015 Speculative Fiction – Old
Our final category is very full this quarter. What Happened with St George by David Cregan can only be described as—different. A random and somewhat creepy man (Ian Holm) foists the “real” story of St George onto a psychoanalysis-obsessed American (Kate Harper) in a museum in Sweden. The real St George, it happens, was voiced by Peter Davison trying (and succeeding) in sounding very young and screechy. It’s the best audio work I’ve ever heard Peter Davison do, and that’s saying something. This George was a very unwilling saint, and thus followed some incredibly nuanced philosophizing on the nature of sacrifice and Christian love versus love of the flesh (Boethian in the extreme!). Kenneth Cranham played the quite frightening dragon which was evil because it was ugly and unloved. Mary Wimbush was memorable as the Virgin Mary who was several hundred years old and trained George to be a soldier. I will certainly never think of the legend the same way again. It also starred Christopher Benjamin, Jennifer Iercey, Holly de Jong, and Amanda Root. It was originally broadcast in 1992 and was directed by David Hitchinson.
Moonshine by Shirley Gee was a very unnerving story set in the mid-1930s. It was difficult to know whom to root for: the scatterbrained upper middle class Mrs Carmichael (Carole Boyd), very much a product of her time and upbringing, who loves her daughter Flora in an abstracted way; Flora has a similarly ephemeral but loving bond with her father (John Rowe). She is mostly in the care of her latest nanny, Ada (Rosemary Leach, who won an award for this performance). Ada comes from a typical lower class London background; her mother believes her to be tiresome because she won’t drink and enjoy the lifestyle of the working class, unlike Ada’s sister, or their far-flung brother. Ada is in some kind of religious cult (and not a nice one, one which is racist, bloody, and unforgiving) which has her worshipping Solomon, who eventually is going to wipe the Earth clean of unbelievers. A bizarre and unsettling tale. Originally from 1977, it was directed by David Spenser.
I’ve become a big fan of Wally K Daly in the last few years, so I was excited to discover his children’s series Orphans in Waiting (from 1990). I found, indeed, it was nothing if not full-throttle. Daly obviously specialized in adventure stories for kids on radio, and this would have worked completely had we not been expected to believe it was set in 1990. 1940 or 1950? Yes, definitely. I can’t believe that Daly believed children like Mike (Judy Bennett), Janey (Abigail Docherty), and Pete (Simon Radford) existed in 1990—because he created quite legitimate, believable children in 2005, in The Children of Witchwood. The child actors were excellent and did their best, but their language and actions were all “jolly hockey sticks” and rather Famous Five. This was tempered by humor, usually arising from the youngest brother, Pete, and his self-preserving tendencies. Like The Children of Witchwood, the episodes were frequently narrated direct-to-the-listener from the children’s POV, which worked extremely well and was something Daly was obviously skilled in. The story was complete fantasy, yet very well-told, and you have to admire Daly for the sheer cinematic ambition of it. Mike, Janey, and Pete wake up one morning, not to the smell of their mother’s cooked breakfast (surely in 1990 no one had cooked breakfast regularly??). Their parents have disappeared. They have to figure out how to get to school, and by the end of the day, they are worried. They have no relatives that they know of, and no one they can go to for help. People are watching them, including the police, and they feel they can’t trust anyone. The paranoia intensifies when “Uncle Brian” and “Aunty Vi” arrive to look after them. Directed by Dan Garrett, it also starred Frank Windsor, Jo Manning Wilson, Amitjit Dur, Tariq Alibai, and Edward Kelsey.
Ostensibly, A Haunting is about just that—a haunting—but it is not your typical ghost story, and I have therefore not categorized it as such. A British architect (John Sessions) goes to LA to work on a building, and literally becomes another person. He develops a penchant for lower class working girls (women who work at 7-11, that kind of thing) and drinks, smokes, becomes irascible. When he returns to the UK and his family, his condition improves, but he is unable to shake it. His marriage breaks down. Will he ever figure out what’s wrong with him? The understated performances and strong sound design really came together. Originally from 2001, A Haunting was written by William Boyd and also starred Liam Brennan, Crawford Logan, Eliza Langland, Emma Currie, and Joanna Tope. It was directed by Dave Batchelor.