Radio Review: Second Body + Art and Gadg, Radio 4

“Be careful Anna, of the dark forces of the human mind”

I knew I liked Tara Fitzgerald’s voice, but I hadn’t realised I loved it. Listening to the radio play Second Body that featured her in a starring role was a genuine auditory pleasure which made me want to track down illegal ways of recording it off the iPlayer so that I could listen to it over again. Trevor Preston’s swirlingly dark drama centres on Fitzgerald’s Anna, a successful artist but one driven by haunting and disturbing visions and as she seeks to put together some of her work for a big new exhibition, a worrying prophecy of a death stalks her subconscious.

Toby Swift’s production brings a wonderfully surreal quality to Anna’s experiences, full of textured sound effects and evocative atmosphere, and so as the stuff of her dreams starts to invade her waking life, we’re never quite sure how real any of it is – whether she is possessed of some supernatural gift or if actually, her artistic temperament masks some signs of mental illness. Fitzgerald’s honeyed tones constantly keep us guessing as her voice glides like velvet through the twists and turns as friends, agents and colleagues gather round to try and guide her through these troubled times. 

Another of this week’s Afternoon Dramas was Gregory Evans’ Art & Gadg which I listened to mainly because Fenella Woolgar was part of the cast. The play visits the relationship between Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan (he’s the Gadg) which flourished marvellously from 1947 to 1952 – encompassing Death of a Salesman and On The Waterfront – but crashed spectacularly as Kazan collaborated with the Un-American committee thus ending their friendship for over 10 years. Evans then explores the moment that the two finally decided to work again on After the Fall.

Nathan Osgood and Karl Johnson make an engaging pair as Miller and Kazan respectively, Osgood’s Miller on hard times and seeking to make sense of the past by writing his most confessional work; Johnson’s Kazan full of doubts about the project yet keen to use it to salve wounds both old and new. And then there’s Woolgar’s Barbara, Kazan’s mistress who takes on the role of Maggie, based on the woman who loomed largest in their lives, Marilyn Monroe, Kazan’s ex-girlfriend and Miller’s ex-wife. So even in the short space of time, there are layers of meaning invested throughout the work as not even momentous historical events can stop these two old hands from reconnecting. It’s interestingly done, Woolgar’s American accent is extremely sexy and it is well worth a listen.   

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