Thursday 24 July 2008


Tomorrow evening (Friday 25) BBC Radio 2 begins a repeat broadcast of IAN RICHARDSON's moving reading my book, Shadowlands, telling the story of the late-flowering romance between writer and Oxford academic, C S ('Jack') Lewis - famously the creator of the Land of Narnia - and Joy Davidman, an American, Jewish, former-Communist, divorcée, poet who had converted to Christianity as a result of Lewis' apologetics.

I do hope that mentioning this again on my blog doesn't sound too much like blowing my own trumpet, but actually I'm really wanting to blow Ian Richardson's trumpet...

This little book of mine has gone through many interpretations - including recordings by Joss Ackland, David Suchet and myself (on a Talking Book for the Blind) - but none of them have quite caught the essence of the story in the way in which Ian's reading does. It is full of passion and compassion, strength and gentleness, joy and sorrow...

It would have been, I think, an infinitely poignant performance even if the reader had not died just a few weeks after completing the recording. I am so proud that this was one of the last performances by a truly great actor.

SHARON MAIL, who has recently completed work on a commemorative volume about the life and career of Ian Richardson (and who, under a soubriquet, is a regular commenter on this blog) writes:

Ian Richardson was the complete actor. On screen he could convey so much by the raising of an eyebrow, on stage he had a wonderful, inventive physical presence. But what will be remembered most is his glorious voice.

When I interviewed actor Alex Jennings, he recalled the last time he saw Ian, shortly before he died, at a Carol Concert for the charity Cancer UK, which Alex supports. He had asked Ian to open the event by reading the lesson and recalled, "My partner said that it was like there was suddenly a Rolls Royce driving down the centre aisles of St Paul’s Cathedral and it was the voice of God."

How fitting it was then, that Ian’s final performances were readings of The Chronicles of Clovis by Saki; Accolades, Christopher William Hill's radio play about A L Rowse; and Brian’s beautiful radio adaptation of his work, Shadowlands.

Listening to Ian's performance of Shadowlands requires great concentration, because every syllable is given due attention and the words and phrases lovingly caressed in such a way that it is hard not to get lost in wonderment at the delivery. And yet, when he speaks his words, we feel Jack’s joy and his pain, his sense of love and of loss and when he reads extracts from 'The Chronicles of Narnia', we are in Narnia too.

The eight episodes of Shadowlands run across a nine week period with a one-week break on Friday 29 August (because it's Blackpool Lights Night and, as a result, there's no room for shadows!) and can be heard from 21:15-21:30 pm.

You can catch each episode again for seven days after transmission on the BBC's iplayer.


Arts and Crafts said...

Thak you very much Brian, I think I can listen this program in BBC-internet... I hope...
I allways liked Ian Richardson, it was a little shock his sudden death.

Boll Weavil said...

There are so many massive highs and lows in that book, I'm not sure I can bear to hear it read by Richardson.Its more than my heart can stand.

Carl V. Anderson said...

I have no idea what rock I have been living under as I have thoroughly enjoyed Ian Richardson's performances over the years and had no idea...or at least have no recollection of hearing...that he had passed away last year.

I am certainly intrigued about his reading of Shadowlands as he had a great voice!