Category Archives: Radio drama

My thoughts on some BBC radio dramas

#Dangerous Visions on #BBCRadio4

Culture by Al Smith

Starring David Calder (Tony in the Archers)

Part of Radio 4’s Dangerous Vision series, stories about dystopian futures. This one concerns a grim future for the NHS when antibiotics cost £15000 and each hospital has a quartermaster’s court to consider those without insurance who may get free care. A Romanion pianist can’t afford to pay for a hand infection to be treated and faces amputation. Privatisation taken to the ultimate degree.




WE – Yevgeny Zamyatin

Anton Lesser, Don Warrington

Adapted by Sean O’Brien

Directed by Jim Poyser


If Wells and Verne are the fathers of science-fiction then Yevgeni Zamyatin is the Godfather of dystopia.

The Russian penned this masterwork in the years following the Bolshevik revolution and in it we find the themes of depersonalisation and the triumphant rise of bureaucracy and totalitarianism.

The influences on Orwell, Huxley and Levin are self-evident.

In this radio adaption Anton Lesser takes the lead character D503, the chief engineer of the Integral, a spaceship being built to conquer new worlds.

Lesser is a superlative radio performer and brings a fragile sense of himself which is ruthlessly exploited by 1-330, a rebellious female who drinks, smokes and flirts.

We discover that outside the glass city is a green wall cutting off inhabitants from nature – and the band of humans intent on wrecking the system. Parallels with Logan’s Run and This Perfect Day are obvious.

The production and eerie space-filling music demonstrate BBC radio drama at its best.



Resistance – a plague drama by Val McDermid

Writer: Val McDermid

Actor: Gina McKee

Producer: Susan Roberts



Val McDermid created a bacterial doomsday scenario after attending a workshop that included a presentation on the failure of antibiotics by the chief medical officer Sally Davies.

The workshop organised by the Wellcome Trust resulted in this three-pater for Radio 4.

The action takes place in the North East with the bug from a dodgy sausage at a music festival spreading panic and mayhem.

Given the setting it was surprising that there are so few local accents except for the main character Zoe Meadows played by Gina McKee. Now Gina was born a few miles from me but she put on a really exaggerated Geordie-type accent that quite frankly grated all the way through.

Still, it’s an exciting fast-paced story but I’m not giving the game away!

The Birthday Party – Pinter

Toby Jones

Stephen Rea

Henry Goodman

Maggie Steed


Producer/director Gary Brown for Radio 3 Drama


If a radio drama can sometimes rise or fall according to the quality of its cast then this version of Pinter’s is simply triumphant. Toby Jones is fast becoming the go-to man in either radio or television but he is just one part of some brooding and consummate performances.

Irish actor Stephen Rea and Henry Goodman are the menacing visitors who visit a rundown seaside boarding house to confront Jones’ character Stanley – but for what reason is deliberately left obscure. However Goodman at Nat Goldman, the gangsterish Jew, is supremely unsettling with his bleak and sometimes comic delivery. Maggie Steed is a delight as the landlady in a production which is a worthy successor to its various previous incarnations.