Monday, November 05, 2007

Seeing in the Dark

One of life’s many surprises; not all the clichés of middle age are lies.

So for instance, since I turned 40 a couple of years ago, I’ve put on weight and started waking in the middle of the night on a regular basis. No different from the experience of millions of other men (and women too for that matter).

It isn’t all bad. Being fatter means I’m also slightly warmer, which makes Britain in November more tolerable. And even the insomnia has an occasional benefit; last Sunday morning for instance.

I woke at around 3:00AM and felt annoyingly awake, so switched on the radio and started listening to the World Service. After the news came a piece of radio drama entitled Seeing in the Dark. Conditioned by years of Radio 4 crap, I winced and thought about going downstairs to watch telly (Spanish league football maybe, or perhaps those rip-off phone-in quizzes with cunningly amateurish professional presenters).

But wait. This play has won the annual World Service radio drama competition, which attracted over 1000 entries this year. Competition winners are seldom rubbish. And then there was the announcer’s gentle warning about the content – ho hum – a bit of artistic sex and violence never hurt anyone.

It was cold, so pulled the duvet up a bit higher and switched out the light. A softly accented Canadian/American voice started talking about his life in prison, and how he’d unexpectedly and suddenly been granted parole. A shock for anyone who listens to Radio 4 much, the play was set IN THE PRESENT, and featured someone UNDER THE AGE OF 30. And he was Canadian, or maybe American (it doesn’t matter much).

What followed was a beautifully written description of the inner life of a charming but unstable and violent man – making his way back home through a morality free wasteland that resembled the rural Mid-West.

Yes, it was a derivative piece – there were reminders of everything from Bonnie and Clyde to the con-man in Thelma and Louise, to Junior Bonner, to the lies of James Frey. But who cares when something is a well written and scary and convincing as this?

So glad I was sleepless and was able to hear it!

Hopefully the author Gordon Pengilly has more of his stuff broadcast soon.


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