Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

The Letter of Last Resort

By David Greig. On her first day in office, the new PM must write a letter to the commanders of Trident with instructions to be followed in the event of a nuclear attack on Britain.

The Letter of Last Resort is a hand-written letter from the Prime Minister to the commanding officer of each of Trident's submarines. It contains instruction on what action the commanding officer of the submarine should take in the event that Britain is obliterated by nuclear attack and all those in authority deceased. The letter can only say one of two things: retaliate, or, don't retaliate. Each new British prime minister must write the letter upon taking office.

Set in the near future, David Greig's brilliant play is a conversation between the new prime minister (in this case a woman) and the Head of Arrangements, John, at the end of her first day. It unpacks the arguments around nuclear deterrents - and the surreal position a new prime minster must find themself in.

Are you saying that in the end it all rests on what I write on this piece paper now -

Yes, Madam.

To write 'retaliate' is monstrous and irrational. To write 'don't retaliate' renders the whole nuclear project valueless.

Yes, Madam.

'The Letter of Last Resort, should be compulsory viewing for all our legislators' - Michael Billington, The Guardian.

'amusing, moving and thought-provoking, brilliantly encapsulating the paradoxes and terror of mutually assured destruction' - Charles Spencer, The Telegraph.

The Letter of Last Resort was
written by David Greig
directed by Nicolas Kent
and produced by Lu Kemp

The Letter of Last Resort was originally commissioned and produced by the Tricycle Theatre as part of a cycle of plays 'The Bomb - A Partial History'.

38 minutes

Credits

Role Contributor
Prime Minister Belinda Lang
John Simon Chandler
Director Nicholas Kent
Producer Lu Kemp
Writer David Greig

Broadcast

Drama of the Week Podcast

Drama of the Week Podcast

Download a new drama from Radio 4 or Radio 3 every week.