Radio 4’s Craven: how drama takes on cyberbullying

Friends and followers will know that I’m a long-time fan of audio drama, be it on radio (most often Radio 4) or via other commercial outlets, such as Big Finish.1

In recent years, the regular slots that Radio 4 has for dramas has accepted more and more returning series – one of the reasons why those strands were renamed two years ago – the Afternoon Play becoming the Afternoon Drama, and so on. One of my favourite regular schedule slots is the 15 Minute Drama, short serials taking up the last quarter of Woman’s Hour from Monday to Fridays and which are now, as a matter of course, repeated in the evening and with an omnibus on Saturdays at 12pm on sister digital station Radio 4 Extra.

And in that slot, one of my favourite returning serials is Craven, a crime drama starring Maxine Peake as DCI Sue Craven, heading up a murder investigation team including Michael Obiora (Hotel Babylon, Casualty) and David Crellin (Emmerdale, The Cops). While DCI Craven herself had a tendency to sound unremittingly grim in the first few episodes, by its just-completed fifth series2 it’s settled into an analysis of grim (and sometimes topical) murder cases by a team that has settled into a pattern of occasionally prickly professional relationships that are nevertheless imbued with mutual respect.

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Review: Counter-Measures Series 2

This time last year, I reviewed a new audio drama series by Big Finish, Counter-Measures, a spin-off from 1988’s Remembrance of the Daleks.

The second series was released earlier this month. It’s solidly built upon what worked in the first box set: stories that are based upon the paranoias prevalent at the time, be they scientific or political, rather than relying on extraterrestrial agents. The Intelligence Counter-Measures Group are best when dealing with foes who, if not the archetypal “mad scientists”, are amoral at best – people for whom the end may justify the means, even if those means cost the lives of innocents.

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Coming soon: Counter-Measures series 2

Back in July last year, I reviewed Big Finish’s new Counter-Measures series.

Counter-Measures is another addition to Big Finish’s celebration of great characters and great acting

Details of the writers of  forthcoming second series – again, to be available as a CD box set and download – have now been released. I’m pleased to see Matt Fitton, author of what I felt to be the strongest story of the first series, return – but even happier that Mark Wright and Cavan Scott (my editors for the sole contribution I’ve made to the Big Finish universe) are also contributing a story.

The full roster of stories in the second season is:

  • Manhunt by Matt Fitton
  • The Fifth Citadel by James Goss
  • Peshka by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
  • Sins of the Fathers by John Dorney

Pre-orders (£25 for download, £30 for CD) are now being taken at bigfinish.com.

Review: Saturday Drama – The Letter of Last Resort

Originally staged at the Tricycle Theatre, David Greig’s play The Letter of Last Resort examines the inherent absurdity at the heart of the principle of nuclear deterrence. Possessing nuclear weapons, the argument goes, prevents other nuclear powers from ever firing theirs. A successful deterrent will never be used – but that will only happen if people believe you are willing to use it.

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Coming soon: Neverwhere

On Saturday March 16, BBC Radio 4 broadcasts the first part of a new adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel Neverwhere. The story tells of Richard Mayhew, a Scot living an ordinary, dull life in London until he helps an injured girl on the street – and finds himself embroiled in London Below, the magical twilight world that exists just out of sight of the capital we all think we know.

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Tales of the City: Barbary Lane comes to Broadcasting House

Now this is exciting: from next Monday, BBC Radio 4 will be airing the first radio adaptation of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series. Airing in the network’s 15 Minute Drama slot, which takes up the tail end of Woman’s Hour every weekday, with an evening repeat and weekend omnibus in Radio 4 Extra, the adaptation from novel to audio serial has been done by playwright Bryony Lavery, so it should be good.

No details on the BBC Media Centre website, unfortunately – but Maupin has written a blog post on the BBC Radio 4 website. Tales of the City starts on January 28, with the second novel, More Tales of the City, the following week. I don’t know if any further adaptations are planned, but it would be good if, unlike the three TV miniseries, the whole range could be completed with the cast remaining constant.

UPDATE: More and more people seem to be landing here via Google on a quest to find out the theme music used for both series. It’s called, appropriately enough, San Francisco by Son of Dave:

Rock and Doris and Tracy-Ann

Last Thursday’s edition of The Stage includes my interview with actor and writer Tracy-Ann Oberman, whose second “Hollywood Tale” play for Radio 4’s Afternoon Drama slot airs this afternoon. Rock and Doris and Elizabeth tells the story of Rock Hudson’s public appearance in the 1980s and the revelations that he had full-blown Aids. Jonathan Hyde plays Hudson, with Frances Barber as Doris Day and Oberman as Elizabeth Taylor.

The interview is now online on The Stage website. Have a read, and either listen to the play this afternoon, or listen on catch-up later.

On Radio 4: South Downs

South Downs, the David Hare play commissioned by Chichester Festival Theatre to accompany a revival of Rattigan’s The Browning Version, was yesterday adapted for Radio 4’s Saturday Drama slot, with the original stage cast giving their all.

Nicholas Farrell and Anna Chancellor lend their names and reputations to the production, but it’s the young cast who make it shine: most particularly Alex Lawther as Blakemore. It’s astonishing that this is his first professional role, but I’m sure it won’t be his last.

Listen to the play on the Radio 4 website, and read my review from when the double bill transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre. You can also view my photos from the press night party.

Review: Counter-Measures Series 1

Editor’s Rating
Rating

Way back in October 1988, the BBC gave me the coolest 18th birthday present: a four-part Doctor Who serial from Sylvester McCoy’s era that was really rather good. Remembrance of the Daleks kicked off the TV series’ 25th anniversary celebrations with a story that brought the Doctor back to Earth in November 1963, and the area around Coal Hill School – the setting for the very first episode. It also featured Daleks, Michael Sheard (at the time most famous for playing villainous deputy head Mr Bronson in Grange Hill) as a very different type of teacher – and a group of scientists who were working with the armed forces in the Intelligence Counter-Measures Group.

Now that same group has been revived on audio. Big Finish, who make the Doctor Who audio adventures and a number of spin-off series, have reunited Remembrance’s team of actors Simon Williams, Pamela Salem and Karen Gledhill, thrown in a smattering of new regulars and created four dramas involving strange happenings in 1960s London.

The result? Imagine a radio version of Quatermass, if it had been made by 1960s cult purveyors ITC Entertainment

Continue reading Review: Counter-Measures Series 1

Review: Counter-Measures Series 14Scott Matthewman2012-07-15 22:51:36Big Finish, who make the Doctor Who audio adventures and a number of spin-off series, have reunited Remembrance of the Daleks’s team of actors Simon Williams, Pamela Salem and Karen Gledhill, thrown in a smattering of new regulars and created four dramas involving strange happenings in 1960s London.

Big Finish Drama Showcase: Unintelligent Design

Regular readers of my blog will recall that I’ve been reviewing Big Finish’s Drama Showcase series of audio dramas, released at roughly monthly intervals. The fourth and final release in the current series, after an unforeseen delay, has just been released – and, in my opinion, Unintelligent Design is the best of the lot. Listen to the trailer, which explains absolutely nothing:

Unintelligent Design: Listen to the Trailer (MP3)

A full review follows – but first, links to my earlier reviews of the Drama Showcase series:

  1. Not a Well Woman
  2. Pulling Faces
  3. In Conversation with an Acid Bath Murderer

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