International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year:
Confidential: The Deal by Rob Kingsman
4: Tue 20th October 2009 Producer : David Hunter
CAST: Charles Dickens was played by Dan Stevens
This was a hugely enjoyable radio drama that brightened a dull,
boring Tuesday afternoon. Dickens for me was a fantastic writer,
one of the most outstanding ever. So this was a luxurious little
treat. It was on air for three quarters of an hour, so not too long.
Serious programmes like this which present classic works of literature
appeal to me more than the one that preceded it.
When will they
kill that fossil 'The Archers' off ? I cringed through the final two
minutes of ham with mustard, well a lashing or two more than the hallowed
Ant and Decanyway.
Much more interesting is the classy radio style of these talented actors
and their depth and quality of vocal expression. The atmosphere created
was perfect and the programme that came across perfectly evoked the
Victorian world. The plot concerns a detective tale set in a debtors
prison. The main character is Charles Dickens as the famous author who
is editor of the newspaper The Herald. In real life the
famous writer did actually work as a parlimentary reporter and was editor
of Bentleys Miscellany. He determines to play sleuth
and uncover the murderer of a certain well- to-do Lady. An elderly physician
who, perhaps predictably, is said to have murdered her for money. Poor
man pleads to the court to have been hopelessly in love with her and
have been incapable of the crime.
So armed with a strong sense of injustice and desire to put matters
to right Dickens and his reporters: the well educated Agnes (the brains
of the trio) and the northern lad Richard Westwood are put to work.
Agnes masquerades as a ladys maid and discovers there was jewellery
stolen from the deceased and a man with a distinctive scar across his
face seems to be the culprit. It transpires such a man is a rogue who
is a dangerous con artist and by some stealth and detection his whereabouts
is discovered. He is imprisoned in a debtors prison and bears
the name of Thomas Townsend.
The story unfolds and there are many plot twists and turns which make
for quite an absorbing tale. The reason I was even more impressed is
that the story makes a comment about the social conditions among the
poorest of folk at that period in time. Dickens himself was a harsh
critic of the corruption and injustices endured by those at the most
disadvantaged end of society. He had experience of his fathers
imprisonment in a debtors prison and I like the meaningful way
in which the fictional Dickens in the story is made to confront his
aversion to going into the prison in the story.
It brings into sharp focus the suffering both he and others at that
time lived with and of course it is these experiences that shaped the
wonderful characters that he wrote about and who when we read about
them we are moved to care about so deeply.
The poverty and degradation in the story is shown when the villain Townsend
blackmails Richard the reporter who is undercover to try to make him
the truth about the murder and exonerate the kindly doctor. He does
bullying him into stealing the scraps of food from an old man called
Richard is distraught but the corruption of the governer and the turnkeys
who are regularly bribed and protection money demanded is commonplace.
The story ends on a happy note with Townsend admitting he killed the
by accident by administering a little too much laudanum when commiting
theft of the jewellery. I loved this, Radio 4 scored a hit!
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