Mart’s Radio Highlight of (last) Week: Home Front, September 15th 1917 – Ivy Layton

If you’re not a regular listener to Home Front this may not mean a lot to you, but the burgeoning romance between Ivy Layton and disfigured soldier Dennis Monk has been bubbling for a while. Wonderful writing and acting, and the delicate pacing of this story, made the final lines of this episode a real joy.

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I’m a writer, editor, and Royal Literary Fund Fellow.
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Mart’s Audio Drama Digest, 28 October 2015

Recent BBC radio output that’s really caught my attention, and which is available on iPlayer at the time of writing. Remember, this is just a small sample of the huge variety on offer.

Cuttin’ It
by Charlene James, directed by Jessica Brown
A beautifully written and performed play set in contemporary London, about a longstanding tradition among Somali women and its impact on two teenagers, Muna and Iqra: “They are from the same place but they are strangers; strangers who share a secret embedded in their culture.” Gripping throughout.

Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller
This BBC Radio 3 production of this superb Miller play stars David Suchet and Zoe Wanamaker in the leading roles. Having seen the RSC’s production earlier this year, starring Anthony Sher and Dame Harriet Walter, I was interested to see how the two compared. In the event I simply became wrapped up in the story once more. Brilliant.

“You work your whole life to pay off a house, you finally own it, there’s nobody to live in it.”

The Dhammazedi Bell
A wonderfully dreamy, atmospheric production related to the legend that the largest bell in the world lies on the bed of a Myanmar river. I really enjoy these Between the Ears programmes and their unique feel. In this episode the stories, sounds and narration slide across each other like the shifting waters and bed of the river itself.

Dr Who – Doing Time
by William Gallagher, a Big Finish production
This Dr Who story stars Peter Davison as the Doctor, and was one of four to result from Big Finish Productions’ Opportunity for New Writers contest in 2010 – a competition that attracted around 1,200 entries. The broadcast of Doing Time on Radio 4 Extra is ”a lifetime ambition fulfilled” for its writer. Read William’s blog post on the subject here.

Home Front – 22 October 1915: Adam Wilson
written by Richard Monks, directed by Allegra McIlroy
Another fine episode that sees the Wilsons’ household turned upside-down once more. Wonderful performances from everyone as always, but particularly the two young actors in the roles of Adam and Sam – Billy Kennedy and Alexander Aze. There’s also an interesting blog post on the BBC Writers’ Room website by Monks regarding his Radio 3 production The Wire – Early Warning. Early Warning isn’t currently available to listen to but you can download the script.

Tommies – 21 October 1915
by Nick Warburton, directed by Jonquil Panting
This episode marks the return of the BBC’s World War One drama series from the front line, revolving around the fortunes of signaller Mickey Bliss and his colleagues from the Lahore Division of the British Indian Army. Compelling, almost poetic writing from Warburton, undoubtedly with more to come.

“A bored German rifleman squints across the gloom…”

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Home Front – season 1


Today saw the final episode of season one of Home Front (see previous post). The series has been fantastic – I haven’t missed an episode – and a triumph of storytelling. The writing is of a supremely high quality, and it’s hard to believe each episode crams so much in to just 12 minutes. Even the lines that could slip by unnoticed are often absolute gems, and there’s a wonderful thread of humour that runs concurrent to the fear and grief.

She’s brilliant at following people
Adam Wilson tries to persuade Rev. Winwood to let Jessie into the Boy Scouts

Every acting performance is exemplary. Obvious examples include the forthright conversations Adam has with Reverend Winwood or Jessie; Dorothea’s confrontation with said reverend – her husband – regarding his relationship with Isabel Graham; Gabriel Graham’s gradual unravelling; the just-about-keeping-it-together tension of Alice Macknade; the down-to-Earth, no nonsense bobbying of Sergeant Harris.

Every time you kiss me someone seems to die
Isabel Graham ties herself in knots

We still don’t know what’s happened to the two missing boys, Jimmy and Sam. I have my suspicions – and to be honest I’d expected to find out by the end of season one – but I guess we’ll just have to wait. (Interesting to note that missing children crop up a lot in Katie Hims’ writing.) And in today’s episode missing Dieter’s written to Kitty, who only yesterday wed Victor in a marriage of mutual convenience! I honestly hadn’t expected to feel so strongly, but I love this programme. If you’ve missed any episodes, every one is available on iPlayer.

Now Home Front is off-air until December 1st, I’m looking forward to Tommies, – a new drama about British soldiers serving on the front in World War One. Tommies is scheduled for broadcast in Radio 4’s Afternoon Drama slot at 14:15 weekly from October 7th.

I’m a writer, editor, and Royal Literary Fund Fellow.
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Home Front – WW1 drama from the BBC

This is a brief follow-up to my previous post about my enthusiasm for BBC radio drama, having recently visited the BBC studios at the Mailbox in Birmingham to sit in on a recording session of the BBC’s epic new World War One series, Home Front. This was followed on 31 July by the series’ launch at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

I was invited in to the studio by Home Front Editor Jessica Dromgoole. Director for the day was Lucy Collingwood, and the Studio Manager Martha Littlehailes. Overall, I was struck by how the team worked together. This was a swift, smooth operation. No one appeared even slightly stressed. The way the team identified problems with the script or recording and tackled them was fascinating. Every scene improved slightly with each take – no scene requiring more than three – with tweaks to scripts and delivery made on the fly. Having said all that I did see people run on a couple of occasions; although rather than “bloody hell the train’s about to leave!” running it was more “hey look, there’s an ice cream van!” running.

A highlight of my visit was meeting playwright Katie Hims, writer of the episodes being recorded on the day. You’ll know from my previous post that the Hims/Dromgoole partnership has resulted in some of the radio plays I’ve enjoyed most, so seeing Hims in action amending her script and picking up tips direct from a writer whose work I’ve admired for so long was a real privilege.

The actors’ performances were remarkable, and I was pleased to meet Katie Angelou, who played Queenie in Hims’ award-winning Lost Property trilogy. I was even called upon to make a contribution myself! A congregation was required to give authenticity to a church scene. Studio Manager Martha was keen to use real people rather than an atmosphere from the sound library, so everyone available was whisked into the studio where a church was hastily constructed. I feel I played my role with great warmth and depth. Amen.

The series’ launch was a fabulous event held at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, attended by crew, cast, writers, BBC representatives and Birmingham’s Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, no less. Those attending were given a preview of the first two episodes of Home Front followed by a Q&A session with some of those involved in the series’ production, during which we gained insight into the process of research and how the commission came to be.

Writing is something of a psychotic episode: there are people in our head; we watch what they do and listen to what they say and write it all down. Professionals in radio drama play “pretend” all day long. Put talented examples of the two together and magic’s bound to happen.

Home Front starts on Monday 4 August at noon, and is on every weekday, with an omnibus on Fridays at 21:00; there’s also a podcast, and episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer for 10 years. The quality shines thorough in the Home Front scripts I’ve seen and the samples I’ve heard. These will be great stories of life in Britain during World War One. Enjoy.

Read my other audio drama posts here.

I’m a writer, editor, and Royal Literary Fund Fellow.
Find out more, tweet me, or email.