Originally first broadcast on Radio 4 in 2001 this four-part radio drama is my first delve into Wilkie Collins’s classic Victorian thriller ‘The Women in White’. It stars Toby Stephens and Juliet Aubrey it is dramatised in by Martyn Wade for BBC Radio 4.
And I thoroughly enjoyed it.
A chance meeting between Walter Hartright and the mysterious Woman in White one night on the road around Hampstead Heath leads to a story of intrigue and madness. Walter Hartright is sound chap and showing concern for the scared woman allows her on her away even though it is soon revealed she has fled for an asylum.
Seemingly unrelated the next day he travels north to Limmeridge House of being drawing master to residents of the house. Pesca, His devoted friend of whose life he saved whilst swimming managed get him this commission.
At Limmeridge House we find the rather pathetic and mean-spirited figure of Mr Frederick Fairlie, Walter’s students, Ms Laura Fairlie, Mr Fairlie’s beautiful niece, and the ‘crablike’ Marian Halcombe her devoted half-sister.
Walter is struck by astonishing resemblance Laura has to the woman in white who we find is called Anne Catherick. Anne had lived for a time in Cumberland as a child and was devoted to Laura’s mother who first dressed her in white and she had continued to wear it ever since..!
Walter of course falls in love with the lovely Laura who has been promised by her father (on his death-bed) to wed Sir Percival Glyde. Walter leaves Limmeridge and is followed and soon he sets of an a sea bound adventure but not before he is convinced it is Glyde that had Anne Catherick put in an asylum.
Laura falls completely in love with Walter but still goes ahead with the marriage to Sir Percival Glyde and then have a six month honeymoon tour of Italy for 6 months.
They return to England and to Blackwater Park, Sir Percivals family home but they are not alone they have the fat foreigner Count Fosco in tow. By invitation Marian Halcombe is also living at Blackwater and learns that Glyde is in financial difficulties.
After failed attempts to bully Laura into signing a document which would allow him to use her marriage settlement of £20,000 he and fosco plan to kill off his wife.
Marian over hears but contracts fever which leaves Laura who is also unwell, to be tricked into travelling to London.
Anne Catherick and Laura are switched. Anne dies (rather conveniently) of a heart condition and is buried in Cumberland as Laura.
Laura is placed back in the asylum as Anne Catherick, they asylum believe she has delusions of being Lady Glyde.
When Marian recovers and visits the asylum hoping to learn something from Anne Catherick but she finds Laura alive and well. Nurses are bribed and Laura is free.
Meanwhile Walter has returned from Honduras and the three live together in obscure poverty determined to restore Laura’s identity.
Walter soon discovers Sir Pecivals deep dark family secret. Glyde attempts to destroy the evidence but perishes in fire.
Walter then discovers that Anne was the illegitimate child of Laura’s father which accounts for their resemblance….not much a surprise there!
Count Fosco is killed by a member of Pesca’s cult and Walter marries Laura and the pathetic and mean-spirited figure of Mr Frederick Fairlie has a stroke and dies leaving Limmeridge house to Walter, his wife Laura and Ms Marian.
It’s a great production and brilliantly acted.