I’ve been writing for radio since 1987 so that’s a lot of single plays, serials, comedy-dramas, soap episodes and short stories.
Here are some highlights:
From Galway to Graceland (1999)
Starring Marcella Riordan, Struan Rodger & Clare Cathcart
Producer Paul Dodgson approached me to write a 45-min radio play, based on a song by Richard Thompson … From Galway to Graceland. It tells the story of a woman who flies to Nashville, believing she’s married to Elvis. It was my first attempt at something serious and Paul and I were thrilled that Richard Thompson specially re-recorded the song, to use within the play.
The Charm Factory I & II (1998 & 2000)
Starring Tabitha Wady, Eddie Marsan, Hugh Quarshie & Dinah Sheridan
I wrote eight 45-min episodes of The Charm Factory, loosely based on Rank Charm School actors of the 50s. I had a cast of thousands and numerous international locations, including Hollywood and Cinecitta, Rome. You can do that in radio. Plus glamourous frocks, snazzy nightclubs, songs of the era and a tickertape ‘newsreel’. Because it’s a period piece, Charm doesn’t date.
Sad Girl (2006)
Starring Samantha Spiro, Henry Goodman & Miriam Karlin
My only 60-min Saturday afternoon play and very loosely drawn from my background, Sad Girl is the family name for a painting by Max Liebermann, which once belonged to a German-Jewish family in Nazi Germany. Rachel, the granddaughter, decides to find and reclaim it. Another serious drama, with the occasional dash of bittersweet humour.
soloparentpals.com (2009 to 2014)
Starring Maxine Peake & Kris Marshall; Liz White & Julian Rhind-Tutt
Producer David Hunter encouraged me to create an epistolary serial so I suggested two screwed-up single parents who meet in a chat room. Over five series, they nearly connect, then they don’t, then they do, then they marry and it’s happy ever after. You can’t always retain the same actors for a returning series, especially if they’re in demand. But in radio you can re-cast. I still can’t believe how lucky I was to have Maxine and Kris, and then Liz and Julian, bringing Rosie and Tom to life.
Cooking in a Bedsitter (2016 & 2017)
Starring Beattie Edmondson & Nikesh Patel
I’d always known about Katharine Whitehorn’s classic 60s recipe book, Cooking in a Bedsitter, but I became slightly obsessed with it after picking up a copy in an Eastbourne second-hand bookshop. I remember flicking through it as I ate an ice cream and thinking: this would make great radio. Lucky for me, Sioned Wiliam (comedy commissioning editor, BBC Radio 4) thought so too and I eventually got the green light to start writing.
It took a few drafts to find the format: how much of the original book to use; how to feature the recipes and Whitehorn’s unique take on cooking nourishing meals on one gas ring. I decided to create a fictitious character, Trisha, moving into a West Hampstead bedsit in 1964, to escape her suffocating, suburban parents. ‘Katharine Whitehorn’ provided the narration, and I used 60s hits to set the scene: The Hollies, The Rockin’ Berries, Unit 4+2, Dusty, Sandie, Cilla, Millie and Lulu.
Producer Emma Harding and a ‘fab’ cast brought the characters and the era to life. Beattie Edmondson was Trisha and Nikesh Patel was Deepak, the sensitive medical student who lived across the landing. A repertory of versatile actors played all the other parts and it was one of the most enjoyable productions I’ve ever worked on.
Sadly, Bedsitter only ran to two series but, if I’m honest, I’d used all the best bits from the Whitehorn book. I couldn’t let Deepak fly off to America, leaving Trisha behind. So I got them together in the final scene. I do like a happy ending.