At last the new story is out


Finally, I have managed to get Scaife & Scaife up onto Smashwords. I’m quite pleased with it. I guess it’s more in the strain of Razorback than Patasola or The Anatomy Inspector. Meanwhile I’m polishing up another creepy story, called There are no wolves in Lancashire, which might be described as a metamorphic tale. Certainly the inspiration came from Ovid via the Ted Hughes version. The following is my version of Hughes’s version of Ovid:

Ovid tells us that the first werewolf was Lycaon, the cannibal king of Arcadia. He tells us that unspeakable crimes and insufferable pride brought lightning down upon the head of the king. Quite literally so. The shock of primal force evidently drove Lycaon from his wits. In his madness Lycaon believed he had metamorphosed into a wolf. He behaved as a wolf. He lived as a wolf. And over time he became a wolf. What Ovid fails to tell us, though, is how the other wolves, the natural-born wolves, responded to the interloper.

Lancashire wolf



BBC Audio Drama Awards

The winners of the BBC Audio Drama Awards  for 2013, announced yesterday, include:

Best Original Audio Drama (Single play)

Billions by Ed Harris, produced by Jonquil Panting, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4

Best Audio Drama (Series or Serial)

An Angel At My Table, written by Janet Frame, adapted by Anita Sullivan, produced by Karen Rose, Sweet Talk for Radio 4

Best Audio Drama (Adaptation)

Sword Of Honour by Evelyn Waugh and dramatised by Jeremy Front, produced by Sally Avens, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4

Best Actor in an Audio Drama

Lee Ross in King David, produced by Mary Peate, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 3

Best Actress in an Audio Drama

Christine Bottomley in My Boy, produced by Polly Thomas, Somethin’ Else for Radio 4

Best Supporting Actor in an Audio Drama

Shaun Dooley in The Gothic Imagination: Frankenstein, produced by Marc Beeby, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4

Best Supporting Actress in an Audio Drama

Claire Rushbrook in King David, produced by Mary Peate, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 3

Best Use of Sound in an Audio Drama

He Died With His Eyes Open, produced by Sasha Yevtushenko, sound design by Caleb Knightley, BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4

Full details here.

The radio plays of Angela Carter


The late, great Angela Carter was an aficionado of radio drama.  She enlivened in it every bit as much as she re-energised the fairy story.  She writes, in her introduction to this collection: “It is the necessary open-endedness of the medium, the way the listener is invited into the narrative to contribute to it his or her own way of ‘seeing’ the voices and the sounds, the invisible beings and events, that gives radio story-telling its real third dimension…”

I like that phrase inordinately – “seeing the voices and the sounds.”  That is what the best radio drama  always requires and the average never quite does.

In consequence, Carter favoured a free-flowing dramatic structure in which the place can change just because we are told it has.  Character, however, remains constant, often the protagonist at the epicentre of some kaleidoscopic maelstrom which she or, more often he, controls to some extent.   We have strong narration to guide us through – the magnificent Puss himself in Puss in Boots, male and female uncharacterised narrators in the title piece, and Hero rather the title character in VampirellaThe Company of Wolves is more layered and has various characters telling us their element of the story.  The three ‘fairy tales’, of course, also appear in Carter’s short stories; Puss and Wolves began in print and were ‘re-worked’ for radio; with Vampirella it was the other way round.

Come Unto These Yellow Sands is the key work here, a wholly original work for radio, an impressionistic evocation of the life and work of the Victorian painter Richard Dadd, who murdered his father and spent the rest of his life in Bedlam and Broadmoor.  What really captures the interest here is that the life and work are treated equally.  Dadd’s life, so far as the world was concerned, ended when he committed his act of parricide, but he continued to paint and the characters from his paintings – the fairy folk that obsessed him – come alive in his imagination.  We have Oberon and Titania, the Fairy Feller himself, and they speak rationally.  But all the time, in the background, we have the shrieks, yelps and gibbers of Dadd’s demons.

I would classify Yellow Sands as what used to be called a dramatic feature, the form which I claim in my thesis the BBC invented (through Sieveking’s Kaleidoscope, Pound and Harding’s ballad opera of Villon, and Harding and Bridson’s collaboration in Manchester).  It is the form which, through Bridson’s March of ’45, inspired original radio drama in the US and, later, throughout the Commonwealth.  It is the radiophonic art form – drama which can only exist on radio no matter how many attempts are made to put Under Milk Wood on the stage.

Similarly, I would disagree with Carter about her classification of Puss as commedia dell’arte.  To my mind it is an English burlesque in the manner of Fielding.  It’s great fun, nonetheless.  Personally, I didn’t take to Company of Wolves as a piece of drama (too obviously adapted from another form) but I did find inspiration for my own creative work therein.  Vampirella, a title which promises a gothic version of Barberella, turned out to be quite touching.  But it is Yellow Sands that stands out.  I loved it so much that I read it again, straight away.

I don’t suppose there’s any chance of a revival any time soon, so contemporary aficionados must settle for the scripts.

I might quibble with Carter’s terminology but I wholly endorse her conclusion:

…in its most essential sense, even if stripped of all the devices of radio illusion, radio retains the atavistic lure, the atavistic power, of voices in the dark, and the writer who gives the words to those voices retains some of the authority of the most antique tellers of tales.

Benjamin Britten and Norman Corwin

Great news that the Halle Orchestra in Manchester are going to perform the music Britten wrote for Corwin’s seminal An American in England, edited together as Britten in Wartime.  Shameful though that the October 3 premiere comes sixty-one years after Britten composed it.

An American in England was a six-part series produced by CBS but recorded and broadcast from the BBC in London.  It purports to be a documentary but is in fact scripted and acted.  The writer-narrator is the legendary Norman Corwin, writer-producer of the We Hold These Truths, broadcast the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour simultaneously on all US networks, which unsurprisingly drew the biggest radio drama audience of all time (63 million).  An American in England was part of a block of US-UK programming designed to inform the American public about British experience of the war they had so recently joined.  Corwin’s radio drama mentor – the inspiration behind all original American radio drama – was Geoffrey Bridson, of BBC Manchester, whose March of the ’45 is almost certainly the most listened-to radio play in history, not simultaneously but over decades.  In the early 1970s Bridson believed his play had been heard by more than a hundred million people and it has been broadcast many times since.

The October 3 premiere focuses on the episode Women of England, which happens to be the episode I have on my phone.

Hopefully the Halle will issue a recording of Britten in Wartime for those of us who can’t make it to Manchester next Thursday.  If so, they can certainly put me down for a copy.