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Napoleon Rising

2 hours
First broadcast:
Sunday 02 December 2012

An epic drama charting Napoleon Bonaparte's meteoric rise in the early years of the French revolution, set against his tumultuous relationship with Josephine. Written by Anthony Burgess but never performed in his lifetime and now adapted for radio by Anjum Malik. Part of Radio 3's Napoleon season, marking 200 years since his famous retreat from Moscow.

Burgess was fascinated by Napoleon and wrote a novel, Napoleon Symphony, using the structure of Beethoven's Eroica symphony, originally written in honour of the French leader. Burgess approached director Stanley Kubrick about using the novel as the basis for a film Kubrick planned about Napoleon - the two had worked together on Burgess's A Clockwork Orange. Kubrick politely declined. Burgess then wrote the play: Napoleon Rising - but it never reached the stage.

This new radio version stars Toby Jones as Napoleon, Jenny Jules as Josephine and Alex Jennings as Talleyrand. It offers a vision of the young Napoleon finding his military and political feet in the early years of the French revolution, set against his tumultuous relationship with Josephine. Burgess's writing is full of humour, intelligence and historical detail. Napoleon Rising is an ambitious, unusual drama, focusing on Napoleon the man as much as the legend he became.

Cast and crew:

Napoleon ..... Toby Jones
Josephine. ..... Jenny Jules
Talleyrand ..... Alex Jennings
Massena ..... James Norton
Councillor La Harpe ..... Joseph Kloska
Augureau ..... Richard Katz
Charles ..... Richard Goulding
Sergeant ...... Danny Sapani
Dr Corvisart ...... Mark Straker
Sieyes ...... Trevor Cooper
Napoleon's mother ..... Frances Grey
Hortense ..... Effie Woods
Soldier ...... Rob Heaps
Fortune ..... Mouse

With thanks to:
Chris Elcombe, Peggy Sutton, Tom Green, Phil Smith, Wilf Dalton

Adaptor, Anjum Malik
Producer/director, Polly Thomas
Sound design, Eloise Whitmore
BA, Kate Cooper-Owen
Executive producer, Joby Waldman
A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 3.


Anthony Burgess was a prolific writer. He wrote over 50 novels, the most famous of which is still A Clockwork Orange, made into a controversial film by Stanley Kubrick.

Anjum Malik is a scriptwriter, poet and Honorary Writing Fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University, as well as Writer in Residence at International Anthony Burgess Foundation.

With thanks to Andrew Biswell and the International Anthony Burgess Foundation.


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