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Our Mutual Friend

Adaptation by Mike Walker of Charles Dickens's classic novel

Last on

Episode 20

20/20 Truths that seemed drowned finally come to the surface.

Fri 4 Dec 2009 19:45 BBC Radio 4 FM only

See all previous episodes from 15 Minute Drama

  • Introduction to Our Mutual Friend

    "The man ... whose name is Harmon, was [the] only son of a tremendous old rascal who made his money by Dust. By which means, or by others, he grew rich as a Dust Contractor, and lived in a hollow in a hilly country entirely composed of Dust. On his own small estate the growling old vagabond threw up his own mountain range, like an old volcano, and its geological formation was Dust. Coal-dust, vegetable-dust, bone-dust, crockery dust, rough dust and sifted dust, - all manner of Dust."

    Our Mutual Friend, Chapter Two "The Man from Somewhere".


    Our Mutual Friend was Charles Dickens’ last complete novel. Written in 1864/65, when he was in his early 50s, he had recently published A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, and was at the height of his fame. His theme for Our Mutual Friend was money, and the effect that money has on human values and human relationships. It opens with Gaffer and Lizzie Hexam, father and daughter, on the Thames and the unknown drowned man whose body they are towing to the shore.

  • Who’s Who

    Charles Dickens (Alex Jennings)

    John Harmon the older (Malcolm Tierney)
    Made his fortune from dust. A cruel and tyrannical man, he disowns his daughter when she falls in love with a man of whom he doesn’t approve, and when his young son attempts to speak on his sister’s behalf, he throws him out too. In his last years Old Harmon is looked after by the Boffins. News gets to the young John Harmon in South Africa of his father’s death, and the unique conditions attached to the will, and he travels back to England.

    John Harmon the younger
    Left home and emigrated to South Africa. On his father’s death is heir to the Harmon fortune. He returns from South Africa, but is presumed dead when a body is found in the Thames.

    Julius Handford
    A witness to the recovery of John Harmon’s body from the Thames.

    John Rokesmith (Carl Prekopp)
    A young man who lodges with the Wilfers and works as secretary to Mr Boffin.

    Bella Wilfer (Daisy Haggard)
    As a child impressed Old John Harmon with her spirit and willfulness. When Bella hears that young John Harmon is dead, the Boffins take her into their care.

    Nicodemus (Noddy) Boffin (Jason Watkins)
    Also known as the Golden Dustman. Lives in Harmony Hall and caretakes the dust heaps. He’s illiterate and keen to make something of himself and employs Silas Wegg to read to him.

    Mrs Henrietta Boffin (Pauline Quirke)
    Noddy Boffin’s wife. Convinces Mr Boffin to use some of their fortune for good works (funding Betty Higden’s orphanage) and arranges for Bella Wilfer to come and live with them. She has strong memories of the dreadful way in which old John Harmon treated his young son.

    Lizzie Hexam (Lizzy Watts)
    Daughter of Gaffer Hexam and sister of Charlie Hexam. Lizzie is appalled by the fact that her family depends on money and spoils scavenged from the river, and is determined that Charlie gets an education and succeeds in life. Lizzie, a beautiful young woman, finds herself subject to the attentions of both Eugene Wrayburn and Bradley Headstone.

    Charley Hexam (Adam Arnold)
    Son of Gaffer Hexam and brother of Lizzie. Born into poverty, with Lizzie’s help receives schooling under Bradley Headstone’s mentoring. But he struggles to dissociate himself from the class he was born into.

    Mortimer Lightwood (Matt Addis)
    Lawyer, and friend of Eugene Wrayburn. Lightwood advises the Boffins on their inheritance, and helps the police when the body of John Harmon is discovered in the river.

    Eugene Wrayburn (Patrick Kennedy)
    Barrister and a gentleman by birth, but appears roguish and insolent; close friends with Mortimer Lightwood. Eugene falls in love with Lizzie Hexam and thereby becomes the sworn enemy of his rival, Bradley Headstone.

    Jenny Wren (Nicola Miles-Wildin)
    Dolls' dressmaker, with whom Lizzie lives after her father dies; crippled with a bad back; acts very motherly toward her drunken father whom she calls her "bad child".

    Solomon Riah (Jonathan Tafler)
    Jewish money-lender; cares for and assists Lizzie Hexam and Jenny Wren and is one of the few characters to support them when they have no one else.

    Bradley Headstone (Neil Stuke)
    Headmaster. Rose from poverty to become Charlie Hexam’s schoolmaster. Falls in love with Lizzie Hexam and pursues her passionately and violently, though his advances are rejected, and develops an insane jealousy towards Eugene Wrayburn.

    Silas Wegg (Lee Ross)
    Market trader and ballad-seller with a wooden leg. Hired to read for the Boffins. He’s out for himself, and joins forces with Mr Venus to try and blackmail the Boffins.

    Aenus Venus (Stephen Hogan)
    A taxidermist and collector of bones. He meets Silas Wegg after having procured his amputated leg and he joins Wegg in blackmailing Mr Boffin. Venus is in love with Pleasant Riderhood.

    Mr John Podsnap (Malcolm Tierney)
    A pompous man of the upper middle class; friend to the Veneerings.

    Gaffer Hexam (Malcolm Tierney)
    A waterman and the father of Lizzie and Charlie; makes a living by robbing corpses in the river Thames. His former partner, Rogue Riderhood, turns him in for the murder of John Harmon after the [or a body?] body is dragged up from the river.

    Rogue Riderhood (Jamie Foreman)
    Gaffer Hexam’s partner until he turns Gaffer in as the murderer of John Harmon in hopes of receiving a reward. Later, Riderhood becomes a lock-keeper. He is the father of Pleasant Riderhood,

    Mrs Wilfer (Annabelle Dowler)
    Bella's mother, a woman who is never satisfied with what she has.

    Reginald Wilfer (Philip Fox)
    Bella Wilfer’s doting father; gentle, innocent and kindly despite his querulous wife and daughter and thankless work as a clerk.

    Betty Higden (Lynn Farleigh)
    Manages an orphanage. Her life is dedicated to saving the innocent poor from the Workhouse, a place of which she has had first hand experience. Among her charges is Sloppy, who entertains her by reading the crime reports in the newpaper.

    Sloppy (Benjamin Askew)
    Foundling who assists Betty Higden in taking care of children; raised in the workhouse; appears to have a learning disability but is nevertheless adept at reading the newspaper for Mrs. Higden.

    Pleasant Riderhood (Annabelle Dowler)
    Daughter of Rogue Riderhood; works at the pawn shop; like Lizzie Hexam and Jenny Wren, it appears that Pleasant is the doting daughter of an abusive father. Pleasant falls in love with Mr Venus.

    Mr Veneering (Alex Jennings)
    Embodies upper-class values; a nouveaux-riche whose main preoccupation is to advance in the social world.

    Miss Abbey Potterson (Janice Acquah)
    Hostess of the Jolly Fellowship Porters; keeps the inn respectable and under control.

    Mr Wren (Paul Rider)
    Jenny Wren’s alcoholic father.

  • Radio 4 blog: Jeremy Mortimer

    Adapting Our Mutual Friend for radio
  • BBC: Charles Dickens

    Topic page on Charles Dickens
  • BBC: Charles Dickens

    Dickens as historical figure
  • Project Gutenberg

    Our Mutual Friend
  • wikipedia: Charles Dickens

    Charles Dickens article
  • Our Mutual Friend

    Map of locations mentioned in the book
  • Radio 4 Blog: Jessica Dromgoole

    Producing and directing Our Mutual Friend
  • Series Catch-Up Trial

    Our Mutual Friend is part of a trial for a limited number of radio series which are being made available with series catch-up. Series catch-up extends the availability window for individual episodes beyond the usual seven days after their transmission, allowing you the chance to listen to an entire series until a week after the final episode is broadcast.

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