006 Contemporary Drama – Old
I wonder if Lee Hall (author of Spoonface Steinberg among other things) heard Great Men of Music by Craig Warner, originally from 1988, because you could argue it’s much like Spoonface Steinberg, if slightly more cynical and tragic. Phil Davis gives a wrenching performance as a man (possibly with Asperger’s or developmental problems) who cannot speak. He has a job, though, cleaning in a factory, and he’s good at it and gets on with his co-workers despite his disability. Things start to go wrong, however, when the tea-lady befriends him and takes her into his confidences. She’s engaged and going to leave the factory all of a sudden to move up north. Of course, he falls wretchedly in love with her. He expresses himself through writing musical scores. The first few scenes are played in a strange but effective way in which you hear him enter the factory and hear other people interact with him, but as he does not speak, you do not hear him at all. Later we go into his head, and his thought processes sound a lot like the way Spoonface Steinberg speaks. He does, actually, speak—haltingly but understandably.
Looks Like Rain, Looks Like Rain Again, Rain on the Just by Jimmie Chinn was a really interesting way of presenting a trio of plays, from an obviously talented writer (presented in 2000, 2001, and 2003). The plays involved extremely small casts and basically took place over two days. The first play began with brother and sister Stan (Bernard Cribbins) and Joyce at their mother’s funeral. It quickly became apparent that their mother was not well-liked, not even by her own children, and the third child, Charlie (Roy Barraclough), hasn’t been invited to the funeral, having become a vagrant after the mother kicked him and his gay lover out of the house. We soon realize that neither Stan nor Joyce are particularly likeable people, Joyce being vicious and self-centered and Stan being timid (and yet strangely with a terrible temper). At their mother’s house, Stan is shocked to find out that their mother had an affair with their uncle and find a photograph that may mean Charlie is an illegitimate child. The second play continues in a similar vein to the first, with the siblings trying to shock and hoodwink each other, ending in violence, and the third continues the violence and introduces cousin Beryl (Joanne Kempson). The performances were superb, and the writing was understated and suspenseful. Haha, but a far from cozy set of plays! They were directed by Martin Jenkins.
It’s very rare that radio drama makes me cry, but I had quite a weepy moment during Exchanges in Bialystok by Vanessa Rosenthal. Deborah (Catherine Barker), her great-uncle Saul (David Horovitch), and Miss Harris (Alison Pettit) meet in Poland on a tour of the old Jewish quarter of Bialystok. Deborah has recently lost her father, who was supposed to go on the tour with her. She is grieving and very sensitive about what she sees as outsiders cashing in on her heritage; no one except those from Jewish families who suffered the atrocities can possibly understand what it was like. She is very rude to Miss Harris, whose motives for going on the tour are obscure. Saul tries to be a peacemaker, but he soon finds out that the memories of where his father was a child pack quite a punch, much more than he was expecting. The Polish tour guide gained all his knowledge about Judaica in prison libraries because this was a hidden history throughout Poland during the Communist era. He is a bit of a sleazeball but redeems himself slightly at the end. Miss Harris was investigating what happened to her parents, who were “English Hebrews,” that is, ethnically Jewish but Christian converts. I found this play very moving. It was directed by David Ian Neville in 2003.