By D. G. Compton
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
D.G. Compton's short collection Radio Plays is something of an oddity. As the title would suggest, the volume collects the scripts to two plays Compton wrote to be performed on the radio, although in his introduction he notes that radio plays were not exactly state of the art in the late 1980s. Nevertheless, he felt the stories he wanted to tell were perfectly suited to radio performances and were two of more than a score of radio scripts he produced. He does not, however, indicate if the scripts were ever performed on the radio. The first play, however, did receive a live performance at Rubicon III in 1988.
"A Turning off the Minch Park Road" is a story of amnesia as Rupert Fanfare is being questioned by the police. Fanfare can remember his name, but not where he lives or why the woman at the house he entered referred to him as Frobisher Bathside and claimed to be his wife Eileen instead of Fanfare's own wife, Nora. As Fanfare share his story of coming home from work with the officer, represented in side-performances, it becomes reasonably clear to the listener or reader what has happened, but the journey is the thing in this radio play and the various asides and tangents offer the sense of a fully fleshed out world, not just one focused on Fanfare's plight. Although Fanfare's plight is serious, Compton relates it in a humorous manner and the interruptions help reinforce the humor of the piece. The play doesn't carry any major twists or surprises, but it is a light and enjoyable piece of entertainment.
The second play, "Time Exposure" appears to be a much more melancholy piece, although it also feels much more dated than "A Turning off the Minch Park Road." With a smaller cast, the play focuses on two elderly sisters, Flora and Henrietta, who let a room to a lodger and have a live in nurse to take care of them. The two women are snippish with each other and there are references to a "Sad Occurence" in Henrietta's past, a wrong which she nurses and which has left her unable to deal with society. At the play progresses, it becomes clearer that Henrietta is stuck on an old beau who abandoned her several decades earlier. While neither of the women were particularly sympathetic in the first act of the play, as Compton shows the way Henrietta deals with the anniversary of her abandonment, she becomes an object to be pitied for the fantasy world she has built for herself.
Reading "A Turning off the Minch Park Road" and "Time Exposure," the fact that they were written for radio becomes clear, partly through the directions included, but also because of the pacing of the dialogue. Certain cuts between speakers, especially in "A Turning off the Minch Park Road" indicate that they are merely audio cuts and not conducive to be performed in a live venue (although a video format could, of course handle them). More to the point, the reader can practically hear a Foley artist attempting to keep up with the sound effects necessary for the stories to fully work.
|A Turning off the Minch Park Road||Time Exposure|