Press Office

Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

Press Releases

Classic stage plays and adaptations of major works of fiction at the heart of new drama season on Radio 3

Patrick Kennedy plays Mortimer in Drama On 3's Edward The Second

BBC Radio 3's autumn drama season includes classic stage plays, bold new writing and the first ever dramatisation for radio of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5, which marks 40 years since its publication.

The season includes:

13 September (week 37) at 8.00pm – Edward The Second

Toby Jones and Patrick Kennedy star in one of Christopher Marlowe's greatest works, Edward The Second, an emotionally rich account of a weak king in thrall to his passions, who pays the ultimate price for choosing his heart over his political responsibilities.

Edward (Toby Jones), preoccupied by the banishment of his lover, Gaveston, barely acknowledges the nascent crises that threaten his realm. Chief among his critics is the morally righteous Mortimer (Patrick Kennedy), horrified by the king's criminal lapse of duty and yet able to countenance the further crime of taking arms against his king.

As their enmity develops, and Mortimer's political grip tightens, he takes Queen Isabella (Anastasia Hille) as a lover, and plots the death of Edward even after his abdication.

20 September (week 38) at 8.00pm – Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut

Forty years since its publication, one of the greatest anti-war novels of all time will receive its first ever dramatisation for radio. The story of Billy Pilgrim: prisoner-of-war, optometrist and time-traveller and his haphazard odyssey through time reflects the journey of our own fractured lives. Slaughterhouse 5 is adapted by Dave Sheasby.

27 September (Week 39) at 8.00pm – The Twyborn Affair

This is the first ever dramatisation for radio of this provocative novel by Nobel-Prize-winning Australian writer, Patrick White. Penny Downie will play Eadie, one of the two leads. The Twyborn Affair has been dramatised for radio by DJ Britton.

4 October (week 40) at 8.00pm – Becket

Toby Stephens and David Morrissey take the leads in Jean Anouilh's Becket, one of the classic French plays of the second half of the 20th century. Henry II, the Norman King of England, loves his friend and adviser, the Saxon Thomas Becket. They carouse and rule England together. But when Henry makes Becket Archbishop of Canterbury, the Saxon finds a new sense of honour and a new focus for allegiance, setting up one of the most famous personal conflicts in European history. The friendship can only end in violence and regret. An Ukemi Production.

11 October (week 41) at 8.00pm – The Researches of Herodotus

The celebrated writer Tom Holland has made a new adaptation of his own translation of Herodotus' Histories – the book which stands at the headwaters of literature and of history writing. It is an extraordinary account by an Ancient Greek of how his country and people came into being through their encounters with other people.

The book, which is called the first history book, is also the first book of anthropology. It is also an action novel, full of battles and blood and a political parable that warns its audience, and so the whole of Greece, of the dangers of getting embroiled on foreign soil.

The Researches of Herodotus will be a 90-minute play with a Brechtian tinge. It will be told – as the original account would have been – in a story-telling style, with Herodotus narrating and stage managing a cast of actors who have assembled to play a host of characters.

18 October (week 42) at 8.00pm – The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht

HK Gruber, the renowned Austrian composer, is to succeed James MacMillan as the BBC Philharmonic's next Composer/Conductor, starting in September 2009. He will make his Bridgewater Hall debut in his new role with the BBC Philharmonic in February 2010.

But the Radio 3 audience will have a chance to hear him this October as he conducts members of the BBC Philharmonic in a new production of the Brecht/Weill masterpiece of 20th century theatre – The Threepenny Opera.

Kurt Weill's music is well known, but in this production, which uses Michael Feingold's translation, Brecht's play can be heard in its entirety. The production has been recorded with a radio audience in mind.

HK Gruber sings the role of the Ballad Singer. The cast includes Joseph Millsom, Zubin Varla, Conrad Nelson and Austrian singer Ute Gfrerer.

Radio 3's Night Waves will be evaluating The Threepenny Opera in a special programme to be broadcast in October. Kurt Weill will also be featured on Composer Of The Week.

8 November (week 45) at 8.00pm – The Promise by Alexei Arbuzov

Adapted by Nick Dear, from the translation by Ariadne Nicolaeff. As Russians fight off the Nazis in the savage 1942 siege of Leningrad, three teenagers are thrown together in a war-torn apartment block.

Having lost everything from their pasts, they forge a triangular relationship that binds them together, and a new hope that keeps them alive – the promise of a better future.

This classic of Soviet theatre was first performed in the West End in 1966. Its original cast members were Judi Dench, Ian McKellen and Ian McShane.

In this radio adaptation, 43 years on, the roles are played by some of Britain's finest and most promising young actors: Ruth Wilson, Harry Lloyd and Russell Tovey. The broadcast is set to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

29 November (week 48) at 8.00pm – The Changeling by Thomas Middleton

A new radio production (the last one was broadcast in 1960) of a defining study of sexual obsession by a writer whose reputation is undergoing a thorough overhaul.

The long-awaited publication of Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino's Collected Works Of Thomas Middleton (OUP 2008) has shone new light on the prolific dramatist who was later characterised as "the Hogarth of the pen" for his delight in detailing the rewards and failures of a society driven by sexual and other appetites.

In The Changeling – one of his last plays – Middleton creates a world where evil has a transformative power.

The radio production is set in Alicante, Spain in the late Twenties. Anna Madely (TV: Sense And Sensibility, The Secret Life Of Mrs Beeton. Film: Brideshead Revisited) is Beatrice-Joanna. Zubin Varla (TV: Little Dorrit. Stage: Twelfth Night) is Deflores. Producer Jeremy Mortimer, who has adapted the play for radio, had the opportunity to work with members of The Factory Theatre Company in a series of workshops leading up to this recording.

6 December (week 49) at 8.00pm – The Hairy Ape

Dominic West stars in Eugene O'Neill's 1921 expressionist classic, The Hairy Ape. It tells the tragic tale of Yank, a stoker whose whole world is turned upside down by the appearance of the daughter of a steel magnate in the engine room of the trans-Atlantic oceanliner on which he serves.

The Wire

The Wire continues to bring the most exciting new writing to a wider audience.

Abigail Appleton, Head of Speech, Radio 3, says: "The Wire is all about bold new writing exploring the modern world from different perspectives. I love the plays for their diversity, humour and compassion as well as the frank and unflinching way the Wire's writers sometimes take us into very different areas of experience."

19 September (week 38) at 9.30pm – People Snogging In Public Places

This is a coming-of-age story about what happens when an uncle with severe learning disabilities moves in with his nephew's family. Told in a frank, funny and bold way, the play examines the consequences of disabilities on family members.

Starring Adrian Scarborough, Lindsey Coulson and introducing a brilliant young actor, Rupert Simoneon, it is a fast and funny dash through a troubling week in the life of a teenager.

The writer is award-winning playwright Jack Thorne, the lead writer on Skins, who also has an acclaimed film coming out this year, The Scouting Book For Boys.

26 September (week 39) at 8.50pm – Side Effects by Morna Pearson

This startling new play by an award-winning young Scottish writer explores the relationship between 15-year-old Rachel and her 17-year-old cousin; a relationship based on the desire for escape from their empty lives in rural Aberdeenshire.

Rachel's life is transformed, root and branch, when she swallows an apple pip and discovers a new way of living. New young Scots acting talents, Ashley Smith and Gary Collins, star as the lovers in a play directed by Traverse Theatre Edinburgh associate Lorne Campbell.

3 October (week 40) at 9.00pm – The Lady of Kingsland Waste by J Parkes

Four inner-city children discover the beauty of life when they become strangely involved with a dying woman. J Parkes' magical story of love, death and redemption was recorded on location in Hackney.

J Parkes is an Islington traffic warden who has had short plays produced at Soho Theatre and workshopped at the National Theatre Studio. He is under commission to The Bush Theatre.

10 October (week 41) at 9.45pm – The First Day Of The Rest Of My Life by Martin Jameson

We live in a world of mass communication. We can talk to anyone via the phone, the internet... and yet we communicate less than ever, rolling through life as if we're impervious to anything, all of us locked in our own little hermetically-sealed boxes.

Toby has a bad day at work on the phones for Careless, the household cover people. When an angry customer pushes him too far – he snaps and tells him to have a heart attack and die. The next morning he wakes up as Dr Richard Jugg and the next day as a homeless person called Deke. An existential comedy nightmare about the modern world written by TV writer Martin Jameson.

24 October (week 43) – Me & Cilla by Lee Mattinson

Broadcast as part the Free Thinking festival, which this year comes from the North East of England, Radio 3 introduces bold new writing by emerging Newcastle talent, Lee Mattinson.

Preparations are underway in a Newcastle two-up-two-down for the perfect Christmas party. Cilla Stephenson's making the buffet, her husband Ringo is 'apparently' at his pantomime rehearsal, and son Alfie is upstairs trying on his new outfit. But every seasonal scenario has a dark lining.

Cilla's got leukaemia and is hiding behind the Cilla Black persona of her club singer circuit past. Her husband Ringo has meanwhile found sexual solace in trashy neighbour Sadie, and their son Alfie's decided that he's not gay; he's just your average straight independent woman.

When their individual glass bubbles come crashing into one another, will the powerful truth in Cilla Black's lyrics give them the voice to show each other their wounds and start to heal?

Recorded on location in Newcastle Me And Cilla stars Charlie Hardwick (Emmerdale's Val), Trevor Fox (currently appearing in Billy Elliot the musical in the West End) and James Baxter (Emmerdale, and award winning stage play Scarborough).

Sunday Feature

Radio 3's weekly documentary strand explores a diverse range of cultural topics.

27 September–11 October (week 39–41) – Ideas: The British Version

Historian Tristram Hunt returns with a new series of Ideas: The British Version, tracing how ideas developed in Britain have had an impact far beyond our shores.

In the first programme, Tristram visits New York and Washington to uncover the extraordinary story of Sir Halford Mackinder, the Edwardian geopolitician whose 'heartland' theory was to have an impact, first in Nazi Germany, then in Cold War America and now today in Russia.

In the second programme, he discovers how the 18th century French philosopher Montesquieu's contact with the exiled ex-Foreign Secretary Viscount Bolingbroke led to him becoming intrigued by Britain's post-1688 political system.

Hunt follows Montesquieu from France to London, where his experience of our unwritten Constitution in action led to an epoch-making idea: the separation of powers.

In the final programme, Tristram follows the spread of the idea of the garden city from its humble beginnings in Letchworth to suburban Paris, New Jersey – and even Nazi Germany. And he visits a prototype ecotown to test the claim that this new scheme is a return to the garden city tradition.

25 October (week 43) – Closer To Blood Than Ink

Pablo Neruda is a literary Che Guevara, an idolised figure, much-loved, but not much scrutinised. This feature reassesses him, taking a close look at his work and his life; in particular his role in getting refugees out of fascist Spain, and what this unknown but highly significant story reveals about his life and work.

In 1938 Neruda was a diplomat, representing Chile in Paris. He chartered a ship, the SS Winnipeg, to convey 2,000 Spanish leftists to Chile. He was there on the quay, in a white hat, waving them off. And he wrote the poem, Let Me Explain A Few Things, in which he disowned his previous romantic and lyric self and committed himself to exposing the world's injustices.

But Neruda was a kind of reverse Schindler, with a list of people who were not going to get on the Winnipeg. As a diplomat he had access to passports, and he made sure these went only to those of his particular leftist denomination (which was Stalinist). The anarchists, more moderate socialists, Basque nationalists – all were rejected and were interned in France. Many were executed soon after when the Nazis moved in.

Neruda remained devoted to Stalin – and wrote a threnody on his death: "We must learn from Stalin/ his sincere intensity / his concrete clarity..."

Nick Rankin investigates this important episode in Neruda's life and what it reveals about the man Lorca once remarked "is closer to blood than ink."

29 November (week 48) at 10.00pm – The Good Old Days?

British music hall developed from a local working-class phenomenon into the country's first mass entertainment industry. Music hall prompted debates about culture, class and celebrity that resonate today, while writers and artists such as Rudyard Kipling, TS Eliot and Walter Sickert found inspiration in the halls.

Presenter Billy Bragg interviews leading experts and visits key locations in the history of music hall. This Sunday Feature will coincide with an event at London's South Bank where Bragg will, for the first time, perform some of the music hall songs he grew up with.


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