Austerlitz. W G Sebald’s masterpiece novel about remembering the Holocaust, in this dramatisation for radio by Michael Butt. The narrator meets a quiet stranger in the Antwerp station cafe and he begins to confide an unsettling story of vanished identity – which travels through 1930s Czechosolovakia, the Kindertransport of Jewish children to Britain and adoption in Wales. Sebald came to prominence in the 1990s as an acclaimed German writer, living in Britain, whose novels tackled many aspects of Germany’s confrontation with its traumatic wartime past. He died in 2001 at the height of his critical appreciation.
Beat the Dog in His Own Kennel. By Gary Brown. In recently released secret documents it was revealed there was a plot initiated in the Middle East to kill the British Foreign Secretary just after the Second World War. In this fictionalised account, East End market trader Harry becomes caught up in these events and quickly finds himself out of his depth as he comes under the spell of a mysterious visitor from Palestine.
Beowulf. (R) Seamus Heaney reads from his new translation of the great Anglo-Saxon poem. Beowulf is the longest epic poem in Old English, the language spoken in Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest. More than 3,000 lines long, Beowulf relates the exploits of its eponymous hero, and his successive battles with a monster, named Grendel, with Grendel’s revengeful mother, and with a dragon which was guarding a hoard of treasure.
Beowulf is a classic tale of the triumph of good over evil, and divides neatly into three acts. The poem opens in Denmark, where Grendel is terrorising the kingdom. The Geatish prince Beowulf hears of his neighbours’ plight, and sails to their aid with a band of warriors.
Billy Budd – These Buttons We Wear. By Herman Melville. The playwright Keith Dewhurst adapts Herman Melville’s powerful story of persecution and retribution in the aftermath of the Naval Mutinies at Nore and Spithead in 1797. He also tells the story of the man who wrote it. Herman Melville was a man who himself had more than a passing acquaintance with mutiny. There was a history of it amongst his forebears and his own escapades as a sailor in the South Pacific involved him in a mutiny of his own.
Blue Flu. By Peter Bleksley. Blue Flu is a contemporary drama set in the near future. It explores the ‘what if’ scenario of a ‘police strike’ and the fall out of the strike across one day. We will follow three characters across the day of strike action: Mick Harley a dedicated frontline police officer; Jackie Raymond a senior member of the police federation who represent officers and Tom Dunkley, the junior minister who has inherited the responsibility of implementing cuts to a disaffected police service. Mick Harley loves his job and is proud of his work as a ‘response officer’ but he resents the way cuts have put officers at risk. A colleague of his is injured on duty, for the police this is the true cost and consequence of government cuts. Mick decides to take a militant stand, by triggering ‘blue flu’ a coordinated action of officers calling in sick.
Chequebook and Pen. By Andrew Lynch and Johnny Vegas. Johnny Vegas pays tribute to the legendary Les Dawson in a comic flight of fancy. Les has a way with words but is northern, rather crumpled, a little shambolic and an unknown quantity, and delightfully unpredictable when he is faced with representing a national institution. Nicholas Parsons is Farson, a resplendent foil for Dawson.
Chicken Soup With Barley. By Arnold Wesker. A chance to hear a transfer to radio of The Royal Court Theatre’s acclaimed 2011 production of Arnold Wesker’s landmark play from 1958 that captures the collapse of an ideology, alongside the disintegration of a family. The kettle boils in 1936 as the fascists are marching. Tea is brewed in 1946, with disillusion in the air at the end of the war. Twenty years on in 1956, as rumours spread of Hungarian revolution, the cup is empty. Sarah Kahn, an East End Jewish mother, is a feisty political fighter and a staunch communist. Battling against the State and her shirking husband she desperately tries to keep her family together. This landmark state-of-the-nation play is a panoramic drama portraying the age-old battle between realism and idealism.
Devil in the Fog. By Leon Garfield. Highwaymen, duels, swirling fogs, escaped convicts – a thrilling dramatisation of Leon Garfield’s classic 18th Century mystery adventure. 14 year-old George is the oldest of the seven Treet children. Captained by their larger-than-life father, the Treets are touring thespians, forever on the edge of poverty. But their normally happy lives are shadowed by the twice yearly arrival of “the Stranger” who hands Mr Treet a sum of money and disappears. This year, however, the Stranger appears for the last time and Mr Treet reveals to George that he is the son of a nobleman, Sir John Dexter. Now, George must, reluctantly, be returned to him. At the gloomy Dexter family home, George is welcomed by Sir John, who is recovering from a pistol wound received in the course of a duel with his black-hearted brother Richard. Richard has been imprisoned as a result. George does his best to settle into life in his forbidding new home. But trouble is waiting in the fog that surrounds the house. Richard Dexter has escaped from Newgate and is hiding in a nearby copse. What’s more, it soon becomes clear that someone is trying to kill George.
The Eustace Diamonds. By Anthony Trollope. Rose Tremain’s dramatisation of Anthony Trollope’s enthralling novel stars Pippa Nixon as the beautiful Lizzie Eustace, fighting to retain possession of her magnificent diamond necklace, which she claims was left to her, as a gift, by her late husband Florian. Her immediate relatives, spurred on by the intransigent family lawyer, Camperdown, argue that the diamonds are an heirloom, and on no account can be retained by her. The dispute colours all Lizzie’s subsequent relationships – with her cousin Frank, her new lover Lord Fawn, and her admirer Lord George. As gossip and scandal intensify, Lizzie is driven to increasingly desperate behaviour in an attempt to retain her jewels.
Ghosts. By Henrik Ibsen. Henrik Ibsen’s provocative tale of family secrets and lies, in a new version adapted and directed by Richard Eyre and featuring the cast of his recent production for the Almeida Theatre. Helene Alving, a widow, is delighted that her son has returned home to Norway from his artist’s life in Paris. The orphanage founded in her husband’s name is about to open with the blessing of the local pastor, but there are family secrets and ghosts of the past beneath the surface of her ordered life which are about to come out to devastating effect. First staged in 1883, Ibsen’s play shocked audiences with its themes of illegitimacy, inherited syphilis, religion and feminism and in Richard Eyre’s fast-moving adaptation it retains its original power and energy. This production was first directed by Eyre for the Almeida Theatre in London and opened in September 2013 to great acclaim.
The Heroic Pursuits of Darleen Fyles. By Esther Wilson. Darleen is a young woman with learning difficulties who has become obsessed with the emergency services and who occasionally sets fire to things. Helen is a volunteer helper trying to help Darleen to rebuild her life, but she too has her own secret reasons for volunteering.
The Pursuits Of Darleen Fyles. By Esther Wilson. A week in the life of Darleen Fyles, a young woman with learning disabilities. Created in part through improvisation and interaction with Donna Lavin, who plays Darleen, and inspired by true stories.
Darleen is living unhappily in the home of a service carer, and looks to her boyfriend Jamie for help.
Marriage, driving lessons, the pitfalls of sheltered housing are all on the agenda in series 2.
Darleen is now married and wants to make life perfect for her husband, but sexual inexperience proves a worry for both of them. The subject is handled with diligence and dignity.
Darleen considers the possibility of having a baby, but just about everyone – including her partner Jamie – is against the idea.
Darleen sets out to achieve her lifelong dream of starring in a musical. However, something is troubling Jamie, and it is not his ambitious partner’s singing.
Against Jamie’s wishes, Darleen moves to a village that helps the needs of adults with learning disabilities.
An illuminating and quirky exploration of the challenges and aspirations of a young couple with learning disabilities.
Darleen discovers she is pregnant.
The young married couple with learning disabilities now have a baby, and life will never be the same again.
Gracey and Me. By Gillian Plowman. Kate returns to South Africa to meet Gracey, the woman she betrayed twenty-five years ago when she was a ten-year-old staying with her godparents in a luxury suburb of Johannesburg during the height of apartheid. The repercussions of that betrayal have profoundly affected both women, psychologically and physically. The play takes Kate on a journey into her past. Beauty was the daughter of the housemaid, Gracey, who has illegally secreted her into the hut in the garden where she lives. The two children are swimming together when Kate tells Beauty she has made the water dirty because she is black. The altercation between the two children escalates and the horrific scene becomes a metaphor for the apartheid era as Kate plays out what she has observed of the treatment of black people by white people, making her drink the dog’s water from a bowl on the floor. Gracey discovers them and unleashes the untold anger of her life upon Kate. Kate retaliates by revealing the secret of Beauty’s presence in the hut to her Godparents, resulting in Gracey and her daughter being banished.
Haunted. By Sally Griffiths. Professional illusionist, Will Morgan, is to front a TV show in which he exposes spiritualist mediums as frauds. Hayley Taylor is the spiritualist medium who refuses to back down under Will’s scrutiny – a challenge Will can’t walk away from. Both are to have their belief systems sorely tested when a voice from one of their pasts refuses to keep silent.
Mincemeat. Adapted for radio by Adrian Jackson and Farhana Sheikh, from their hit play for Cardboard Citizens. Cardboard Citizens has worked with homeless people and the marginalised for 20 years, marrying personal stories and historical subjects into an epic theatre that challenges public perceptions of social exclusion. In this award-winning production, the company unravel a thrilling wartime tale of deception and hidden identity, in an entertaining, multi-layered, time-hopping journey which goes to heart of what it means to have no home, and no name.
Mincemeat is based on the extraordinary true story of a second-world-war deception, through which the Allies made the Germans believe that they would open a second front in Europe in 1943 through Sardinia. The deception involved a corpse whose identity was a state secret, known only to the originator of the operation, who took the secret to his grave. It was only in 1997 that the true identity of the corpse came to light. Mincemeat reveals the story of the mission and its final revelation, through the eyes of that corpse, and discovers a secret war which never made the history books.
The Moonflask. By Paul Sellar. This is a caper with a conscience, a heist with a smile on its face. But the drama is firmly based in the real world; an elderly couple recently discovered they were using a Ming vase as an umbrella stand, Government plans include making jobless criminals spend one day a week searching for work and fraud in the UK has increased tenfold since the banking crisis. Paul Sellar weaves a fast-paced yarn around these facts to create a plot full of twists and turns.
Roots. Arnold Wesker’s 1959 semi-autobiographical masterpiece set in rural Norfolk. The central play of the famous Trilogy, Roots tells the story of Beatie Bryant, a young woman returning from London to her native village. Her eyes have been opened to a wider world by her intellectual Jewish boyfriend, Ronnie, and she gathers together the whole family to welcome him to her home.
Mary Barton. By Elizabeth Gaskell. Mary Barton was the first novel by Gaskell, wife of the Rev William Gaskell, a prominent Manchester Unitarian minister and charity worker, who used her writing as a critique of society and to promote social reform. Published in 1848, with the subtitle A Tale of Manchester Life, it was set in 1839-42, when Friedrich Engels was researching his seminal book, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. The Gaskells lived in an elegant, stucco villa, but Engels described one of the slums close to their house. Mary Barton is the beautiful daughter of John Barton, a mill worker who questions the extreme inequalities in wealth around him and joins the Chartist movement. Mary attracts the attention of two men, Jem, from her background, and Harry Carson, the son of a rich mill owner, who offers escape but is murdered, making Jem a suspect.
Ruth. By Elizabeth Gaskell. Sixteen-year-old orphan Ruth Hilton is apprenticed as a dressmaker to the hard-bitten Mrs Mason, because she is too much of an inconvenience for her legal guardian. A job as a seamstress for a Hunt Ball and an encounter with a young man have far-reaching consequences.
Wives and Daughters. By Elizabeth Gaskell. Gaskell’s last novel, widely considered her masterpiece, follows the fortunes of two families in nineteenth century rural England. At its core are family relationships – father, daughter and step-mother, father and sons, father and step-daughter – all tested and strained by the romantic entanglements that ensue. Despite its underlying seriousness, the prevailing tone is one of comedy. Gaskell vividly portrays the world of the late 1820s and the forces of change within it, and her vision is always humane and progressive. The story is full of acute observation and sympathetic character-study: the feudal squire clinging to old values, his naturalist son welcoming the new world of science, the local doctor and his scheming second wife, the two girls brought together by their parent’s marriage Wives and Daughters was written in the 1860s and serialised in the Cornhill Magazine. It is set in the 1820s and deals to a large extent with the position of women in Society. Elizabeth Gaskell left it unfinished, so any dramatiser of the novel is faced with guessing the intended outcome of the story.
There are two versions of Wives and Daughters here:
Version 1: Dramatised in 9 one-hour episodes by Barry Campbell.
Version 2: 2010 Dramatisation by Theresa Heskins in two parts originally 10 fifteen minute episodes.
Tommies. Meticulously based on unit war diaries and eye-witness accounts for the centenery of The Great War, each episode of Tommies traces one real day at war. And through it all, we’ll follow the fortunes of Mickey Bliss and his fellow signallers, from the Lahore Division of the British Indian Army. They are the cogs in an immense machine, one which connects situations across the whole theatre of the war, over four long years.
Episodes are regularly updated.
01: 7 October 1914: By Michael Chaplin. The German advance is just being held 60 miles north-east of Paris, on the day Mickey Bliss arrives at war.
02: 14 October 1914: By Nick Warburton. Walter Oddy, wounded in action, is among thousands arriving today at the hospitals in Boulogne. Among so many casualties – will there be time to save one life?
03: 21 October 1914: By Jonathan Ruffle. Mickey’s signals unit goes forward with the British offensive. And just as no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, so Mickey’s plan to be a battlefield tourist is not about to survive contact with an artillery captain on a mission of his own.
04: 28 October 1914: By Michael Chaplin. The first Indian Army soldiers arrive on the battlefields of France, and the under-equipped infantry of the 9th Bhopal Regiment find themselves on the front line at the first battle of Neuve Chapelle.
05: 4 November 1914: By Michael Chaplin. Dr Celestine de Tullio returns from France to find that things are amiss with army medicals, while her husband Robert gets embroiled in the realities of financing a war.
06: 11 November 1914: By Nick Warburton. Mickey finds himself at Ypres with the exhausted British Expeditionary Force, and no one to defend a vital breach in line, at Nonne Bosschen copse.
07: 27 April 1915: By Nick Warburton. Under the constant threat of gas attack in the village of La Brique just north of Ypres, Mickey Bliss and his signals colleagues are trying to work out why the enemy are always one step ahead.
08: 4 May 1915: By Nick Warburton. A day of rest behind the lines is not easy for Mickey Bliss and his Signals colleagues. A time for not only parcels, a haircut, a drink or two, and the sourcing of valuable equipment but also bad temper.
09: 11 May 1915: By Jonathan Ruffle. Indira Varma, Danny Rahim and Avin Shah star in this story, as signaller Ahmadullah Khan is posted from the immoveable wall of the Western Front, to join the very start of the Gallipoli campaign, where the Allies will attempt to dash round the back of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and win the war from the south. But there’s a steep hill to climb from Gully Beach to victory – and not all the British forces want to climb it.
10: 18 May 1915: By Michael Chaplin. Indira Varma, Pippa Nixon and Parth Thakerar star in this story, set on the Eastern Front where the Russian army has been routed at Gorlice. The Russians are retreating, but the renegade Prince Balashov is determined to wrench some kind of victory from defeat. British surgeon Celestine de Tullio has found enough new purpose in War, to play a part in this plan.s want to climb it.
11: 25 May 1915: By Michael Chaplin. Today Mickey Bliss is in London, taking time out from signals training at Aldershot to look up an old friend who might finance his much-needed overhearing device. But he also encounters someone much closer.
12: 21 October 1915: By Nick Warburton. Mickey Bliss returns to the front line as a newly-trained officer, with the beginnings of war-winning technology in his hands. But it’s a month since the battle of Loos began – and the Allies are still where they were before it started.
13: 28 October 1915: By Michael Chaplin. Tasked to complete a sensitive diplomatic mission Robert de Tullio finds himself drawn deeper not only into the murky waters of 1WW Intelligence but also into a more personal and dangerous quest .
14: 04 November 1915: By Jonathan Ruffle. Signallers Ahmadullah and Zarbab have a perilous mission to deliver a wireless set to beleaguered British forces in Mesopotamia. It proves a particularly gruelling and testing time for Ahmadullah.
15: 11 November 1915: By Jonathan Ruffle. Set at La Gorgue on 11th November 1915. A day when Second Lieutenant Mickey Bliss finds himself in two meetings. One which might change the whole war for the Signal Service. And one which is about to change his life forever.
16: 02 June 1916: By Jonathan Ruffle. On 2nd June 1916, large numbers of Kitchener’s new civilian army are massing in the valley of the Somme to take part in a carefully-planned, well-prepared attack of such overpowering weight that it might just end the war. They include one Kenny Stokoe, local football hero for Marshall’s, and spurned suitor of Edie Chadwick. Along with his pals, the newly-trained signallers of the Tyneside Scottish, Kenny is feeling confident. Until he meets the old army, in the person of Mickey Bliss.
17: 09 June 1916: By Michael Chaplin. In the build up to the Somme Mickey Bliss’s plan to test Capitaine Vasserot’s new communication device in No Man’s Land doesn’t go according to plan.
18: 16 June 1916: By Jonathan Ruffle. When Mickey Bliss is summoned to advise on signals at the Bureau Centrale Interallie in Paris he comes across both an impressive young woman and a disturbing figure from his past.
19: 23 June 1916: By Nick Warburton. On a morale-boosting tour of troops massing in the Somme valley, a celebrity poet and priest arrives to perform his popular verse. But are inspirational speeches what the Kenny and his pals really need, when they are days away from facing action?
20: 30 June 1916: By Nandita Ghose. Signalling blunder contributed to the terrible death toll on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. By 30th June 1916, the German lines have been under constant bombardment for days. An attack is coming, but it’s vital that the enemy don’t know exactly when. As vast numbers of men, machinery and armaments move to their final jumping-off points, the Indian cavalry of the 34th Poona Horse face their battle plan. And Mickey Bliss is training the signallers of the Tyneside Scottish – according to his unique methods. Mickey has every last point of preparation covered. But there’s one tiny detail he has missed.
21: 11 November 1916: By Jonathan Ruffle. Doctor Celestine de Tullio, like Flora Sandes, has gone from doctoring to fighting in Serbia, joining the legendary campaign of the Serbian Army to reclaim its homeland, in which 60% of the male population died. Today she’s commanding an offensive up a near-vertical mountain deep in snow. The military objective is at the top of the mountain. But Celestine has another target in her sights.
22: 18 November 1916: By Jonathan Ruffle. It is the last day of the Battle of the Somme and Signals Captain Mickey Bliss is back very close to where he started 141 days ago. Observing an escalating catalogue of errors from an Intelligence Dugout Mickey is spurred on to make a last ditch attempt to secure a little ground – but at what cost?
23: 25 November 1916: By Nick Warburton. After the horrors of the Battle of the Somme Captain Mickey Bliss is on leave in Paris where he is drawn into the shady world of intelligence and politics. With over a million casualties so far, a potential peace offer from Berlin generates a flurry of activity and manoeuvring amongst those in power.
24: 02 December 1916: By Avin Shah. British Indian Army soldiers discover the topsy-turvy world of a Turkish POW camp. Of the 10,000 British Army combatants taken prisoner after the seige of Kut-al-Amara, half of the Indian soldiers and two-thirds of the British have died on forced marches to Turkish camps. Now they find themselves starved and worked as slave labour on the Baghdad to Berlin railway. Rival sergeants Ahmadullah and Zarbab have found their own ways of surviving. But which one is the real traitor?
25: 10 April 1917: By Avin Shah. Mickey Bliss has taken a shine to the can-do Canadians. Particularly since yesterday, when they made a momentous advance here on the Western Front, together with British forces. But when Mickey meets a young Canadian journalist, here to write up the story for his home paper – can they agree on what really happened?
26: 17 April 1917: By Nick Warburton. After two and a half years at war, the answers for Mickey Bliss hold plenty of surprises. And in this story by Nick Warburton, set in the officers-only Duchess of Westminster’s No. 1 British Red Cross Society Hospital in Le Touquet, those surprises include a very unorthodox medical procedure.
27: 24 April 1917: By Jonathan Ruffle. Night falls on a race to the Macedonian front. If they hadn’t been too late to save Serbia, there would never have been 160,000 British troops stationed near Salonika, in what is now Northern Greece. And if it weren’t for one deserting Bulgarian soldier, Celestine de Tullio would be on her way home to England today, in widow’s weeds. But the British troops in Salonika have done so much digging in, and so little actual fighting, that they’re universally mocked as ‘The Gardeners of Salonika’. So Celestine’s need for action can only help them. Can’t it?
28: 7 June 1917: By Avin Shah. East Africa. Having almost caught up with the marauding German troops can ill-matched signallers Pavan Jodha and South African Bill Bloomfield successfully negotiate the safety of those besieged in Mkalama Fort?
29: 14 June 1917: By Jonathan Ruffle. After the victory at Messines, Belgium are we prepared for the much bigger challenge of Ypres? A tale of sibling and professional rivalry and the cold logistics of organising and servicing the war effort.
30: 21 June 1917: By Nick Warburton. Summoned to Nieuport on the Belgian coast can a barely recovered Mickey deal with the problem of remotely controlled German boats packed with explosives? Especially when the solution concurs horribly with a crisis in his personal life.
31: 10 November 1917: By Jonathan Ruffle and Avin Shah. From T E Lawrence and the Great Pyramid at Giza, to the Third Battle of Gaza, Tommies explores the Intelligence battle redrawing the Middle East, in this two-part adventure starring Indira Varma and Lee Ross.
32: 11 November 1917: By Jonathan Ruffle and Avin Shah. Through camel chases, train derailments, riots and assassination squads, British intelligence and anti-colonial sedition go head to head in Cairo – where Mickey’s about to meet some surprisingly familiar faces.
To compliment this series go to Home Front on Drama Page 76 and 1914: Day to Day in Of Interest: History 1914: Day to Day.
Topaz. By Lucy Gannon. In Lucy Gannon’s comic drama, Brian Cox stars as the unfortunate 19th century poet, William Topaz McGonagall. In the face of widespread ridicule at his lack of talent, MacGonagall dreams of rescuing his reputation by seeking royal patronage. He decides to walk from Dundee to Balmoral to see Queen Victoria, accompanied by his long-suffering son, Billy. A desperate desire for fame and celebrity has almost destroyed McGonagall’s life – but if he can meet her Majesty his fortunes would be transformed. William Topaz McGonagall was born in 1830 in Edinburgh, Scotland. An actor, weaver and most notably a poet, McGonagall was a tragic figure. He seemed convinced of his poetic greatness, but was universally mocked. He died penniless and was buried in an unmarked grave.
Wide Sargasso Sea. (R) By Jean Rhys. Marking twenty five years since the death of Jean Rhys, Adjoa Andoh reads her most famous novel. Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway grows up on a beguiling Caribbean island where tensions escalate between her family and former slaves.
Whistle Down The Wind. By Mary Haley Bell. The first ever radio production of this classic story. Set in 1958 on a northern Pennine hill farm, 12 year old Kathy finds a criminal on the run hiding in her barn. However, due to his profane exclamation of shock on being discovered, she and her siblings believe him to be Jesus Christ.