end of the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS era of decadence in the gay culture of the early 1980s as the Michael Tolliver character explores his promiscuous side after breaking up with Jon Fielding.
Tales Of The City: 4 Babycakes. By Armistead Maupin. Babycakes is the fourth book in the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin, originally serialized in the San Francisco Chronicle and set in the city. Dramatised for radio by Bryony Lavery. Landlady Mrs Madrigal is watching over the tenants of her house on Barbary Lane. Babycakes is often cited as the first work of fiction to address the AIDS pandemic. It begins in 1983, with the revelation of Jon Fielding’s death from AIDS. His lover Michael is bereft. Brian, now 38 wants a baby but Mary Ann is still working hard. The Britannia is in town along with the Queen and the Royal party.
Death And The King’s Horseman. By Wole Soyinka. In celebration of Wole Soyinka’s 80th birthday, a drama based on a real event in 1940s Nigeria. A colonial district officer intervenes to prevent a local man committing ritual suicide. Death And The King’s Horseman is considered to be Professor Soyinka’s greatest play. In awarding Soyinka the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, the Swedish Academy drew special attention to Death and the King’s Horseman as evidence of his talent for combining Yoruban and European culture into a unique kind of poetic drama.
It Takes Two to Lie. By Isabelle Grey. When Des takes Nabil hostage while attempting to rob the local Pawnbroker’s Shop, things don’t go quite the way he had imagined. As he tries to lie his way out of the situation, student Nabil forces him to face up to the truth. But what if you’ve forgotten what the truth is?
King David. By Katie Hims. Dave has a pretty good life: his company is thriving, he’s got a lovely wife, a big house, kids at private schools. But then he gets a bit careless and things start to go wrong.
Find more Katie Hims on the Katie Hims Page.
Life in the Freezer. By Al Smith. At 66 June Cartwright finally lost her battle with Ovarian Cancer. She didn’t fear death but what would happen to her family after she’d gone, for she knew she was the emotional glue that kept them together. For June, food was everything. A family that eats together, stays together. June may have left behind her a husband and two children. What they will soon discover is that she also left behind fifty frozen meals, perfectly cooked to their tastes which serve to guide them through their grief, together. This series charts five meals, spread across six months during which the Cartwright family pull themselves apart, back together, and figure out how to move on after their mothers death.
Life in the Tomb. By Stratis Myrivilis. A masterwork of Greek fiction, Life in the Tomb provides a different perspective on the anniversary of the Great War. This new dramatisation from leading playwright April De Angelis in her first radio dramatisation features an original score by award winning composer Errollyn Wallen. Originally published as extracts in a national Greek newspaper, the book takes the form of a series of letters from a young soldier back to his girlfriend in Lesvos, as his platoon moves deeper into trench warfare. Myrivilis based the book on his own experience of fighting on the Macedonian front. The book is so honest about how appalling conditions were and how badly the army was managed that it was banned on publication. Stratis Myrivilis’ book brilliantly captures a complex Southern European view of World War I. Our narrator meets a wide range of nationalities on his journey to the trenches. The incidents he describes are rich and often unexpected – the Macedonian family who care for him when wounded, the enemy soldier with the voice of an angel and the Chinese cart driver who helps him when lost.
Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime. By Oscar Wilde. A shadow is cast on Lord Arthur Savile’s engagement to the lovely Sybil Merton after a palm reading by Mr Podgers, who confides to Lord Arthur that he saw ‘murder’ written on the gentleman’s palm.
Love etc. By Julian Barnes.
“Hello! We’ve met before … Yes. I am sure.
Positive. About ten years ago.”
Stuart’s right. We have met before, and his
best friend Oliver, and Gillian, the woman they
both loved. We now have the chance to pick up
from where we left them in France …
All those years ago, the feckless and witty Oliver betrayed his life-long friendship with Stuart, wrecked his marriage, stole Gillian his wife and then moved to France. There, in an attempt to ease Stuart’s misery and her own conscience Gillian staged a violent incident calculated to convince Stuart that her marriage to Oliver is a disaster. But now Oliver and Gillian are back in London and have two daughters. There isn’t much money but they are happily jogging along when Stuart, now a successful entrepreneur with an unsuccessful marriage behind him, suddenly returns from the USA, re-enters their lives and life begins to take an unexpected turn for all of them.
Midnight Cry of the Deathbird. By Lucy Catherine. The Gothic Imagination. The Midnight Cry of the Deathbird, freely inspired by the classic silent film Nosferatu for radio. Poet Amanda Dalton was inspired to tell this story by her love of silent film and an interest in how we communicate with each other. Fascinated by silence, Nosferatu led her to imagine a version in which Ellen is deaf, living in a world of miscommunication and misinformation. In The Midnight Cry of the Deathbird, Mandy uses poetry, prose, song, monologue and dialogue to explore the ways people both talk to and miscommunicate with each other. When the film Nosferatu was made, soldiers were returning to Germany from WW1 broken men. An influenza epidemic spread through the country at the same time, killing many people. In The Midnight Cry of the Deathbird, Amanda Dalton taps into this fear which is still relevant to us now, of silent illness and epidemics which arrive unannounced and threaten our existence.
Shakespeare a la Carte. By Pippa Smith. Actors from the theatre company Hydrocracker, masquerading as waiters in a pizza restaurant, take over a live Shakespeare performance when they hear that the real actors from the RSC and National Theatre have been delayed in traffic. One of the highlights of the 2008 brighton festival was turned into an afternoon play for BBC Radio 4. Shakespeare a la Carte. took the public by storm when it offered audiences the chance to order up their favourite bits of shakespeare, together with coffee and croissant. Pippa Smith, head of education at the brighton festival had the idea after a disappointing encounter at the Edinburgh festival. “I saw a flyer advertising shakespeare for breakfast. But breakfast turned out to be stewed tea in polystyrene cups and the Shakespeare was a lame production of ‘Love Labour’s Lost.’ I came away with an entire show in my head. I knew I could create something much classier than this – the bards best bits performed by leading talent from the RSC and National.” Smith approached Richard Hahlo, Jonathan Cullen and Fiona Dunn, who form the theatre company Hydrocracker. They devised a show where the actors, masquerading as waiters in a pizza restaurant, take over the performance when they hear that the real actors have been delayed driving down from Stratford. For the radio adaptation two extra characters played by Sian Webber and Richard Attlee, have been created. says Richard Hahlo: “They frame the action for those listening at home. it’s good that we will record it live, because what you get are big chunks of Shakespeare interwoven into the to-ing and fro-ing of these waiters trying to get these speeches organised.”
Shirley. By Charlotte Bronte. Set against a Yorkshire industrial background, Charlotte Bronte’s powerful second novel is also an impassioned plea for social equality – for workers and women alike. Set during the time of the Luddite unrest, two strands weave together. One, the struggles of workers against mill owners, the other involving the romantic entanglements of the two heroines – Shirley Keelder and Caroline Helstone. It is the friendship of these two women, and the contrast between their situations, that lies at the heart of the piece. Many believe the character of Shirley was written for, and about, Charlotte’s sister, Emily, who was dying as Charlotte wrote the novel. This is an earthy, vivid and poignant re-telling of one of the lesser-known Bronte classics. The scenes of dangerous social unrest and conflict and love are as relevant today as when the novel was published. It’s a story of friendship and love, longing and loss. A rollicking good story with plenty of cliffhangers to keep the listener hooked to the very end.
The Professor. By Charlotte Bronte. The orphaned William Crimsworth is a young man with nothing. As he sets out to make his way in the world he doesn’t want to be indebted to anyone. But running parallel with this need for self-control is the desperate need to love and be loved in return.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. By Anne Bronte. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a powerful and sometimes violent story of expectation, love, oppression, sin, religion and betrayal. It portrays the disintegration of the marriage of Helen Huntingdon, the mysterious ‘tenant’ of the title, and her dissolute, alcoholic husband. Defying convention, Helen leaves her husband to protect their young son from his father’s influence, and earns her own living as an artist. Whilst in hiding at Wildfell Hall, she encounters Gilbert Markham, who falls in love with her. On its first publication in 1848, Anne Bronte’s second novel was criticised for being ‘coarse’ and ‘brutal’. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall challenges the social conventions of the early nineteenth century in a strong defence of women’s rights in the face of psychological abuse from their husbands. Anne Bronte’s style is bold, naturalistic and passionate, and this novel, which her sister Charlotte considered ‘an entire mistake’, has earned her a position in English Literature in her own right.