Legendary playwright Tom Stoppard has penned an original new play for BBC Radio 2 to mark the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s album, The Dark Side Of The Moon.
To be broadcast on Radio 2 on Monday 26 August at 10pm, Darkside, is a fantastical story based on themes from the seminal album and stars a stellar cast which includes Bill Nighy, Rufus Sewell, and Adrian Scarborough. The lead roles will be played by Olivier Award-winning Iwan Rheon (Misfits) and stage actress Amaka Okafor (The Garbage King).
In the lead-up to the programme, Radio 2 will broadcast a number of programmes to complement and celebrate this big anniversary.
Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music will be simulcasting a unique show that will put the audience in control of the music across both networks for two hours, as they collaborate online to pick the tracks. Now Playing will provide the perfect build up to a night of exciting programming on the two stations.
Following the broadcast, The Record Producers - Pink Floyd Special will give listeners another chance to hear Richard Allinson and Steve Levine's look at the work of Pink Floyd concentrating on the late 60s through to the mid-70s. The show will feature guitarist David Gilmour and percussionist Nick Mason, and Richard and Steve share the original multi-track recordings of some of Pink Floyd's best work from this period.
On the night of broadcast, visitors to bbc.co.uk/radio2 will be able to watch a specially commissioned animation by Aardman to accompany the drama, creating a unique, immersive audio-visual experience.
Darkside, Monday 26 August, BBC Radio 2, 10pm
Now Playing, BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music, 8pm
The Record Producers – Pink Floyd Special, BBC Radio 2, 11pm
Amaka Okafor – Emily McCoy
Iwan Rheon – The Boy
Rufus Sewell – Mr Baggott / Ethics Man
Bill Nighy – Doctor Antrobus / The Witch Finder
Adrian Scarborough – Fat Man
Peter Marinker – The Wise One
Robert Blythe – Banker
Ben Crowe – Politician
Philippa Stanton – Emily’s Mother
How did Darkside come about?
Jeff Smith, Head of Music, BBC Radio 2:
“BBC Radio Drama producer James Robinson came up with an initial idea and offered it to Radio 2. I discussed the idea with James and then with Pink Floyd management in order to get their support. This led to interest from Sir Tom Stoppard who we later discovered had always wanted to write an interpretation of the album.”
James Robinson, Producer, BBC Radio Drama:
“As a result I approached Tom Stoppard at the beginning of 2012 about the possibility of writing something to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Dark Side Of The Moon. The album represents the ultimate immersive listening experience – you put on a pair of headphones, open your ears and travel somewhere else. We thought it would be interesting to see what sort of a journey the album takes Tom Stoppard on. Tom is a huge fan of Pink Floyd and the idea really fired his imagination.”
What can listeners expect to hear when they tune in?
“Listeners will hear new dramatic dialogue performed by actors such as Bill Nighy and Rufus Sewell, written by Sir Tom and laid over the complete original Pink Floyd album.”
“Darkside is a 55-minute audio drama, interwoven with the original album. It’s a fantastical story based on the album’s themes and stars a stellar cast.”
Do you have to be a fan of Pink Floyd to enjoy this?
“I think prior experience of the album is not really required as the work stands as a piece in itself. However, listeners might wish to listen to the complete album beforehand to come up with their own interpretation and compare with Sir Tom’s take.”
What is it about the album The Darkside Of The Moon that is so important?
“I believe The Dark Side Of The Moon set the bar for the concept of an album being heard as a single piece of music. The audio production and engineering quality was staggering considering this was made 40 years ago and the songs really stand the test of time.”
How would you describe the influence that Pink Floyd have had on the music industry?
“Alongside the sheer quality of their recorded work they have pioneered a cutting edge approach to album art work and live performance. You need only look at the artists and musicians who are Pink Floyd fans to see how important the band are.”
Sir Tom Stoppard
“The Dark Side Of The Moon and Pink Floyd as an oeuvre was pretty well known to me.”
“The play isn’t a dramatisation of the album. The album doesn’t have a narrative exactly. It deals with various themes including madness and the pressures of modern life and the way you have to find out what your own truth is and not be hammered by the stresses of contemporary life.”
“When asked about taking part in this project: ‘[I thought] Yes I definitely want to do that but had no idea for a long time what I would do. Finally, I found some time and sat down and listened to the album for the thousandth time and picked up from the beginning and kept going…'”
“It didn’t take me too long to come to the conclusion that the entire album ought to be inside the slot. I didn’t want people complaining to the BBC about the album being interrupted by my dialogue.”
“This is more or less, I think, the first time anything like this has been done on radio.”
“As ever with a radio play, you can go where you want. You’re very free with the classical unities of time and space and last but not least, you can get fantastic actors more easily as you only need them for a day or two. We’ve had Bill Nighy, Rufus Sewell, Adrian Scarborough and that’s one of the great things of working in radio drama. I should have been doing it more often.”
“Ethics man is a thought experiment. He exists for the purposes of the thought experiment. He’s a kind of philosophical superhero who comes in and saves the day or does what has to be done… and Mr Baggett is the teacher who dreams up these thought experiments.”
“One of them is a person, the other is just an idea.”
“I love doing radio… and something new by Tom Stoppard doesn’t come along very often.”
“It was undeniable, the kind of power and influence of this album. I had friends who were obsessed with it.”
“… Tom was making a joke… To the wrong people it could be some annoying voices interrupting their favourite album or it could be an album interrupting something they want to listen to.”
“He’s evidently matched the words very, very cleverly to the sounds.”
“If you said to me that anyone was going to extrapolate from The Dark Side Of The Moon, it seems like it’s made in heaven… that Tom Stoppard should be the person to add to or interpret or examine further this particular album.”
“I love the radio. I was apprenticed on the radio… I seriously and sincerely consider it to be one of the most important and significant elements in our culture and I think it should be treasured, encouraged, expanded and generally celebrated… There are projects which are only achievable on radio and this is one of them.”
“When you put that album together with Tom Stoppard… It’s such a formidable combination. As soon as I heard it was happening, I thought ‘what bliss!’. He’s a genius and the album is a work of genius.”
On Pink Floyd:
“I first got into them when I was about 15. My mate Lewis had The Dark Side Of The Moon on vinyl. We used to listen to it a lot... a lot, lot! Wish You Were Here is my favourite record of theirs though I think. I might have changed my mind by tomorrow.”
On working with Sir Tom Stoppard:
“He's one of our greatest writers. So incredibly intelligent and interesting. I was playing catch up the whole time I was reading it at first. But, he has a wonderful way of explaining it without making you feel like an idiot. Such a kind, humble and generous man. I had a wonderful time.”
On how he would describe the play to the audience:
“Now that's a question... It's a wonderful marriage of this amazing work of music, and a riveting debate on ethics and morality.”
On Pink Floyd:
“My dad is a musician and Pink Floyd’s Album 'The Wall' was one of the first records I listened to and wanted to hear again and again. It would be one of my Desert Island Discs for sure.”
On The Dark Side Of The Moon:
“I have had The Dark Side Of The Moon in my collection for about six years. Doing this project was a wonderful reason to revisit it. I listened to it again, and fell in love with it. I think I was a bit too young before. Great Gig In The sky - enough said.”
On working with Sir Tom Stoppard:
“This is my first Stoppard play. Working with Sir Tom was a learning experience for me. He would come into the studio and we'd have long discussions in between takes, about stuff that always related back to the play in some way. Usually in radio, there doesn't tend to be a huge amount of time from take to take. I say it was a learning experience because I didn't go to drama school, and with each job I learn loads. I was very aware that I really needed to listen properly to all he said as, if you just took it at face value you might not find it relevant, but if you really listen without speaking or interjecting at all, then think on it, you realise the depth of truth that he speaks from.”
On how she would describe the play to the audience:
“I think it's a play about a girl's struggle to see the wood for the trees when it comes to morality. What does it mean to be a 'good human being?' This project was very emotional for me. I cried all the way home on the last day of recording. I will certainly never forget it.”
“What appealed about the project? Two things: Tom Stoppard and The Dark Side Of The Moon… I remember when the album came out and I’d caught Pink Floyd back in the Sixties. It was one of the real mind-bending albums that came out like the White Album by The Beatles. It’s stayed with me for a long time.”
“I think you could only do a piece like this on radio to really make it work because you can be in so many places instantly and the audience’s imagination fills in everything for you.”