BBC Radio 4 Audio Drama No Name 1989

Wilkie Collin’s No Name was written in 1862 and tells the story of Norah and Magdalene Vanstone and is a reflection illegitimacy, greed and revenge in the Victorian Era.
It was first broadcast in August 1989 in 6 hour long episodes.
Episode 1 March 1846
Episode 2 July 1846
Episode 3 June 1847
Episode 4 July 1847
Episode 5 August 1847
Episode 6 December 1847
I found this to be rather long and cumbersome to be honest, it just seem to drag at times..
It opens with daft happiness and the happy middle-class Vanstone family putting on a play at their country pile Combe-Raven, so you know from that moment that doom is on the horizon. Pa Vanstone is a gentle soul and seemingly generous, the perfect father and he is accompanied by Ma Vanstone, a kind and loving sort. Not forgetting governess Miss Garth who lives with them and there are two daughters Norah  and Magdalene (who is engaged to Frank Clare…not a good choice apparently) but no sooner we find, an unusual letter, a train crash and Ma and Pa Vanstone are in turn snuffed out leaving the girls to fend for themselves.
You think this was bad enough but it turns out that (shockingly!) Ma and Pa had neglected to get married and the daughters are plunged into further catastrophe. The girls are disinherited due to an oversight by their father and are thrown out of their home with nowhere to go by last remaining member of their father’s family who has a long-standing grudge against the now deceased Pa Vanstone.
Norah accepts the charity of Miss Garth and moves into her old home to learn the trade of governess in her turn. Magdalene however decides that revenge is the only answer and vows to regain their inheritance from her spiteful uncle or his pathetic son.

Enter swindler, Captain Wragge who is some rather distant relation of her mothers, he reminded me very much of Wilkins Micawber from David Copperfield, possibly a bit too much, oh yes and his wife is bonkers.

Magdalene and Wragge find a way of making money in a one women show by treading the boards, Magdalene is a great success and makes much money, in the meantime Wragge is tasked with finding her evil relative which he does. First off, disguised as Mrs Garth she  tries to extract the money by appealing to her rival but that is doomed to failure, she then decides to marry him, the sickly and simpering Mr Noel Vanstone.

But his crone of a housekeeper Mrs Lecount who is equally determined to keep him single and we spend a vast amount of time whilst these two lay traps, side-step and out do each other at each turn.

And Magdalene eventually wins out but at six hours long this took some staying power.

The cast was great but the story for me was too convenient in places when Noel suddenly dies…and gosh, just at the right time.

If you happen have lost of free time then have a listen you have been warned!


Basil BBC Radio 4 2006

I have to say I am growing to like Wilkie Collins a great deal. This radio drama by Robin Brooks is excellent, so much so I could’ve really done with more.

It was first broadcast in 2006 and stars Julian Rhind Tutt as Basil, Robert Glenister as Mannion, Julie Cox as Magaret, Christopher Etteridge as Sherwin and Leslie Ashe as
Mrs Sherwin with Charlotte Lucas as Clara and Nicholas Rowe as Ralph/Passenger/Cleric. It was produced by Clive Brill.

Basil is the son of a peer of the realm and comes across as an all round good chap and gentlemen however after little more than a glimpse on an omnibus Basil falls head over heals in love with Margaret Sherwin, the daughter of a rich tradesman.

He is determined to marry the young (only 17) beautiful Margaret despite the difference in their class. So Basil plans with the help of Margaret’s father to Marry in secret. He is hoping that he will be able to reconcile his father who will be outraged at the match by and by.

They do indeed marry but Basil has to agree to wait a year before they can start to live as man and wife because of her youth. At first the all goes well and the secret works well but the oddly mysterious Mannion returns from Europe (Sherwins ‘man of business’)  but whose emotionless face has Basil puzzled.

On the last night of the year Basil can stand it no longer stand and goes to see Margaret who is much to his annoyance is out at a ball. He sees Margaret and Mannion leaving the ball and follows them only to find that having sex.

He rage and anger know no bounds and He attacks Mannion in the street and tries to murder him beating him to a bloody pulp but mutilates his face by pushing it into the road surface.

Basil find he had not murdered Mannion but that he is in hospital under an assumed name. Both he and Margaret catches typhus and die or so we think but Mannion is alive and haunts and stalks Basil everywhere he goes, Mannion has sworn to hunt him down to Doomsday.

Basil has looses everything, his wife and his family and on his brothers advice Basil flees to Cornwall where he is tracked down by Mannion a fight ensues and Mannion falls into the sea and is drowned.

Good stuff indeed.

The Woman in White Warner Brothers 1948

Well after the very entertaining audio drama I thought I’d check this out on-screen.

This adaptation was made by Warner Brothers in 1948 and generally speaking what an appallingly acted piece of work it is.

Directed by Peter Godfrey and the screenplay is by Stephen Morehouse Avery. It stars Alexis Smith (Marian Halcombe), Eleanor Parker (Laura Fairlie/Ann Catherick), Sydney Greenstreet (Count Alessandro Fosco), Gig Young (Walter Hartright), Agnes Moorehead (Countess Fosco), John Abbott (Frederick Fairlie), John Emery (Sir Percival Glyde) and Curt Bois (Louis).

As with all adaptations they tend to stray from the original piece but this just flees in the opposite direction. For instance we never meet Pesca who brings the drama into play by rewarding his friend Walter Hartright with a position as a drawing master at Limmeridge House. Hartright falls in love with Laura but end up married to Marian and doesn’t see anything hondurus but heads off to Italy instead!

Fosco and Glyde plot to get Lauras money as per the novel but now Frederick Fairlie is in on it which is ridiculous although John Abbott play Fairlie brilliantly.

Blackwater, the seat of the Glyde family is missing as is the last part of the death of Glyde at the church at Old Welmingham and the ‘brotherhood’ and the revenge of Fosco and his lack of foreign accent and very, very poor attempt by Gig Young to put on an English accent which he clearly gives up  as the film continues.

All in all just a complete mess and an insult to Wilkie Collins novel.

The Woman of White Audio Drama BBC 2001

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.