The Honorary Consul. By Graham Greene. In this superbly tense story of political kidnap and sexual betrayal set at the beginning of Argentina’s Dirty War in early 1970s, Greene’s characters find themselves on a switchback ride of love, sacrifice and violence. Isolated Dr Eduardo Plarr, son of a missing political prisoner, is lured into collaborating with a defrocked priest in a kidnap plot, only to find the lives of two people he doesn’t care for, suddenly in his hands. Meanwhile Charles Fortnum, the elderly and drunken Honorary Consul in a one-horse town near the Paraguayan border, faces his own terrors, and the loss of the young prostitute he has fallen in love with.
The Last Tycoon. By F Scott Fitzgerald. The celebrated theatre director Bill Bryden adapts F Scott Fitzgerald’s last and unfinished novel. Starring Aiden Gillen, Jack Shepherd and Charlotte Emmerson. Haunted by the death of his wife, 1930s Studio Head Monroe Stahr works eighteen hour days, each one a collision of talent meetings, set visits, script brainstorms and preview screenings. He’s the “last of the princes”, is making the studio millions and seems bullet proof. At the end of an epic day, an earthquake breaks two water mains, sending a roaring river of water through the studio. And with it, the huge floating head of the goddess Shiva – a film prop. As Stahr leaves his office to inspect the damage he sees the head floating by and on it two women, one of them the mesmerising Kathleen. It’s the beginning of a love affair that will destroy him. As their affair plays out, we follow the disintegration of one of the great Hollywood legends, and also witness the darker heart of the Hollywood machine as a paranoid fear of communism comes to the fore. It’s a gorgeous, excruciating, heady tale – based on Fitzgerald’s own painful experiences working in Hollywood as a screenwriter.
The Liberty of Norton Folgate. By Mark Davies Markham. London’s rich past as a melting pot of cultures is one of the themes of Madness’s 2009 album – The Liberty of Norton Folgate, which has inspired Mark Davies Markham’s play. Gazi and Sitara have been serving full English breakfasts at the Union Café on London’s Norton Folgate for thirty years. But now the council have served a demolition order, and it looks as if their son Aki’s girlfriend’s father, Ralph Burke, is behind the plan to develop the site. No one is going to let the Union go without a fight, and soon Gazi and Sitara find that they have the support of pop royalty in the form of Suggs, Chas Smith and Mike Barson from Madness.
The Mask of Dimitrios. By Eric Ambler. English crime novelist Charles Latimer is holidaying in Istanbul when he first hears of the mysterious Dimitrios – an infamous master criminal long wanted by the law, whose body has just been fished out of the Bosphorus. Fascinated by the story, Latimer decides to retrace his steps across Europe and gather material for a new book. Fascination tips over into obsession as he gradually discovers more about his subject’s shadowy history – involving murder, prostitution, political assassination, drug-dealing and espionage. The Mask of Dimitrios was written in 1939 by Eric Ambler, a key figure in the evolution of the crime thriller who brought realism and political awareness to the genre and influenced writers such as Graham Greene and John le Carré. By using the criminal career of Dimitrios as a lens, it enables us to see the dark heart of Europe, a continent riven by violence and corruption. Its demonstration that the pursuit of money is the well-spring from which all other evils flow is as pertinent as ever – and its cast of drug dealers, shady businessmen and displaced refugees makes it seem astonishingly modern.
The Mill on the Floss. By George Eliot. Brought up at Dorlcote Mill, Maggie Tulliver worships her brother Tom and is desperate to win the approval of her parents, but her passionate, wayward nature and her fierce intelligence bring her into constant conflict with her family. As she reaches adulthood, the clash between their expectations and her desires is painfully played out as she finds herself torn between her relationships with three very different men: her proud and stubborn brother, a close friend who is also the son of her family’s worst enemy, and a charismatic but dangerous suitor. With its poignant portrayal of sibling relationships, The Mill on the Floss is considered George Eliot’s most autobiographical novel; it is also one of her most powerful and moving.
The Mystery of the Yellow Room. By Gaston Leroux. Miss Stangerson is found severely injured, attacked in a locked room at the Chateau du Glandier. Leroux provides maps and floor plans showing that a presumptive murderer could not possibly have entered or escaped. Amateur sleuth Joseph Rouletabille has to figure out how the attack was done.
The Pianist. (R) By Wladyslaw Szpilman. A duet for piano and voice, charting one man’s remarkable story of courage and survival in a Warsaw Ghetto during Nazi Occupation. Read by actor Peter Guinness, with the ravishing music of Chopin, from concert pianist Mikhail Rudy.
Towards the end of World War II, in a burnt-out villa in the destroyed city of Warsaw, the Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman faced a German officer before an out-of-tune piano. Szpilman had not bathed in months, and had been living off scraps for more than a year. Szpilman prepared himself for a blow or a shot. Instead, the officer asked about his profession. Although the question seemed meaningless given the context, Szpilman replied: ‘pianist’. The German took him to the battered piano and told him to play, no simple task for a starved man who had not touched a piano for three years. Despite his weakness, Szpilman played Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp minor, the same piece that he had played on the radio the day the Germans invaded Warsaw. After a moment of silence, the officer asked him if he was Jewish, then gave him food and clothing with which to survive the next weeks. When the officer was about to leave, Szpilman took his hand and said:
I never told you my name; you didn’t ask me, but I want you to remember it. Who knows what may happen? You have a long way to go, to get home. If I survive, I’ll certainly be working for Polish radio again. If anything happens to you, if I can help you then in any way, remember my name, Szpilman, Polish radio.
The officer died in a prisoner of war camp, while Szpilman survived. His story was immortalised in Roman Polanski’s acclaimed film, The Pianist.
The Provok’d Wife. By John Vanbrugh. ‘What cloying meat is love when matrimony’s the sauce to it?’ A gloriously outspoken 18th-century comedy of sex, marriage, debauchery and revenge. Restoration comedy at its finest. Vanbrugh’s Restoration comedy is a bawdy romp through the destruction of a marriage and the promise of true love. Julian Rhind-Tutt stars as confirmed bachelor Heartfree.
The Reluctant Spy. By John Dryden. As the world waits to see what democracy will bring to Egypt, Nigel Lindsay plays hard-up Coptic art expert who becomes embroiled in (what appears to be) corporate espionage when approached by seductive Canadian student Tara to deliver a letter – for money – to a prominent Egyptian politician. But nothing in this tense three-parter from writer/director John Dryden is quite what it appears to be.
Pandemic. John Dryden’s ingenious three-part thriller imagines a world destroyed by a violent virus epidemic, which is first diagnosed as bird flu, but then understood to be a far more dangerous disease (called “red-eye”), that can wipe out whole populations at random. The disease breaks out in the world’s most populous cities, such as Bangkok and Sao Paolo, but rapidly spreads around the globe causing mayhem in its wake. Even in Great Britain, which remains largely unaffected by the disaster, there is a chronic shortage of labour.
Scenes from a Crime. By John Dryden. A man with no memory finds himself outside a flat in a tenement block in Mumbai. With no idea of who he is or how he got there he tries, with the help of a street-child, to piece together fragments of his life.
A Fine Balance. By Rohinton Mistry. Four strangers form an unlikely bond that takes them through one of India’s most turbulent recent periods. Directed by John Dryden.
Tumanbay. By John Dryden. Tumanbay, heart of a vast empire, is threatened by a rebellion and a mysterious force devouring the empire from within. Epic saga inspired by the Mamluk slave dynasty of Egypt.
All episodes from the 3 series of Tumanbay are available in the Raw files. If you need help, contact me.
School Drama. By Andy Mulligan. Four-part drama series with Tom Hollander. Deer Park Academy, a re-branded failing school, is working to turn itself around and inspire its students. But inspiration can be dangerous and when has-been TV star, Geoff Cathcart, is brought in to stage a production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, he opens a Pandora’s box of controversy. Directed by John Dryden.
Rio Story. By Chris Thorpe. Set in one of Rio de Janeiro’s most crowded favelas. This fast-paced thriller revolves around a single day in the lives of a couple of thieves, a crooked policeman, a charity worker, a priest, a blind revolutionary and a pregnant street-kid. Directed by John Dryden.
The Cairo Trilogy (Drama Page 40)
The Appeal (Drama Page 02)
Forty-three fifty-nine (Drama Page 42)
Q&A (Drama Page 26)
Blasphemy and the Governor of Punjab (Drama Page 86)
My Name Is Red (Drama Page 15)
Six Suspects (Drama Page 51)
Five Days in May (Drama Page 67)
The Bid (Drama Page 81)
A Kidnapping (Drama Page 81)
The Incident of the Russian Visitors (Carter Mysteries:). By Jonathan Holloway. The 20th Century has left the Carter warehouse crammed with history. When a dodgy pair arrive looking for a long-lost Russian table it’s the beginning of a far-reaching and dangerous tale.
The Jinx Element. By Stephen Wakelam. Edith Wharton’s private life was as dramatic as many of her novels. An encounter with a journalist was to have a seismic effect on her marriage and her work.
The Judge and his Hangman. (R) By Friedrich Durrenmatt. Sickly Bernese detective Inspector Barlach wakes from his slumber to an attack by an old foe.
The Lady Vanishes. By Ethel Lina White. A train, a missing governess and evil Nazi plans for Europe. All aboard for a gripping ride to adventure. Best known as the basis for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film The Lady Vanishes, Ethel White’s book originally titled The Wheel Spins is a gripping and accomplished work in its own right. The plot is deceptively simple and the premise is classic.
The Last Days of Troy. Simon Armitage’s dramatisation of Homer’s Iliad . The Greeks are laying siege to Troy to win back their abducted queen, Helen. But as the conflict drags on, and despite battlefields scarlet with blood, opposing forces have reached a bitter stalemate. Desperate and exhausted, both Gods and mortals squabble amongst themselves for the spoils of war and the hand of victory. The Last Days of Troy reveals a world locked in cycles of conflict and revenge, of east versus west, and a dangerous mix of pride, lies and self-deception.
For more Greek and Roman Dramas go to the Greco Roman Page
The Chrysalids. By John Wyndham. Genetic mutation has devastated the world. In the emergent bleak, primitive society, any deviation is seen as the work of the devil, ruthlessly hunted out and destroyed. In law abiding, God-respecting Waknuk anyone who does not conform to the ‘norm’ must keep their deviation secret or face the consequences of discovery.
There are two versions available:
v1 Saturday Day Night Theatre from 1981. Directed by Michael Bartlett.
v2 Classic Serial in two parts from 2012. Directed by Nadia Molinari.
The Crossing. By Hugh Costello. It’s 2019 and following the UK’s exit from the EU, the prime minister is pressurised to seal the nation’s frontiers, including the land border shared with the Irish Republic. Immigration and customs posts reappear for the first time since the Good Friday Agreement. At the point where inland waterways north and south meet, security services search boats and inspect passports. Cross border cooperation is a thing of the past. Conor Glynn, 22, helps his parents run river cruises along the river Shannon and into Lough Erne. But Conor will soon be forced to move away for work, because the family business has fallen victim to political circumstance. Conor, realising the financial predicament his parents will be in, decides to take one crazy but lucrative risk. He agrees to carry an unusual cargo across the river border and into the UK. Conor is stopped and searched by border security. They find three Eastern European migrants hiding on his boat. Conor is arrested. He faces a jail sentence. The PM arrives in Ulster to inspect new border facilities and has a secret meeting with the Irish Taoiseach. The Taoiseach is alarmed at how rapidly border security has been restored to its Troubles-era level. Even locals have to queue up and show their passports. In protest, his coalition partners in Dublin, Sinn Féin, are joining their Stormont colleagues in boycotting all Anglo-Irish institutions that grew out of the Good Friday Agreement. The peace process is in danger.
The Haunted Hotel. By Wilkie Collins. Wilkie Collins’ gothic horror tale is a powerful combination of ghost story and detective mystery. In 1860, the formidable Countess Narona marries a rich young aristocrat in London – but shortly after travelling to Venice her husband dies, apparently of natural causes, leaving the Countess a rich woman. Years later, guests in a Venetian hotel encounter the terrifying apparition of a murder victim seeking revenge.