The Greatest Gift was an hour long afternoon play broadcast on BBC Radio 4, produced by Peter Kavanagh, and featuring the late great Anna Massey, Maria Miles and Sean Barrett. The play won a Radio Times Drama Award. The Greatest Gift was the second radio play I wrote (the first was longlisted for the same award two years’ earlier), and it was wonderful to have it produced at a relatively young age with such excellent actors. The play is about a hard-up woman artist, Joy, who paints a portrait of a young girl at her father’s request. Joy is haunted by her ex-lover George, and the girl is bullied by her father. Can they help each other? Is Joy less damaged and hard up than she seems? It was quite a moody, internalised poetic piece, but that’s one of the many areas in which radio excels. Anna Massey gave the part of Joy great pathos, dignity and humour.
Clive was broadcast as a 45 minute afternoon play on BBC Radio 4 and was produced by David Hunter. Ben Crowe played Clive. David recorded the play in a house. This was because the potential for a home was very important to Clive as a foster child who had been perpetually moved on, and we wanted the setting to sound like a house not a studio. The family seem to like him, though there is some rivalry between the two sisters for his affections. There are two strands to the play, the present and ten years previously, as the two sisters remember him while they mourn their mother. As the play unfolds, we hear the tragedy of Clive’s life and how he lost the last place that might have worked for him. The actors had to play teenagers as well as their older selves. Tessa Peake-Jones played the mother.
The Journalistic Adventures of an American Girl in London, BBC 4, Woman’s Hour Serial, was directed by David Hunter. I adapted various incidents from two autobiographical books by Elizabeth L.Banks. Lizzie Banks, an American, was one of the first undercover women journalists in London at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Banks set out to publicise the way working class women were treated by employers. Her adventures involved disguising herself as a domestic servant, a crossing sweeper and a laundress, among other roles. Her articles are witty but serious, as she chronicles her various strategies for staying afloat in London, such as selling her typewriter, buying it back again, and wearing newspaper under her clothes to keep warm. Later on she supported suffragettes through her journalism and campaigned for America and Canada to enter the First World War. She died in London after a career where her undercover journalism led her into some dangerous situations such as sleeping rough in a homeless women’s hostel in New York. However, I could only encompass a little of her story in five episodes. Barbara Barnes played Lizzie – perfect casting. And the BBC Radio Drama company used their virtuoso talents to play the rest of London with verve and quick changes of accent, age and class.The series was the Pick of the Week in The Guardian, Times and Daily Mail.