ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Comedian/writer Toby Hadoke brings a lost Nigel Kneale story to the airwaves
A TV play by Quatermass creator nigel Kneale has been revived for radio. aired in 1963, the road was wiped decades ago. now comedian and writer toby hadoke’s adapted it for BBC radio 4.
“If you don’t know anything about the road, ignorance is bliss!” hadoke warns. that’s true of the ending – though we can safely discuss how the play, set in 1768, opens. “It’s a ghost story set in a haunted wood,” hadoke explains. “the postulation is that it was the site of a massacre in roman times, and every michaelmas those spirits echo through time and manifest as terrible noises that afright the locals.”
the play centres on two men: gideon Cobb (mark gatiss) and sir timothy hassall (adrian scarborough).
“Cobb is a philosopher from london – boorish and arrogant, but intelligent and entertaining,” hadoke says. “he comes to this inn and meets the local squire: he’s an investigator, and we see the scientific progress that needed to be made to get us where we are today. they get together to discover whether a haunting can be explained by science.”
gatiss’s presence is fitting: 15 years ago he spoke to kneale about remaking the road for tV. as kneale passed away in 2006, hadoke’s script had to be approved by his estate first.
“there were a few too many characters, and it was an hour on telly and we have 42 minutes, so there’s been a bit of surgery,” he explains. “But because there isn’t a version available, I saw no need to mess with it unnecessarily. kneale’s widow, Judith kerr of the tiger Who Came to tea fame, actually came to the recording. Because she’s so famous she gets all this attention, and she wants to keep her husband’s name alive.”
she wasn’t the only link to the past: actress hattie morahan’s father Christopher directed the original. Plus the production uses its own “voices from the past”.
“I got sent script pages from the archive of Ian fairbairn, one of the actors who recorded the spooky voices,” hadoke reveals. “that made me think, ‘hang on, if the sound was recorded, then messed about with by the BBC radiophonic workshop, I’m gonna drop mark ayres a line…’”
said archivist then dug out a tape of voice recordings and weird feedback.
“we’ve actually put some of those original sounds in our version,” hadoke continues. “for something that’s about how things echo back and forth through time, I thought that was very apt!” IB
the road airs on radio 4 on 27 October. there’ll be a tie-in event at Manchester arts centre HOME.
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The cast of The Road with Hadoke and Nigel Kneale’s widow, Judith Kerr.