A House Called Insanity starring Anne-Marie Duff amongst BBC Radio 4 new drama highlights

A House Called Insanity starring Anne-Marie Duff amongst BBC Radio 4 new drama highlights

BBC Radio 4 breaks the rules with series of new dramas

From rebelling against totalitarian regimes to refusing to pay the mortgage, these dramas investigate the meaning and consequences of rule-breaking

June 19, 2024 – A series of dramas on BBC Radio 4, beginning 6 July, will explore what happens when rules are broken – from the unspoken rules of social convention to the rules which reinforce the power of authoritarian states, these dramas unpack the effects of rule-breaking on all levels.

Radio 4’s Commissioning Editor for Drama and Fiction, Alison Hindell, says: “The act of breaking a rule can be quietly subversive, or dangerously provocative and even confrontational. Whatever the scale, a broken rule tells a story of conflict and I hope these dramas will be an entertaining and thought-provoking collection, providing an enlightening look at how breaking the rules can change the dynamics of communities, workplaces and society itself.”

Breaking the Rules commissions include:

The Great Cricket Con

6 July, 3.15pm – 4.15pm

In July 2022, reporters in the Indian state of Gujarat broke a story that seemed unbelievable. In a tiny village in north-western India, police had arrested a gang of villagers for running a fake cricket tournament that they had made to look like the Indian Premier League. According to reports, the villagers broadcast their spectacle on betting websites and targeted gamblers from Russia.

The story caught fire, drawing comparisons with the 1973 movie The Sting, in which Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s plucky conmen run a fake gambling parlour to rip off a mob boss.

This drama-documentary explores the police allegations and media coverage of a story that could be ripped straight from the pages of a Bollywood script.

Narrator . . . . . Ayesha Dharker
Shoeb . . . . . Hiran Abeysekera
Asif . . . . . Sid Sagar
Jain . . . . . Tony Jayawardena
Farooq . . . . . Sagar Arya
Shuks . . . . . Danny Ashok
Misha . . . . . Greg Kolpakchi

Drama written by Ayeesha Menon
Production Co-ordinator: Luke MacGregor
Additional reporting: Harita Kandpal in Delhi and Laxmi Patel in Gujarat
Sound design: Peter Ringrose
Producer: Sasha Yevtushenko

A BBC Studios Audio production for Radio 4

This Week is Family Week

13 July, 3pm – 4pm

Xinjiang Province, China. Uyghur student, Nur, is able to ‘pass’ as Han Chinese, and exploits this as much as possible in a society where Uyghur people live under constant surveillance.

Nur and her mother, Meryem, want to avoid being sent to one of the re-education prison camps, where it is thought a million people – mostly Uyghur – have been detained without trial. But then they are assigned a live-in Chinese ‘relative’ by the authorities – Auntie Wang Shu – who comes to stay in their apartment as part of a Family Week initiative to ensure lifestyle conformity: “Cook together, eat together, study together, travel together, sleep together!”

But Wang Shu has other motives, which involve marrying her son to a Uyghur woman. And she has Nur in her sights as a prime candidate. Any missteps by Nur or Meryem could result in their being sent into re-education. But will Nur play by the rules?

A fictional story inspired by real accounts. Writer Avin Shah has drawn on testimonies from the 2021 independent Uyghur Tribunal (chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice, chief prosecutor on the trial of Slobodan Milošević) and on research by Raminder Kaur, Professor of Anthropology and Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex, who served on the tribunal, as well on interviews with other Uyghur and Chinese cultural and political consultants.

Casting TBA.

Produced by R&M Production – Wales for BBC Radio 4.

Cry If You Want To

20 July, 3pm – 4pm

Single parent Ana is pretty sure she isn’t being paid fairly at work. She’s tried her boss, she’s tried HR – to no avail. So now she needs to find out how much her colleague Dave earns in order to make her case. One night, she turns up at his flat to ask him.

Cry If You Want To is a crackling two-hander from award-winning writer E.V Crowe that asks: how far would you go to get what’s fair?

E V Crowe is a graduate of the Royal Court Young Writers Programme Super Group, and a writer for Theatre, Film, TV, Radio and Dance. She has had four plays on at the Royal Court. Her work for radio includes the award-winning How To Say Goodbye Properly and two series of comic but political two-hander Cry Babies.

Ana….Ellie Kendrick
Dave….Sam Swann

Production co-ordinator….Gaelan Davis-Connolly
Sound by Ali Craig and Keith Graham
Written by E.V Crowe
Directed by Abigail le Fleming

A BBC Studios Audio London production.

A House Called Insanity

27 July, 3pm – 4pm

Anne-Marie Duffs stars as Elsy Borders, the working-class heroine whose remarkable true story deserves to be far better known. Even though she became a national figure in the late 1930s, no play celebrating her achievements has ever been written – until now.

The wife of a South London cabby (played by Karl Davies), Elsy did something a working-class woman was not supposed to do, breaking the rules and conventions of acceptable behaviour. Determined to expose the poor quality of workmanship in house-building which continues to resonate today with scandals such as Grenfell Tower, she took the unprecedented step of refusing to pay her mortgage, owing to the dire state of their new, but poorly-built, house on an estate in Kent. When the building society responded by suing for repossession of the house which the family had by now christened Insanity, Elsy counter-claimed for damages.

The fight was on…

With contributions from Stella Etheridge, Jeremy Tagg and Phillipa Tagg who are current residents of the Coney Hall Estate where Elsy lived.

Stephen Wyatt is an award-winning dramatist with many audio dramas to his name. He also now lives close to the house which the Borders family named Insanity, so knows the area and the history well. He brings Elsy vividly to life.

Martin Jenkins has directed many of Stephen’s plays and dramatisations over many years. He has been directing radio plays for more than 55 years.

Elsy Borders………………..Anne-Marie Duff
Jim Borders…………………Karl Davies
Roxburgh…………………….Sam Dale
Librarian………………………Jenny Funnell
Judge……………………………Nigel Anthony
Agent…………………………..Andrew Branch
Michael……………………….Harry Myers
Pamela ……………………….Betsy Horsfall

Written by Stephen Wyatt
Directed by Martin Jenkins
Sound Design by David Thomas
Production Co-ordinator: Sarah Tombling
Production Manager: Sarah Wright

A Pier production for BBC Radio 4

The English Are Coming

12 October, 3pm – 4pm

Ghosts of the past awaken as a family is torn apart by the housing crisis in Cornwall. Sadie, 20, is drawn into a protest group when her ailing grandmother threatens to leave their isolated 16th century cottage to an uncle with plans to rent it out to tourists. The cottage has been in the family since the Western Rebellion of 1549. Despite Sadie’s protests, her grandmother assures her “the house can look after itself” and that it “remembers everything”. As the group decide on more radical action, Sadie is forced to choose between her family and her cause.

Hattie Naylor’s previous original drama with Afonica, Dead Weather, won Best Drama, Best Actress and Best Supporting Performance at the BBC Audio Drama Awards 2022.

Written by Hattie Naylor (Dead Weather, Ivan and the Dogs, Lullaby)

Directed and produced by Nicolas Jackson (Dead Weather, One Five Seven Years, Spores)

Casting TBA.

An Afonica production for BBC Radio 4.

Guilt Trip

19 October, 3pm – 4pm

Saul long ago gave up worshipping God to worship at the altar of Art, but not without a huge amount of guilt. Now he has a chance to interview and curate a retrospective of a true icon: elderly painter Maeve Goring. As Saul finds himself caught up in Maeve’s murky, bigoted world he begins to question not only the rules that the Art world is built upon, but over a single weekend manages to break every one of the ten commandments.

Casting TBA.

A BBC Studios Audio London production for BBC Radio 4.


26 October, 3pm – 4pm

A remote valley, echoing with birdsong. An expensive off-grid eco house, going to ruin. A wire fence garlanded with dead crows. And a visionary environmentalist, fast disappearing down a rabbit-hole of conspiracy theories.

Following Skye’s burnout, she and her partner Kezia hope to start a radical new life in the alternative eco community set up by Skye’s friend Tobias. Tobias is an idealistic disruptor, who has tried to find a more sustainable way to live. When they arrive they are surprised to find there’s no one around, and the place has fallen into a state of neglect. It’s unnerving. Tobias admits that all the other community members have left and that he’s been finding it hard to maintain the smallholding alone, reverting from permaculture to rewilding.

They find Tobias changed by too much isolation. He’s started a long-distance relationship with a woman called Wonder and become ensnared in conspiracy theories. He’s fallen out with the neighbouring farmer Ffion, who blocked his plans to build tipis, and last week shot at his dog. Tobias is sabotaging the farmer’s snares.

Can Skye help bring him back from the brink?

Casting TBA.

A BBC Studios Audio Salford production for BBC Radio 4.

O is for Orson

9 November, 3pm – 4pm

From blagging a lead role at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre aged 16, to shocking America with his War of the Worlds radio drama and striking the most outrageous deal in movie history to direct Citizen Kane (and all this before his 26th birthday), Orson Welles’ energy and creative genius is unparalleled.

Jonathan Myerson’s drama tells the story of how he became a titan of American culture by tearing up the rulebook at every turn and finding ever more creative ways to get his work made and seen.

In his production of Citizen Kane, he would make an enemy of Randolph Hearst, one of the most powerful men in the world. This could – perhaps should – have been a step too far, but he still managed to turn out one of the greatest films of all time.

Myerson collaborates again with Boz Temple-Morris after Ringolevio, their drama about the summer of love in Haight Ashbury, and Mueller, the story of Michael Cohen and the investigation into Donald Trump.

Casting TBA

A Holy Mountain production for BBC Radio 4

The Markov File

16 November, 3pm – 4pm

For those that remember the Cold War, the name Georgi Markov might be familiar. His assassination made shockwaves around the globe in 1978 and his death was the first instance of Soviet pugilism on British soil. But even more famous than the name, Markov, was the infamous weapon of execution: the poison tip umbrella. In this landmark portrayal we go beyond the headlines and reveal his truly remarkable life as a writer, dramaturgist, journalist and broadcaster, who used his wit and guile to wage war against a totalitarian regime.

It is a story about dissidence, breaking the rules of authority and, with that in mind, it is also a story about Litvinenko, Skripal, Berezovsky and, to some extent, Navalny. It is a story about autocracy, oligarchy and impunity from the rule of law. It is a story with lessons that we should have learned several times over and, because we have not, it is a story about our world today.

Writer: Marek Horn
Producer & Director: Hunter Charlton
Executive Producer: David Hunter

Casting TBA.

An Ember production for BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4

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