Many thanks to Walter C and Dick L for contributions to this page.
272 Attempts. By Bryony Lavery. A gripping thriller fuelled by the current debate urrounding the cloning of human tissue. An isolated house. The discovery of children’s graves. A large number of tagged children in the house. Award-winning playwright Bryony Lavery explores of the world of genetics. The play concerns the discovery of an isolated establishment conducting genetic experiments in various areas, including GM crops. Among other things investigaters want to understand why there are so many children there, some alive and some buried in the grounds. The children are numbered (rather than named) sequentially in order of birth, the youngest being #272. In the real world it took 272 attempts before Dolly The Sheep was successfully cloned.
Beyond The Kitchen Sink. To complement Radio 4’s British New Wave drama season Paul Allen, presents a first-hand account of it, using the archive to illuminate the social changes which allowed it to flourish. For ten years after the Second World War the battered British public had been soothed, culturally, by urbanity and charm. In the mid-fifties it was as if a huge wave – the New Wave – had crashed over a quiet beach; frightening and exhilarating. Paul Allen witnessed this. He was a theatre-struck schoolboy when he read Kenneth Tynan’s remark that he “couldn’t love anyone who didn’t want to see ‘Look Back in Anger'”. He saw the outrage that greeted the early plays of Harold Pinter, heard the East-End Jews taking the stage in the plays of Arnold Wesker, northern working class voices in those of David Storey. He felt the rage of the novels of Alan Sillitoe (‘Saturday Night’ and ‘Sunday Morning’) and the challenging sexuality of Nell Dunn’s ‘Up The Junction’. Paul Allen, as a regional critic and a national broadcaster (presenting ‘Kaleidoscope’, Radio 4’s daily arts show, for 20 years), interviewed and got to know the leading figures of the New Wave – Osborne, Pinter, Wesker. As a young reporter in the North of England he met Stan Barstow (‘A Kind of Loving’), Barry Hines (‘Kes’), Alan Plater, whose scripts helped launch the new realism of the police series ‘Z Cars’ and Lindsay Anderson (who filmed David Storey’s ‘This Sporting Life’, giving Richard Harris his first major role). He worked often with Margaret Forster. Using the archives (including his own) Paul explores this artistic and social upheaval. He reveals how it was not a single movement, but a series of progressions in literature and theatre, and in popular forms beyond these, and went way beyond ‘kitchen sink’ dramas.
‘Beyond The Kitchen Sink’ was originally broadcast second in the series, but since it is more of an introduction to the series I have placed it before the plays in this listing.
This Sporting Life. Johnny Vegas directs a feature-length radio reversioning of This Sporting Life – marking the 50th anniversary of the classic Lindsay Anderson film which starred the young Richard Harris. This new version is adapted by Andrew Lynch, directly from David Storey’s novel. A surprisingly beautiful, yet repressed, northern drama, it contrasts the deep wants and needs of protagonist Arthur Machin with the stark aggression of the rugby pitch. The sounds are rich – the rugby scrum, the atmosphere of the match, the changing rooms, the dancehall, struggles in the bedroom, arguments by the kitchen hearth. James Purefoy plays Arthur Machin and Emily Watson is Mrs Hammond, accompanied on the touchline by an ensemble cast including John Thomson, Julia Davis, Sheridan Smith and Philip Jackson. Commentary for the Rugby League game-play is provided by commentator Ray French, who witnessed some of the filming of the 1963 film with Richard Harris.
Saturday Night And Sunday Morning. Robert Rigby’s dramatisation of Alan Sillitoe’s seething novel set in 1958 Nottingham. Robert Rigby’s dramatisation of Alan Sillitoe’s seething novel set in 1958 Nottingham – part of Radio 4’s celebration of British New Wave film and cinema. ‘Angry young man’ Arthur Seaton rages against the boredom of his factory machinist job and home life with ‘dead from the neck up’ parents. Determined to avoid a similar slide into domestic drudgery, Arthur is a risk-taking womaniser, enduring each tedious week in the knowledge that the weekend’s thrills are to come. But Arthur takes a risk too far, inflicting life-shattering consequences on those around him.
Georgy Girl. By Margaret Forster. London, 1965. Georgy is sparky, funny and independent but desperate to fall in love. Georgina Parkin, Georgy is twenty-seven. Brought up in Kensington by her parents, Ted and Doris who are live-in servants of rich socialite James. She lives in her own flat in Battersea with the cool and disdainful Meredith who has the male population at her feet. Georgy thinks her flat-mate is beautiful, witty and clever. Georgy, on the other hand, is a physically awkward, large young woman, who lacks self-esteem, never been taken out on a date, let alone kissed. She is desperate to meet someone and fall in love. This is the Swinging Sixties after all. And then she falls in love with Jos, a charming and directionless young man. But there’s a problem – he’s Meredith’s fella and there are complications when Meredith announces she is pregnant. A tangled living situation emerges. Then James makes Georgy an unconventional and surprising offer which she agrees to think about. Is his offer the key to Georgy’s happiness? Or, will she hold out for true love with Jos?
John Osborne – The Author Of Himself. By Stephen Wakelam. One afternoon in 1955 Theatre Manager George Devine sets out in a rickety rowing boat to inspect an actor, John Osborne, living on a Thames barge who has written a play. Look Back in Anger has been returned by many theatres but Devine has seen something in it. The meeting is a pivotal moment in the course of theatrical history. Look Back in Anger was premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre on 8th May 1956 by the English Stage Company directed by Tony Richardson with the following cast – Kenneth Haigh, Alan Bates, Mary Ure, Helena Hughes and John Welsh. The press release referred to John Osborne as “an angry young man” – a phrase that came to represent a new movement in British Theatre. Directed by David Hunter.
Up The Junction. By Nell Dunn. Dramatised by Georgia Fitch. In Nell Dunn’s Sixties classic, a young writer from Chelsea decides to swap her privileged life for a grittier experience in industrial Battersea. We join Lily as she embarks on life in the working class community, forming strong friendships with sisters Sylvie and Rube and working in the local sweet factory. The girls scrape together enough to get by on, live in each other’s pockets and shake off whatever drama life throws at them. The bold energy of Nell Dunn’s writing and characters is still like a breath of fresh air – fifty years on from the book’s original publication.
Carmen. By Dan Allum. Carmen is imprisoned by Officer Don Jose after fighting in a bar, but is determined not to stay incarcerated for long. Prosper Mérimée’s novella Carmen is best known for the Bizet opera it later inspired. Dan Allum takes the original story as his inspiration for this exciting and powerful new interpretation starring Candis Nergaard as Carmen.
Howards End. By EM Forster. When Helen Schlegel goes to stay at Howards End, the country home of the Wilcox family, her own life, along with that of her sister Margaret, is changed forever. Narrated by John Hurt.
Hawksmoor. Nick Fisher’s adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s acclaimed 1985 novel, starring Philip Jackson as both Dyer, the 18th-century architect whose work reflects his obsession with the old religion, and the modern detective Hawksmoor, who is investigating murders that mirror the sacrifices which took place 300 years earlier.
The Dogs and The Wolves. By Irene Nemirovsky. Ada Sinner grows up in the poor Jewish pogroms of the Ukraine in the early 20 century. When her Aunt Raisia and cousins come to live with her and her father, she feels more alone than ever. But then Ada discovers another cousin, the rich and distant, Harry Sinner, and a life long passion and love for Harry begins.
Fighting Over Beverley. By Israel Horovitz. The British premiere of Israel Horovitz’s internationally acclaimed play. A Yorkshireman belatedly flies to America to reclaim the war bride taken from him by an American war hero 45 years earlier. With Rosemary Harris, Ian Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern and Israel Horovitz.
Stations Of The Cross. By Israel Horovitz. American dramatist Israel Horovitz takes the leading role in his new play. David has returned from America, the land of his father, to make a farcical, poetic rail crossing of England to the home of his sister – and to an unforgettable funeral.
Reeds In The Wind. By Grazia Deledda. Sisters Noemi, Ester and Ruth are the last remnants of a noble family in decline. Grazia Deledda’s powerful story of love, poverty, honour and retribution set in the rugged landscape of 1900’s Sardinia. Efix is a loyal servant to the Pintor sisters Noemi, Ester and Ruth, the last remnants of a noble family in decline, dishonoured by a sister, Lia, who ran away and driven to poverty by the sudden and mysterious death of their father. Only Efix knows the truth. When he discovers that the sisters have received a telegram from Lia’s son, the ghosts of the past emerge. Dramatised by Linda Marshall Griffiths from a translation by Martha King.
Philadelphia Moonshine. By Roger Davenport. When Jacob Kricheffski asks ex-private eye Eddie Hamilton to investigate the mysterious death of a mutual friend, Eddie agrees. His investigations bring him face-to-face with a powerful crime ring and a real threat, this time to his own life.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist (R). By Moshin Hamid. At a cafe table in Lahore a bearded Pakistani accosts an uneasy American stranger and tells him the story of his life. But as dusk deepens to night it becomes clear that this is no chance encounter.
Hoffnung – Drawn To Music. By Alan Stafford. Starring Matt Lucas and originally broadcast to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Gerard Hoffnung’s death, the eccentric cartoonist organises the first ever full-scale humorous symphonic concert at the Royal Festival Hall. It is 1956, and the fruity-voiced raconteur, tuba player and occasional Quasimodo impersonator Gerard Hoffnung is about to unveil his latest madcap scheme, a Hoffnung Music Festival: a full-scale symphonic concert that will bring many of his cartoon creations to life and poke fun at the pomposities of classical music. Will he succeed in filling the Royal Festival Hall with laughter, or will the whole enterprise come crashing to earth like a barrel of bricks?
An all-star cast including Gina McKee as Annetta Hoffnung, Hugh Bonneville, Jon Glover and Felicity Montagu bring Alan’s play to life. Matt Lucas, a long time fan of Hoffnung, brilliantly conveys Gerard Hoffnung’s surreal sense of humour and extraordinary voice. And a cameo appearance by the real Annetta Hoffnung.
Gerard Hoffnung (22 March 1925 – 28 September 1959) was an artist and musician, best known for his humorous works. Raised in Germany, Hoffnung was brought to London as a boy, to escape the Nazis. Over the next two decades in England, he became known as a cartoonist, tuba player, impresario, broadcaster and public speaker.
After training at two art colleges, Hoffnung taught for a few years, and then turned to drawing, on the staff of English and American publications, and later as a freelance. He published a series of cartoons on musical themes, and illustrated the works of novelists and poets.
Crime And Trial Rage On The Road. Documentary drama by John Taylor investigating the complex anatomy of a crime and trial. The headlines were dramatic: a desperate car chase along winding country lanes, a vicious attack on two innocent lovers and the brutal murder of a young man. But it soon became apparent that the killing of Lee Harvey outside Keeper’s Cottage was an incident even more astonishing than it first appeared.
Exes. Five dramas by Emma Donoghue looking at exes.
Urban Myths. Marion is a mature student writing an MA thesis on the urban myths of sexual revenge. But is she taking her research too literally?
The Modern Family. Ronan’s partner Rachel is having his best friend Mick’s baby. Can they all be modern parents and share the child care?
The Conspiracy. Just what is Paul’s girlfriend Nuala doing having lunch with his ex? They must be up to something!
The Mothers. Teresa is left in a difficult position when her ex-partner Nadine wants to take their son to England.
The Estate Agent. Newly-married Tony and Sandy are faced with Tony’s ex when they decide to buy a house.
Homestead. By Francis Turnly. When Daniel Brennan is forced to sell up his city home and move to a small holding in the country he hopes it will be a new start and a chance to create a new home for his family. However their reception from the local village is far from warm and, as a campaign of intimidation is directed at the family, they begin to wonder whether they have made the right decision. How can they fit in to their new community and who among their neighbours can they trust?
How Are You Feeling Alf. By James Graham. It is 1979 and the Winter of Discontent. A resurgent Conservative Party has forced a motion of no confidence in the ailing Labour government. Every vote counts, so will Labour stalwart Alf, ill and dying in his Leeds hospital bed, be able to make it down to London to cast his crucial vote?
Killing Maestros. By Christopher William Hill. Wagner’s Tristan Und Isolde is the “Scottish Play” of the Opera world – jinxed with mysterious deaths. Conductor Sergei Bodanov convinces himself that he too will suffer from the opera’s curse, and tells his therapist that he has six weeks to cure him of this “evil” before the first performance. Stars Bill Nighy.
Madame de Treymes. By Edith Wharton. Franny Frisbee is an unhappily married woman. Having left New York to live in Paris with the family of her husband, the Marquis of Malrive, she embarks on an adventure in Paris with her childhood friend John Durham, who wishes her to divorce her husband and marry him. Through Franny’s crisis between her rights as a woman and what is best for her family, Edith Wharton explores the clashing cultures of Parisian and American life and the role of women at the turn of the century in this tale of love and scandal for an American woman abroad.
Mandrake. By Anita Sullivan. Irene, an old woman threatens her new neighbour with a scythe when he suggests cutting down a tree which is on his land. Irene claims that her husband is buried under the tree- “to cut the branches would be to cut his limbs.” But the tree is around a hundred years old. Ruth, a social worker is called in to assess Irene’s mental health and ability to look after herself. But as she gets to know Irene she is drawn into a strange and magical tale that will change her life forever.
I Love You, Goodbye. By Cynthia Rogerson. In a Highland village, finding love is not a problem, making it last is. Rose’s marriage to Harry is falling apart. Their 15 year old son, Sam, hates them for moving to the Highlands. Polish philosopher and pizza maker, Maciek, is missing home and Ania, the marriage guidance counsellor, finds that not everything can be orderly. All are soon to discover the beauty and heartache of love.
The Hemlock Cup – Socrates, Athens And The Search For The Good Life. By Bettany Hughes. We think the way we do because Socrates thought the way he did. His aphorism ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’ may have originated twenty-five centuries ago, but it is a founding principle of modern life. Socrates lived in a city that nurtured the key ingredients of contemporary civilisation – democracy, liberty, science, drama, rational thought- yet, as he wrote nothing in his lifetime, he himself is an enigmatic figure. “The Hemlock Cup” tells his story, setting him in the context of the Eastern Mediterranean that was his home, and dealing with him as he himself dealt with the world. Socrates was a soldier, a lover, a man of the people. He philosophised neither in grand educational establishments nor the courts of kings but in the squares and public arenas of Golden Age Athens. He lived through an age of extraordinary materialism, in which a democratic culture turned to the glorification of its own city; when war was declared under the banner of democracy; and, when tolerance turned into intimidation on streets once populated by the likes of Euripides, Sophocles and Pericles.
For seventy years he was a vigorous citizen of one of the greatest capitals on earth, but then his beloved Athens turned on him, condemning him to death by poison. Socrates’ pursuit of personal liberty is a vibrant story that Athens did not want us to hear. But Bettany Hughes has painstakingly pieced together Socrates’ life, following in his footsteps across Greece and Asia Minor, and examining the new archaeological discoveries that shed light on his world. “The Hemlock Cup” relates a story that is as relevant now as it has ever been.
More Greco Roman plays can be found on the Greco Roman Page.
Pride And Prejudice. By Jane Austen. Dramatised by Charlotte Jones. Mrs Bennet is determined to get her five daughters married off and secure a future for them all. And when Mr Bingley a wealthy man arrives in the neighbourhood she wastes no time in making his acquaintance.
Published just over 200 years ago Pride and Prejudice remains one of the Nation’s favourite novels; with its intellect and wit it appeals to a broad range of readers. It stands the test of time by dealing with the timeless issues of love, social class, money and mistaken judgements and by having a witty and clever though flawed heroine at its heart. Elizabeth Bennet is a thorough radical for her time and perhaps the first heroine to ask is it possible to have it all?
The Aeneid. By Virgil. Aeneas is a faithful husband, a loving father, and a devoted son. He’s a good soldier too, and when the city of Troy is threatened, all he wants to do is to defend his home. For ten long years he fights against the invading Greeks. Then one day the ghost of a long-dead comrade appears to him on the battlefield, telling him to stop fighting and run. The future of the Trojan people lies elsewhere, and if Aeneas is to lead them, he must survive. So, with his frail father on his back, and his son in his arms, Aeneas abandons Troy and sets out on his quest. Caught between love, duty and fate, he’ll travel across storm-tossed oceans, have a passionate but doomed affair, and suffer terrible personal loss, as he ventures to the very depths of Hell to discover his glorious destiny.
This adaptation of Virgil’s epic poem, by award-winning writer Hattie Naylor, uses Robert Fagles’ translation.
More Greco Roman plays can be found on the Greco Roman Page.
The Haunted Road. By Eoin McNamee. When police camera operator Leslie Burden receives a call from a colleague concerning the disappearance of a young Polish woman, he uses his surveillance expertise to help track sightings of the missing woman, unaware he is being drawn into a web of murder and revenge even he doesn’t see coming.
Pamela. By Samuel Richardson. Pamela is a girl who won’t say yes. But she’s the prettiest young serving maid of a master who won’t take no for an answer. A battle of wits begins between high estate and low, in this rollicking romantic comedy, dramatised by Judith French.
Air-Force One. By Christopher Lee. Martin Jarvis directs a stellar American cast, headed by Stacy Keach, Glenne Headly, Susan Sullivan, Steven Weber – and introduced by Josh Stamberg – in Christopher Lee’s extraordinary new play. Fifty years ago, on November 22nd, 1963, President John F Kennedy was assassinated by a sniper while riding in an open-topped limousine in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. What happened immediately after the assassination? Theories explored in Lee’s riveting drama are based on Federal, classified and academic research, diaries and recollections, and statements by Mrs Kennedy – a mix of substantiated and contested documentation. He focuses, first, on the hospital mortuary, and then aboard Air Force One where former Vice President Lyndon B Johnson insists that Judge Sarah Hughes conducts the ‘swearing-in’ before take-off. Also present in the overcrowded aircraft is Kennedy’s widow, Jackie, in a state of shock, still covered in blood. The play becomes a tense thriller as surprising events occur on board.