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Opening Lines Podcast Profile

Opening Lines Podcast

English, Arts, 1 season, 60 episodes, 14 hours, 9 minutes
About
Producer and script writer John Yorke unpacks the themes and impact behind the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised in Radio 4's weekend afternoon dramas.
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The Man Who Fell to Earth

The Man Who Fell to Earth by American writer Walter Tevis was published in 1963. Unlike most sci-fi of its time, it’s not about space, far-off galaxies or a distant future, but set only a decade or so from the time of writing. When an inhabitant of the planet Anthea comes to Earth in search of the resources to save his world, he uses his knowledge of advanced technology to amass the fortune he needs to save his people from extinction. As Thomas Jerome Newton’s secret project takes shape at a site in rural Kentucky, this extra-terrestrial visitor becomes an all-too-human and troubled figure.John looks at how deeply the story is lodged in Walter Tevis’ own experience and that of post-war America. He also asks what it is about Tevis’ writing that has made this book, along with his others including The Hustler, The Color of Money and The Queen’s Gambit, so appealing to the film and television industry. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday/Saturday Drama series. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy, John has trained a generation of screenwriters.Contributor: Professor Farah Mendlesohn is the author of several books about science fiction and fantasy literature, including Rhetorics of Fantasy (2008), Children’s Fantasy Literature (co-authored, 2016) and The Pleasant Profession of Robert A Heinlein (2019). She has been nominated six times for the Hugo Award for Best Related Work, which she won in 2005 with The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (edited with Edward James)Walter Tevis audio from an interview with Don Swaim, Ohio University, 1984Readings by Riley Neldam from The Man Who Fell to Earth (Gollancz 1963)Producers: Tolly Robinson and Sara Davies Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Sound: Sean Kerwin Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah WrightA Pier production for BBC Radio 4
5/12/202414 minutes, 32 seconds
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My Mother Said I Never Should

John Yorke looks at Charlotte Keatley’s play My Mother Said I Never Should, written aged just 25 and first premiered at the Contact Theatre in Manchester in 1987. The story explores the lives and relationships of four generations of mothers and daughters born over the course of the 20th Century. Their very different lives reflect the sweeping societal changes of that period, and how each new generation is able to push further than their parents when it comes to pregnancy, careers and romantic love. At the time of its early staging, the work was pioneering for its use of an all-female cast and a non-chronological narrative structure. The play is now one of the National Theatre’s Significant Plays of the 20th Century and is translated in 33 languages. So what makes it so enduring? John Yorke has worked in television and radio for 30 years, and he shares his experience as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone.Contributors: Charlotte Keatley, playwright Brigid Larmour, theatre director and Associate Artistic Director of the Patsy Rodenburg Academy My Mother Said I Never Should, BBC Studios Audio Director: Nadia Molinari Actors: Lesley Nicol, Siobhan Finneran, Matilda Kent, Isla Pritchard, Mimi-Raie MhlangaProduced by Lucy Hough Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound: Sean Kerwin Research: Nina SempleA Pier production for BBC Radio 4
4/29/202414 minutes, 19 seconds
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The Shell Seekers

John Yorke explores Rosamunde Pilcher’s sweeping family saga, The Shell Seekers.Published in 1987, this captivating story of life and love is a phenomenon in its own quiet way. It has been named among the best-loved books of all time, selling more than 10 million copies. The novel spans four decades in the life of Penelope Keeling, free-spirited and elegant, a mother of three children that she loves dearly - but does not always like.Penelope navigates relationships, love and loss against a Sunday supplement backdrop of the cosy Cotswolds, an idyllic Cornish childhood, and the terrors of the Blitz. At its heart is the question of family - the one to which you are bound by blood, and the one you construct along the way. It’s a lesson in living life well and being true to yourself, no matter the cards you are dealt. But despite its romance and idealism, The Shell Seekers is not a novel to be sneered at - as John discovers. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone.Contributors: Alison Flood, Culture Editor at New Scientist. Harriet Evans, bestselling author of 14 novels, most recently The Stargazers.Credits: The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher, published in Great Britain in 1988. Readings: Jennifer Aries Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound: Sean Kerwin Producer: Redzi Bernard Executive Producer: Sara DaviesA Pier production for BBC Radio 4
4/14/202414 minutes, 35 seconds
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The Sportswriter

The Sportswriter, by the American novelist Richard Ford, is the first of what became a series of five novels following the life of Frank Bascombe – a failed writer of fiction who turns to writing about sport to make a living. Frank’s marriage to a woman only referred to as X is over - although he wishes it wasn’t – and Ralph, one of their three children, has died. Published in 1986, The Sportswriter was named one of Time magazine's five best books of the year and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. John looks at the reasons for its success. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book, Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributor: Ian McGuire, Professor of American Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Manchester. He is the author of three novels, Incredible Bodies (2006), The North Water (2016) and The Abstainer (2020), and one critical monograph, Richard Ford and the Ends of Realism (2015). Credits: Excerpts from The Sportswriter by Richard Ford, 1986. Readings and interview clips of Richard Ford from World Book Club, BBC World Service, 12 June 2013. Researcher: Nina Semple Sound: Sean Kerwin Producer: Jack Soper Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
4/7/202414 minutes, 30 seconds
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Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness remains one of the most enigmatic works of 19th Century literature, charting as it does the story of Marlow, the captain of a steamboat heading up an unnamed river in the employ of an unnamed organisation described simply ‘the Company’. He becomes fixated on tracking down the figure of Kurtz, a company agent in charge of a trading post - but this is no action adventure so typical of the time. John asks what the phrase Heart of Darkness - and Kurtz’s famous epigram ‘The horror. The horror’ might actually represent, and also attempts to reconcile the racism many critics have accused the book of containing with its staunch attack on imperial barbarity; Conrad himself had previously worked on a boat going up the Congo river where he witnessed for himself the atrocities carried out by the Belgian colonisers on the local people. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for thirty years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book ‘Into the Woods’. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters (his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone). Contributors: Anita Sullivan - writer and adapter of ‘Heart of Darkness’ Maya Jasanoff, Professor of History at Harvard University - and author of the much acclaimed book ‘The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World’Credits: Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, 1899 Reader: Paul Dodgson Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Producer: Geoff Bird Executive Producer: Sara DaviesA Pier Production for BBC Radio 4
3/17/202414 minutes, 19 seconds
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& Other Stories: Daphne du Maurier - Episode 2

John Yorke digs under the surface of two more of Daphne du Maurier’s short stories, both of which once again reveal how deftly she marries psychological understanding with compelling narratives. The Blue Lenses, published in 1959, and The Little Photographer (1952) are both preoccupied with ‘seeing’ and how a lens can reveal a truth that might have otherwise been hidden. Du Maurier’s characteristic themes of truth, deception, jealousy and obsession thread themselves through these stories and John teases out the experiences in du Maurier’s own life that underpinned her writing. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book ‘Into the Woods’. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Justine Picardie – author and biographer who has written extensively about Daphne du Maurier. Sarah Dunant – best-selling author of thrillers and historical novels. Credits: (The Blue Lenses) The Breaking Point 1959 collection (published by Virago Classics 2009) (The Little Photographer) The Birds and Other Stories first published as The Apple Tree by Victor Gollancz 1952Archive BBC 7 reading of The Blue Lenses by Emma Fielding, originally recorded in 2007. Archive clip of 2003 BBC Radio dramatisation of The Little Photographer. Sian Thomas plays the Marquise and John McAndrew the photographer. Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Producer: Julian Wilkinson Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound by Sean KerwinA Pier production for BBC Radio 4
3/3/202414 minutes, 8 seconds
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& Other Stories: Daphne du Maurier - Episode 1

In 1971, Daphne du Maurier published Don’t Look Now and it was to become a landmark in the development of the psychological thriller. Du Maurier was an extraordinarily prolific writer producing a string of bestselling novels such as Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, but it’s in her short stories that we find her darkest and most disturbing work. In Don’t Look Now, a couple visit Venice trying to come to terms with the grief of losing their daughter. A blind psychic tells them she can see their daughter and she is trying to warn them of danger. Their fragility and the psychic’s premonitions become entangled with real life events on the Venetian backstreets. Du Maurier’s writing was ground-breaking not only in her brilliant handling of suspense and plot, but because her real interest lay in the internal journey of the characters and what was going on under the surface. John Yorke looks at why Don’t Look Now is such a brilliant example of this. Don’t Look Now also gained a huge international following because it was adapted for cinema by the film director Nicholas Roeg. This is the first of two Opening Lines that explore the short stories of Daphne du Maurier. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for thirty years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book ‘Into the Woods’. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Sarah Dunant – best selling author of thriller and historical novels, and broadcaster Peter Bradshaw – film criticCredits: Don’t Look Now and other stories by Daphne du Maurier, Penguin Classics 2006. Archive clip from 2001 BBC Radio dramatisation with Michael Feast playing the part of John. Venice sound bed from BBC Radio 3’s Slow Radio: Venice Between the Bells. Readings: Julian Wilkinson Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Producer: Julian Wilkinson Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound: Sean KerwinA Pier production for BBC Radio 4
3/3/202414 minutes, 14 seconds
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Cane

In the series that takes a look at books, plays and stories and how they work, John Yorke looks at Jean Toomer’s Cane about African American life in 1920s America. Jean Toomer, born and raised in Washington DC, wrote Cane after a three month trip south to Georgia in 1921. Cane has a unique structure. Divided into three sections, the book is a series of vignettes, poems and short stories and concerns the lives of African Americans in the deep South and those that made the journey up to the northern states. John hears how the book was written at a critical period in American history – during the ‘Great Migration’. He also hears how the work was critically acclaimed when it was published and claimed as a part of the Harlem Renaissance, but how Toomer, of mixed racial heritage himself, eschewed all labels and wanted just to be known as an ‘American’ writer. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series.From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone.Contributor: Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Assistant Professor of Writing at the Pratt Institute in New York and author of Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America.Credits: Cane by Jean Toomer Publisher (Penguin Classics) (8 Jan. 2019) Kindle Edition Archive of Toni Morrison from Roots Of Cane, Broadcast on Radio 3 on the 2nd April 1993 Readings by Eric Stroud Producer: Alison Vernon-Smith Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Sound: Iain Hunter Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah WrightA Pier production for BBC Radio 4
2/24/202414 minutes, 53 seconds
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Siddhartha

The series that takes a look at books, plays and stories and how they work. John Yorke examines Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha.Hermann Hesse was an established writer by the time he wrote Siddhartha and didn’t live to see its lionisation by the 60s counterculture. But even in his own time Hesse’s writing appealed to young people, particularly young men, in a way that he found irritating. John looks at why this book so appealed to younger generations, especially to the one that emerged in the 60s and at how Hesse’s own background actually had parallels to their experiences. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series.From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone.Contributors: Nicolas Jackson, Director and Producer of Radio 4’s dramatisation of Siddhartha Mick Brown, Journalist, writer and author of The Nirvana Express Readings by Matthew GravelleCredits: Siddhartha CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015. Translated by Hilda Rosner Produced by Alison Vernon-Smith Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Sound by Sean Kerwin Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah WrightA Pier production for BBC Radio 4
2/18/202414 minutes, 31 seconds
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Tam O'Shanter

John Yorke explores Robert Burns’s only long form narrative poem, Tam O’Shanter. He discovers Tam’s wild ride through a stormy Scottish night where witches and warlocks are at play. Robert Burns was born in 1759, one of the children of a tenant farming father and a mother who was a great singer and storyteller. He found fame with the publication of Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect and it was the Scots language that gave his poetry such energy and vigour. Tam O’Shanter tells the story of a wild ride through a stormy Scottish night where witches and warlocks are at play. Having finishing drinking in the pub, Tam must venture out into the night on his horse Meg and pass the haunted church where the ghouls are out dancing in the graveyard. The poem has a quote at the beginning that comes from a medieval Scots translation of Virgil's epic poem, the Aeneid, where the hero goes into the underworld, into the dark world of spooks and terrifying imaginings. And that's where Tam O'Shanter takes its listeners, along with humour and a tongue-in-cheek attitude to Tam’s foibles.John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years aloneContributors Kirsteen McCue Professor of Scottish Literature and Song Culture at the University of Glasgow, home of the centre for Robert Burns Studies. Robert Crawford Poet and author of The Bard, a biography of Robert BurnsReadings: Brian Cox, Robert CrawfordResearcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound: Sean Kerwin Producer: Mark Rickards Executive Producer: Caroline RaphaelA Pier production for BBC Radio 4
1/27/202414 minutes, 18 seconds
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Our Man in Havana - Episode 2

In the series that takes a look at books, plays and stories and how they work, John Yorke explores Graham Greene’s dark, comic classic, Our Man in Havana. Set in pre-revolutionary Cuba, Our Man in Havana is a comic spy caper with a dark heart. In this the second episode on the novel, John considers what impact the place had on the work, and how Greene’s fictional locations became known as ‘Greeneland’. He also examines how Greene’s attitude to the question of loyalty, a recurring theme in his writing, is central to this book. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series.From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone.Contributors: Christopher Hull, Lecturer in Spanish and Latin American studies at Chester University and author of Our Man Down in Havana Sarah Rainsford, BBC Foreign Correspondent, author of Our Woman in Havana: Reporting Castro’s Cuba Reading by Matthew GravelleCredits: Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene Publisher - Vintage Digital; New Ed edition (2 Oct. 2010) Archive - Radio 4’s A Writer At Work on 15/8/1969.Produced by Alison Vernon-Smith Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound by Sean Kerwin Researcher Nina Semple Production Manager Sarah WrightA Pier production for BBC Radio 4
1/7/202414 minutes, 31 seconds
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Our Man in Havana - Episode 1

In the series that takes a look at books, plays and stories and how they work, John Yorke explores Graham Greene’s classic dark comedy, Our Man in Havana.Greene was already an established and successful novelist and screenwriter by the time he wrote Our Man in Havana and, in this first of two episodes about the book, John looks at the plot of what became a classic comedy thriller and at how deftly Greene outlined his characters. The book is set in pre-revolutionary Havana and John also hears how the political situation coloured his writing and how the target of Greene’s work was an organisation that was very familiar to him - British Intelligence. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series.From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone.Contributors: Christopher Hull, Lecturer in Spanish and Latin American studies at Chester University and author of Our Man Down in Havana Sarah Rainsford, BBC Foreign Correspondent, author of Our Woman in Havana: Reporting Castro’s Cuba Reading by Matthew GravelleCredits: Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene Publisher - Vintage Digital; New Ed edition (2 Oct. 2010) Produced by Alison Vernon-Smith Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound by Sean Kerwin Researcher Nina Semple Production Manager Sarah WrightA Pier production for BBC Radio 4
1/7/202414 minutes, 49 seconds
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The Greatest Gift

John Yorke looks at the short story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern. It’s Christmas Eve and George Pratt is contemplating suicide when a stranger appears almost by magic, and grants George a wish, that he’d never been born. When Stern wrote the story in 1943, he could find no one who wanted to publish it so he sent it out to friends as a Christmas card. One of those cards found its way to Frank Capra, one of the great film directors of the 1940s, and became a film that now defines Christmas for many people. John shares a lifetime of experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the secrets behind the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. He has been working in television and radio for nearly 30 years. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters. Contributors: Award winning writer Lucy Caldwell, former winner of the BBC Short Story Award, and winner of the 2023 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction for her novel, These Days. Readings by Eric StroudCredits: The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern, published by Transworld Digital. The Name Above the Title, An Autobiography by Frank Capra, published by Da Capo Press. It’s A Wonderful Life Started as the By-Product of A Shave by Philip Van Doren Stern, New York Herald Tribune, December 15th, 1946. Marguerite Stern Robinson: YouTubeProduced by Caroline Raphael Executive Producer: Sara Davies Production Manager: Sarah Wright Researcher: Nina Semple Sound by Shane O'Byrne A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
12/24/202314 minutes, 39 seconds
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Comet in Moominland

John Yorke takes a look at Tove Jansson's magical 1946 novel Comet In Moominland. Comet In Moominland is the second Moomin book and it’s a classic children’s tale. A comet is heading straight for earth, indeed to Moomin valley - so Moomintroll and his best friend Sniff head off on an adventure to try and do something about it. Their journey is eventful; they meet lots of new people and make lots of new friends but remain focussed on their mission to find out more about these faceless dangers, and get back home to Moominmama and Moominpapa and the warmth, safety and cake they offer. Tove Jansson was an acclaimed author, artist and illustrator. She was prolific in all these forms, writing 12 adult novels, many short stories, and producing illustrations throughout her life, but it is the Moomin characters and stories that endure. They are one of Finland’s biggest literary exports - translated into over 50 languages. In this episode, John Yorke asks where these fantastical characters come from, what is it about them that struck such a chord, and why do they remain so popular today.John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy, John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone.Contributors: John Finnemore, British writer and actor who pays Moomintroll in Radio 4's dramatisation of Comet In Moominland. Tuula Karjalainen, Finnish art historian and writer, the author of Work and Love, A Biography of Tove Jansson. Producer: Laura Grimshaw Executive Producer: Sara Davies Readings: John Finnemore Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound: Sean KerwinA Pier production for BBC Radio 4
12/23/202314 minutes, 28 seconds
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A Grain of Wheat

John Yorke takes a look at A Grain of Wheat, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s groundbreaking book about the lead up to Kenyan Independence. Published in 1966 as part of the Heineman African Writers Series, A Grain of Wheat offers an authentic insight into Kenya’s Land and Freedom Army rebellion (better known in Britain as the Mau Mau) and its brutal suppression by British colonial authorities. Told from the perspective of various Kikuyu characters living in Kenya’s central highlands, it is set in the four days leading up to the hard-won Uhuru, or Independence celebrations. But through flashbacks, we also learn of what has happened in the decade prior to that; how characters have been sent to detention centres, or held in concentration camps, resisted British authorities, or collaborated with them. Now, on the eve of change, it is time for reflections and recriminations. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone.Contributors: Njambi McGrath, author of Through the Leopard’s Gaze, award-winning comedian and political commentator. Credits: Abridged readings from A Grain of Wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, published by Penguin Modern Classics in Association with Heinemann African Writers Series. Archive recordings from World Book Club, 9th March 2019, BBC World ServiceReadings: Patrick Gatua Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound: Sean Kerwin Producer: Redzi Bernard Executive Producer: Sara DaviesA Pier production for BBC Radio 4
12/17/202314 minutes, 41 seconds
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Kiss of the Spider Woman

John Yorke shines a light on the dark, claustrophobic pages of Manuel Puig’s classic 1976 novel Kiss of the Spiderwoman, that went on to become a play, a musical and an Oscar-winning film. Puig wrote the novel, which focuses on the relationship between a gay window dresser and a revolutionary political prisoner, having fled the ruling military dictatorship in Argentina. John shows how the book celebrates the power not only of human connection but also the imagination, as the two central characters - stripped of so much by way of physical comfort - escape the gloom of their cell through lengthy retellings of classic Hollywood films. The novel itself couldn’t escape censure, and was banned in Argentina until 1983. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Laurie Sansom – Theatre director Suzanne Jay Levine - Puig’s biographer and translator Credits: Kiss of the Spiderwoman Pub 1976 (Spanish edition) Vintage 1991 translated by Thomas Colchie (English Edition)Reader: Luciano Dodero Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Producer: Geoff Bird Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound by Sean KerwinA Pier production for BBC Radio 4
12/10/202314 minutes, 33 seconds
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A Many-Splendoured Thing - Episode 2

A Many-Splendoured Thin’, by the Eurasian author and doctor Han Suyin, was an instant hit in Britain and the States on its publication in 1952. Set in Hong Kong between 1949 and 1950, it’s a lightly fictionalised account of the author’s own passionate and transformative love affair. The protagonist mirrors Han Suyin, herself – a Eurasian doctor originally from mainland China, born to a Chinese father and a Belgian mother. In real life, Han Suyin fell in love with an Australian war correspondent who, in the novel, becomes an Englishman, Mark Elliott. In the second of two episodes, John explores Han’s other love affair, with China itself. He explains that A Many-Splendoured Thing is no longer in print and that this can be seen in the light of Han Suyin having been, for a long time, a passionate advocate of communism in China, which she saw as an improvement on the brutalities she had witnessed in feudal China. This resulted in her and her books falling out of favour as the horrors of the Cultural Revolution became fully apparent . However, John believes it’s well worth tracking down a copy, as the novel tackles both the complexities of a cross cultural affair in 1949, and offers us a personal and nuanced portrait of a period of extreme political upheaval. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe, and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy, John has trained a generation of screenwriters. Credits: A Many-Splendoured Thing by Han Suyin, published by Jonathan Cape, 1952 (currently out of print) Contributors: Ming Ho, writer, who adapted the book for BBC Radio 4 Alex Tickell, Professor of Global literatures in English at the Open University Reader: Chipo Chung Producer: Penny Boreham Executive Producer: Sara Davies Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound Engineer: Iain Hunter A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
11/26/202314 minutes, 42 seconds
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A Many-Splendoured Thing - Episode 1

The novel A Many-Splendoured Thing, by the Eurasian author and doctor Han Suyin, was an instant hit in Britain and the States on its publication in 1952. Set in Hong Kong between 1949 and 1950, it’s a lightly fictionalised account of the author’s own passionate and transformative love affair. The protagonist mirrors Han Suyin, herself – a Eurasian doctor originally from mainland China, born to a Chinese father and a Belgian mother. In real life Han Suyin fell in love with an Australian war correspondent who, in the novel, becomes an Englishman, Mark Elliott. The book was quickly snapped up by Hollywood and released as Love is A Many Splendoured Thing in 1955. In the first of two episodes, John Yorke urges us to read the book as, in his opinion, the film misses the nuance, subtlety and interest of the novel. This, he says, is because the book, through a huge and complex array of secondary characters and vivid descriptions, reveals so much about a pivotal point in history – a time when scores of refugees were making their home in Hong Kong, leaving mainland China to escape the inevitable defeat of the national government by the communists. John also explores the way Han Suyin’s honest revelations about her contradictory feelings within the love affair give the novel a huge emotional charge and offer a window into her own journey towards self-determination. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe, and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters. Credits: A Many-Splendoured Thing by Han Suyin, published by Jonathan Cape, 1952 (currently out of print) Contributors: Ming Ho, writer, who adapted the book for BBC Radio 4 Alex Tickell, Professor of Global literatures in English at the Open University Reader: Chipo Chung Producer: Penny Boreham Executive Producer: Sara Davies Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound Engineer: Iain Hunter A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
11/26/202314 minutes, 54 seconds
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The Manxman

John Yorke looks at The Manxman by the Sir Thomas Hall Caine, a love story set on the Isle of Man. The novel broke sales records and changed the book industry forever when it was published in 1894. Hall Caine was globally famous, hugely successful, adored by readers and feted by royalty. The story was adapted for film by Alfred Hitchcock, translated into 12 languages and performed on stage. Yet today, The Manxman and Hall Caine are almost completely forgotten. John looks at this hugely successful Victorian melodrama, to discover a curiously powerful story, set in a location rarely found in literature, that has plenty of resonance for audiences today. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters. Contributors: Mary Hammond, professor of English and Book History at the University of Southampton. Catherine Harvey, writer, actor, and broadcaster, who adapted The Manxman for BBC Radio 4. Readings by Stephen Bent. Excerpts from The Manxman by Hall Caine, 1894. Excerpt from My Story by Hall Caine, 1908. Excerpt from The Manxman - Manx Life and Manxland, by T.E. Brown, 1894. Researcher: Nina Semple Sound: Sean Kerwin Producer: Jack Soper Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
11/19/202314 minutes, 37 seconds
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The Betrothed - Episode 2

John Yorke explores a work that every Italian will know – I Promessi Sposi by Alessandro Manzoni, known in English as The Betrothed. In this the second of two episodes, John looks at the context for the story told by Manzoni in The Betrothed. Written in the early 19th century, and set in the 17th century, at a time before Italy became a unified country, Manzoni deliberately used a historical period to comment on the political situation of his time. When he was writing, the Italian peninsula was under Austrian rule, and to criticise those in charge meant a likely jail sentence. So he wrote about a time when the rulers were Spanish, with obvious parallels. The novel deals with the issues of war, failures of leadership, conflict between classes, social unrest, religion, and gives a vivid description of a plague which devastated the population. It’s a novel which had resonance for readers in the 19th century when it was first published and, as John discovers, also for contemporary readers today. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for thirty years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Tim Parks Author of A Literary Tour of Italy Eileen Horne, Adapter Reader: Marco Gambino The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni, translated by Michael F. Moore, The Modern Library New York The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni, translated by Bruce Penman, Penguin Classics Produced by Mark Rickards Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound by Charlie Brandon-KIng Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
11/5/202314 minutes, 25 seconds
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The Betrothed - Episode 1

John Yorke explores a work that every Italian will know – I Promessi Sposi by Alessandro Manzoni, known in English as The Betrothed. A classic of Italian literature, The Betrothed follows the story of two young lovers, Renzo and Lucia, who plan to marry, only to be thwarted by a Spanish noble, Don Rodrigo, who has his eye on Lucia. Told against a backdrop of 17th century Lombardy, before Italy became a unified country, The Betrothed is a call for national unity as well as a compelling love story. In this first of two episodes, John looks at the rich cast of characters which makes The Betrothed such a powerful read. He meets the local priest, Don Abbondio, who is supposed to wed Renzo and Lucia but is easily dissuaded under pressure from Don Rodrigo, the Nun of Monza whose life in a convent is not the one she would have chosen, and the ‘Nameless One’, a thug straight out of a Mafia playbook. It's a novel with many twists and turns, and at times even the author admits that he may be giving his readers too much detail. But as John finds, there’s good reason to stick with the story and enjoy a novel which every Italian is likely to have encountered at school. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for thirty years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Tim Parks, Author of A Literary Tour of Italy Eileen Horne, Adapter Reader: Marco Gambino The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni, translated by Michael F. Moore, The Modern Library New York The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni, translated by Bruce Penman, Penguin Classics Produced by Mark Rickards Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound by Charlie Brandon-KIng Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
11/5/202314 minutes, 33 seconds
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She Who Was No More

John Yorke looks at the 1952 psychological suspense novel from French crime-writing team Boileau-Narcejac. The plot centres around travelling salesman Ferdinand Ravinel who conspires a plot with his mistress Lucienne to murder his wife. After the icily dark bathtub murder, Ravinel’s wife Lucienne’s body strangely disappears- and so begins Ravinel’s psychological unravelling. Noted for the ingenuity of their plots and narrative twists, this was the first novella from duo Boileau-Narcejac. The pair are credited with creating an authentically French subgenre of crime fiction and a number of their works were adapted for the screen - She Who Was No More became the 1955 cinematic classic Les Diaboliques, followed by Alfred Hitchcock’s adaption of Vertigo in 1958. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for 30 years, and he shares his experience as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book ‘Into the Woods’. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Claire Gorrara, Professor of French & Dean of Research and Innovation at Cardiff University, specialised in post-war French crime fiction Ginette Vincendeau, Professor of Film Studies at King’s College London Readings by Matthew Gravelle Credits Les Diaboliques. 1955 film by Henri-Georges Clouzot, produced by Arrow Films Produced by Lucy Hough Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Sound by Sean Kerwin Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
10/29/202314 minutes, 17 seconds
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The Mahabharata - Episode 2

Originally composed about 2000 years ago, the Mahabharata is one of the world’s greatest pieces of storytelling, as well as a foundational Hindu text. Woven through its central account of a great dynastic family conflict and bloody war is the story of the gods and their relationship to humankind, as well as spiritual, philosophical and practical instruction about how to live one’s life in the best possible way. In the second of two episodes about the Mahabharata, John asks why and how this 2000 year-old epic still resonates so strongly, what makes it such rich territory for modern re-tellings, and looks at some of its universal themes. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters. Credits: Mahabharata, A Modern Retelling by Carole Satyamurti (W.W.Norton & Co. 2015) The Mahabharata, abridged and translated by John D. Smith (Penguin Classics 2009) Contributors: Dr Arti Dhand, Department of Religious Studies, University of Toronto https://www.themahabharatapodcast.com Jatinder Verma, founder of Tara Arts, theatre director and Director of Mahabharata Now, BBC Radio 4 Readers: Nadir Khan: Mumbai-based actor and director, producer of Mahabharata Now, BBC Radio 4 Shernaz Patel, Mumbai-based film and theatre actor, Gita in Mahabharata Now, BBC Radio 4 Producers: Sara Davies & Tolly Robinson Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound Engineer and designer: Sean Kerwin A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.
10/15/202314 minutes, 30 seconds
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The Mahabharata - Episode 1

Originally composed about 2000 years ago, the Mahabharata is one of the world’s greatest pieces of storytelling, as well as a foundational Hindu text. Woven through its central account of a great dynastic family conflict and bloody war is the story of the gods and their relationship to humankind, as well as spiritual, philosophical and practical instruction about how to live one’s life in the best possible way. In the first of two episodes about the this epic poem, John looks at how the central story of the conflict between two branches of the great Bharata family gives the work its extraordinary and gripping dramatic impact. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters. Credits: The Mahabharata, abridged and translated by John D. Smith (Penguin Classics 2009) Mahabharata, A Modern Retelling by Carole Satyamurti (W.W.Norton & Co. 2015) Contributors: Dr Arti Dhand, Department of Religious Studies, University of Toronto https://www.themahabharatapodcast.com Jatinder Verma, founder of Tara Arts, theatre director and Director of Mahabharata Now, BBC Radio 4 Readers: Nadir Khan: Mumbai-based actor and director, co-producer of Mahabharata Now, BBC Radio 4 Shernaz Patel, Mumbai-based film, TV and theatre actor, Gita in Mahabharata Now, BBC Radio 4 Producers: Sara Davies and Tolly Robinson Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound Engineer: Sean Kerwin A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
10/15/202314 minutes, 18 seconds
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Lark Rise to Candleford - Episode 2

John Yorke continues his exploration of Lark Rise to Candleford, Flora Thompson’s much-loved account of rural life. Lark Rise to Candleford is one of our best loved evocations of rural England, but it is also an evocation of rural poverty, and of the emerging opportunities for young women as a new century dawned. It tells the story of a girl growing up in a poor rural hamlet in rural Oxfordshire in the 1880s. Eventually she moves to the village of Candleford Green to begin her adult life working in a post office, and her story frames the larger one of Britain at the end of the 19th century, facing seismic social change. In this second episode, John explores how the journey made by the central character in the book, Laura Timmins, reflects Flora Thompson’s own journey from a country childhood to the world of work and wider society. He wants to know how Lark Rise to Candleford echoes the rapid social changes taking place at the end of the 19th century, specifically the growth of towns and the opportunities they offered for new forms of employment and leisure. Flora Thompson’s book is unusual because it gives a female perspective to life at the turn of the 20th century; John is keen to find out how poor women’s horizons broadened as they started to glimpse the possibility of lives beyond marriage, motherhood or a job in domestic service. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for thirty years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Emma Griffin, Professor of History at Queen Mary, University of London Richard Mabey, nature writer Reading by Emma Griffin Credits: Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson, Oxford University Press, 1945 Produced by Jane Greenwood Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound by Sean Kerwin Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
10/1/202314 minutes, 16 seconds
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Lark Rise to Candleford - Episode 1

John Yorke explores Lark Rise to Candleford, Flora Thompson’s much-loved account of rural life. Lark Rise to Candleford is one of our best loved evocations of rural England, but it's also an evocation of rural poverty, and of the emerging opportunities for young women as a new century dawned. It tells the story of a girl growing up in a poor rural hamlet in rural Oxfordshire in the 1880s. Eventually she moves to the village of Candleford Green to begin her adult life working in a post office, and her story frames the larger one of Britain at the end of the 19th century, facing seismic social change. In this first of two episodes, John is keen to explore the puzzle of what sort of book Lark Rise to Candleford is. It appears to be an autobiographical social history of rural England at the close of the 19th century, but at the heart of it is a fictional character, Laura Timmins. And he wants to find out more about how Flora Thompson, a woman who left school at 14 after a rudimentary education, went on to write an instant bestseller which has become one of the 20th century’s most enduring classics. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for thirty years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Emma Griffin, Professor of History at Queen Mary, University of London Richard Mabey, nature writer Reading by Emma Griffin Credits: Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson, Oxford University Press, 1945 Produced by Jane Greenwood Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound by Sean Kerwin Researcher Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
10/1/202314 minutes, 50 seconds
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If on a Winter's Night a Traveller

John Yorke takes a look at If On A Winter's Night A Traveller, a novel by one of the most translated Italian writers of the 20th century, Italo Calvino. Published in 1979, this dizzying work of metafiction takes you on a journey into the very nature of reading. The novel begins with you, the Reader, going into a bookshop to buy a copy of If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino. You start reading, and you're just getting gripped by the story when there seems to be a printer's error. You take the book back to the shop for a replacement, but the replacement seems to be a totally different story. In fact, every time you try to find the story you started reading, you end up with a completely different one, in a completely different genre - from noirish detective story, to romance, adventure, political intrigue and Gothic horror. The one thing that all these stories have in common is that they end at a cliffhanger moment. It's a literary puzzle, which challenges conventions at every turn, and constantly seeks to engage the reader's imagination. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe, and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy, John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Tim Crouch, Writer and Theatre Maker Merve Emre, Shapiro Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing and Criticism at Wesleyan University, and contributing writer at The New Yorker Magazine. Readings: Paul Dodgson Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound: Martyn Harries Producer: Kate McAll Executive Producer: Sara Davies A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
9/24/202314 minutes, 27 seconds
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Democracy in America

John Yorke takes a look at Alexis de Tocqueville’s seminal work, Democracy in America. First published in 1835, it is arguably one of the most influential books ever to pervade American public discourse, quoted by almost every political leader - both from the red side and the blue. It’s a two-volume work (the second volume was published in 1840) that explores American society through the eyes of a young aristocrat from revolutionary France. He was convinced that democratic rule was as inevitable as the march of time, and looking to the American democratic project - then still in its infancy - for lessons to take home. De Tocqueville explores the notion of equality - its advantages and potential pitfalls - through the lenses of philosophy, of literature, of religion, of politics, wringing ideas out of them as he holds them up to the light. And what he finds holds relevance for those of us trying to understand America today. Its praise and its criticisms help remind us that, for all its fault-lines at its worst, at its best America is still a shining ideal. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy, John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Sarah Woods, award-winning playwright of a drama inspired by Democracy in America for BBC Radio 4 Nell Irvin Painter, leading historian of the United States, and the author of The History of White People. Credits: Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, with an introduction by Isaac Kramnick. English translation by Gerald E Bevan published in 2003 by Penguin Classics. George W Bush Presidential Remarks, 21st May 2005 - C-Span.org Bill Clinton, Between Hope and History - C-Span.org President Obama & President Hollande of France - The Obama White House, Youtube Hillary Clinton at New American Foundation, May 2014 - C-Span.org Readings: Tom Glenister Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound: Sean Kerwin Producer: Redzi Bernard Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
9/17/202314 minutes, 19 seconds
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The Three Musketeers - Episode 2

The series that takes a look at books, plays and stories and how they work. John Yorke considers Alexander Dumas' great swashbuckler, The Three Musketeers, and his creation of a classic hero in D'Artagnan and an unforgettable villain in Milady de Winter. In the second of two episodes about the book, John examines how Dumas created this enduring page-turner. He also looks at aspects of the novel that are sometimes overlooked - its wit and humour as well as some very dark passages. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Dr Edmund Birch – Lecturer in French Literature at Cambridge University. Adrian Hodges – TV and film Director of 'The Musketeers' BBC TV 2014 Maimie McCoy – actor and 'Milady' in 'The Musketeers' Reading by Matthew Gravelle Credits: Produced by Alison Vernon-Smith Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound by Iain Hunter Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
9/3/202314 minutes, 25 seconds
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The Three Musketeers - Episode 1

The series that takes a look at books, plays and stories and how they work. John Yorke examines Alexander Dumas’ classic, The Three Musketeers. It's one of Dumas' most famous works and contains one of literature's greatest heroes in D'Artagnan and one its most dastardly villains in Milady De Winter. In the first of two episodes about the book, John shows us how Dumas was able to create such enduring characters that have lived in the public imagination for almost 200 years. The names of the Musketeers themselves - Athos, Porthos, and Aramis - are familiar to people who've never read the actual book but seen one of the many film and TV adaptations. The novel mixes real historical figures with fictional creations, and John explores how closely Dumas remained true to the reality of the world he was portraying. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Dr Edmund Birch – Lecturer in French Literature at Cambridge University. Adrian Hodges – TV and film Director Maimie McCoy – actor and 'Milady' in 'The Musketeers' Reading by Matthew Gravelle Produced by Alison Vernon-Smith Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound by Iain Hunter Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
9/3/202314 minutes, 28 seconds
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Introducing the Whodunnits collection

Cases to baffle and intrigue. What to expect from BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra’s treasure trove of murder mysteries. Available only on BBC Sounds.
8/31/20231 minute, 58 seconds
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In Patagonia

In December 1974, Bruce Chatwin headed south from Buenos Aires to write an account of his journey through Patagonia. On the surface it was based on a series of encounters with the dispossessed - exiles, refugees and outlaws and those who had made their home on the southernmost tip of South America - but Chatwin’s real interest lay in the internal journey behind their stories and the nature of human restlessness. John Yorke looks at why his vivid prose and highly original style both startled and excited readers when it was published in 1977. It was to catapult Bruce Chatwin from a journalist to a much-feted writer and he went on to author a series of critically acclaimed books, including The Songlines and On the Black Hill. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized on BBC Radio 4's Sunday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Susannah Clapp – Theatre critic and Chatwin’s editor and author of With Chatwin. Dr Jonathan Chatwin – travel writer and academic (no relation). Credits: In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin by Faber ,3rd revised edition 1993 Archive clips of Bruce Chatwin interview and reading from the text taken from BBC TV In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin: Episode One. Reader: Tom Glenister Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Producer: Julian Wilkinson Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Sound by Iain Hunter A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
8/6/202314 minutes, 33 seconds
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Venice

Hailed as the best non-fiction account of the city, Venice was published in 1960 and became an international best seller. It was the first in a series of city ‘portraits’ by Jan Morris that included Oxford, Hong Kong and Trieste. She went on to publish over 40 books including her monumental account of the British Empire, Pax Brittanica. John Yorke delves into how Jan Morris defied boundaries in Venice and explores why Morris’ first impressions of the city in 1945 were so powerful to her. He also listens to other readers of Venice who talk about Morris’ vivid description and playful wit. And Jan Morris herself refers to the city of Venice as a touchstone in Conundrum, her account of her gender reassignment in the 1970s. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday/Saturday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Sara Wheeler – writer and author of a new biography about Jan Morris due out in 2026. Rachel Spence – arts journalist and poet and author of Venice Unclocked. Credits: Venice by Jan Morris, published by Faber, 3rd revised edition 1993 Conundrum by Jan Morris, published by Faber, revised 2001 Archive clips of Jan Morris from Radio 4’s Bookclub, originally recorded in June 2008. Archive clip of Michael Palin from Archive on 4 - Jan Morris: Writing a Life, originally recorded in January 2022. Venice sound bed from recordings by producer, BBC Sound FX library and BBC Radio 3’s Slow Radio: Venice Between the Bells. Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Producer: Julian Wilkinson Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound by Iain Hunter A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
7/30/202314 minutes, 25 seconds
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Mother Courage and Her Children - Episode 2

John Yorke takes a look at Mother Courage and her Children, Bertolt Brecht’s play written in 1939 on the eve of World War Two. Set in an earlier time when the Thirty Years War was raging across Europe, Mother Courage and her Children deals with some of the great themes of conflict and capitalism, looking at the way that one mother tries to survive with her family intact. Brecht grew up in Germany in the years after the First World War when the country was struggling with inflation running out of control. This difficult situation informed Brecht’s political views, and he supported the Communist ideals, although never actually joined the Communist Party. Brecht also had a number of theories about theatre which John explores. The way he structured his plays meant that the audience would be told what was about to happen with the use of placards. So in Mother Courage, scene captions explain the action in advance at the start of each scene. He didn’t want us to identify too closely with the characters on stage believing that, if we do, we would be surrendering our own viewpoint. John Yorke looks at the emotional detachment that Brecht sought and asks if it really worked. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Professor Laura Bradley, Dean of Postgraduate Research, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Personal Chair of German and Theatre, University of Edinburgh Mark Ravenhill, Playwright Julie Hesmondhalgh, Actor Credits: Mother Courage is played by Sheila Hancock in the production directed by Jeremy Mortimer, first broadcast on Radio 3 in 1990 Acting in the Sixties: extract from episode with Richard Burton conducted by film critic Kenneth Tynan, on the BBC in 1967 Producer: Mark Rickards Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Sound: Sean Kerwin Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
7/16/202314 minutes, 21 seconds
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Mother Courage and Her Children - Episode 1

John Yorke takes a look at Mother Courage and her Children, Bertolt Brecht’s play written in 1939 on the eve of World War Two. Set in an earlier time when the Thirty Years War was raging across Europe, Mother Courage and her Children deals with some of the great themes of conflict and capitalism, looking at the way that one mother tries to survive with her family intact. Brecht grew up in Germany in the years after the First World War when the country was struggling with inflation running out of control. This difficult situation informed Brecht’s political views, and he supported the Communist ideals, although never actually joined the Communist Party. His work reflects his concerns about the nature of capitalism and war. Mother Courage focusses on a woman who wants to make a living selling goods to anyone who will buy them, regardless of allegiance. She has three children, and the play shows how one-by-one she loses each of her them to war. We see how her decisions contribute to her deaths of her children. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Professor Laura Bradley Dean of Postgraduate Research, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Personal Chair of German and Theatre, University of Edinburgh Mark Ravenhill, Playwright Julie Hesmondhalgh, Actor Credits: Helene Weigel in "Brecht on Stage", (BBC / Open University, 1989) Producer: Mark Rickards Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Sound: Sean Kerwin Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
7/16/202314 minutes, 24 seconds
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Cloudstreet: Episode 2

John Yorke delves into Tim Winton’s beloved novel, Cloudstreet, published in 1991. Set in a suburb of Perth in Western Australia, the novel spans the period from the end of the Second World War until the mid 1960s and made the young Winton, who wrote the book in his 20s, both a literary and popular phenomenon in his own country. It tells the story of two large white working class families – the Pickles and the Lambs - who experience separate catastrophes, and end up moving to the city to share a great, breathing, ramshackle house, No.1 Cloudstreet. The novel was, and still is, one of the most beloved and popular Australian novels ever written but, in this second episode about Cloudstreet, John Yorke explores some of the controversy that has arisen in more recent years. Many of those who love and admire the book for its true and loving depiction of white working class life - warts and all - do now also have reservations about the sheer absence of well-rounded indigenous characters in the book. Aboriginal characters are depicted as ‘no nation’ and solely ‘noble’, never more than angels and ghosts. There is one recurring aboriginal figure in Cloudstreet who Winton has since described as being ‘the conscience of the nation’. In this episode, we hear Winton himself remarking that the way he depicts aboriginality in the book was ‘naïve’ and that he has since learned much more about indigenous culture. One of Australia’s most celebrated writers Kim Scott, who is the first indigenous writer to have won the prestigious Australian prize, the Miles Franklin award, shares his thoughts about Cloudstreet in this episode. He says "I do remember being struck by the (recurring) aboriginal character as a lamppost... and one can slam novelists for that, but I think it’s within the infrastructure of what literature and Australia allowed Tim, so perhaps it’s a tribute to him that here is an absence, here’s something that (Winton is saying) I can’t articulate but needs to be in the mix”. John concludes that perhaps, in Cloudstreet , Tim Winton found a way - at a time when dialogues about the relationship between indigenous nations and white Australia were in their infancy - to show us how white Australians lived their lives alongside indigenous people but pretended they, and the underlying reality of pain and violence done to them, were invisible. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for thirty years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday/Saturday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green- lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Lyn McCredden, Professor Emerita, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia Kathryn Heyman, Australian novelist and writer Kim Scott, author and Professor of Writing, Curtin University, Perth. Excerpt of Tim Winton from BBC World Book Club, 6th July 2017 Cloudstreet by Tim Winton, 1991, Penguin Books, Australia. Produced by Penny Boreham Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Sound by Martyn Harries Readings: James Frecheville Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
6/11/202314 minutes, 36 seconds
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Cloudstreet - Episode 1

John Yorke delves into Tim Winton’s beloved novel, Cloudstreet, published in 1991. Set in a suburb of Perth in Western Australia, the novel spans the period from the end of the second world war until the mid 1960s and made the young Winton, who wrote the book in his 20s, both a literary and popular phenomenon in his own country. It tells the story of two large white working class families – the Pickles and the Lambs - who experience separate catastrophes, and end up moving to the city to share a great, breathing, ramshackle house, No.1 Cloudstreet. In this first episode about Cloudstreet, John Yorke asks why this prize winning book, iconic in Australia, is so beloved. As the book charts the lives, loves, griefs, struggles and entanglements of the Pickles and Lamb families, he notices that the divine aspect of everyday experience is always present. There is a sacred framing to the novel, as Winton poignantly depicts human beings trying to survive tragedy and continue thriving, by keeping on loving. John also examines how Winton’s own background, rooted as he is in the same area his characters emerge from, shines through and gives an added depth to the language and sense of place in the novel. Ultimately John reflects that the novel is both a hymn to and a critique of the country itself, suggesting that Winton is beginning to ask questions about what it means to live in a country where the indigenous people were largely invisible to their white Australian counterparts. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for thirty years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday/Saturday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe, and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Lyn McCredden, Professor Emerita, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia Kathryn Heyman, Australian novelist and writer Peter Straus, literary agent and Managing Director RCW agency, also first British publisher of Cloudstreet. Cloudstreet by Tim Winton, 1991, Penguin Books, Australia. Produced by Penny Boreham Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Sound by Martyn Harries Researcher: Nina Semple Readings: James Frecheville Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
6/11/202314 minutes, 25 seconds
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One Moonlit Night

John Yorke takes a look at Caradog Prichard's ground-breaking novel, One Moonlit Night. First published in Welsh in 1961, it broke new ground for its portrayal of taboo subjects such as sexuality, suicide and mental illness. Thirty four years later it was translated into English by Philip Mitchell who described his first encounter with the material in the original Welsh as 'a mind-blowing, life-changing, world-shaking experience akin to being allowed for several hours to stare into the face of God.' Set in a North Wales slate-mining village at the time of the first world war, the story appears to be simple - it's about a boy and how that boy's life falls apart. But the dreamlike vision of disintegration that Prichard weaves is layered and complex, as we realise that the child, apart from observing the peculiar adult goings-on in the village, is witnessing his mother lose her mind. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Rhiannon Boyle, writer and adaptor of One Moonlit Night for Radio 4. Manon Baines, author of Yng Ngolau'r Lleuad - Ffaith a Dychymyg yng Ngwaith Caradog Prichard, a biography of the author. Credits: One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard was originally published as Un Nos Ola Leuad in 1961. English translation by Philip Mitchell published in 1995 by Canongate. Desert Island Discs : extract from episode with Maxine Peake, BBC R4 16th October 2022 Readings: Matthew Gravelle Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound: Martyn Harries Producer: Kate McAll Executive Producer: Sara Davies A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
6/4/202315 minutes, 58 seconds
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A Room With A View - Episode 2

John Yorke continues his examination of E M Forster’s best-loved novel A Room with a View, first published in 1908. Set in Florence and Surrey, A Room with a View is both a coming-of-age story and an intoxicating love story, as teenage Lucy Honeychurch has to choose between two very different men, and between following convention or following her heart. It is a book full of muddle and misunderstanding, as well as comedy and joy, as Lucy tries to make sense of her feelings and to work out how to be true to herself. In this second programme, John is keen to find out how Forster’s own life ties in with A Room with a View. As a gay man in Edwardian England he was all too aware of the painful dilemma of loving someone you were not supposed to love. John also wants to know how the book reflects women’s lives in the early 20th century and why, nearly 120 years after it was first published, readers still enjoy this book so much. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for thirty years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday/Saturday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Alison Hennegan, former Director of Studies in English, Trinity Hall Cambridge Sarah Winman, novelist Reading by Sarah Winman Credits: A Room with a View by E M Forster, first published by Edward Arnold 1908 Produced by Jane Greenwood Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Sound by Sean Kerwin Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
5/21/202314 minutes, 30 seconds
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A Room With a View - Episode 1

John Yorke examines E M Forster’s best-loved novel A Room with a View, first published in 1908. Set in Florence and Surrey, A Room with a View is both a coming-of-age story and an intoxicating love story, as teenage Lucy Honeychurch has to choose between two very different men, and between following convention or following her heart. It's a book full of muddle and misunderstanding, as well as comedy and joy, as Lucy tries to make sense of her feelings and to work out how to be true to herself. The book opens at the Pensione Bertolini, a guest house for respectable English tourists in Florence. Lucy has just arrived with her much older cousin, Charlotte Bartlett, who is a martyr and a fusspot, and one of Forster’s greatest comic creations. They are disappointed not to have the rooms with views of the River Arno they had been promised by the landlady. In this first programme of two, John is keen to find out how Forster’s own experiences of travelling in Italy are reflected in the book, why his writing makes the novel such a pleasure to read, and why, nearly 120 years after it was first published, it still resonates with modern audiences. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for thirty years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday/Saturday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Alison Hennegan, former Director of Studies in English, Trinity Hall Cambridge Sarah Winman, novelist Reading by Sarah Winman Credits: A Room with a View by E M Forster, first published by Edward Arnold 1908 Produced by Jane Greenwood Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Sound by Sean Kerwin Researcher Nina Semple Production Manager Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
5/21/202314 minutes, 28 seconds
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Anna Karenina - Episode 1

The series that takes a look at books, plays and stories and how they work. John Yorke examines what lies at the heart of Tolstoy’s great novel Anna Karenina. ‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ It’s one of the most famous opening lines in world literature, and the book has been called the greatest novel ever written. First published in 1878, and translated into English in 1901, it’s been credited with perfecting the art of 19th century realism while foreshadowing the modernist novel. In this first of three episodes, John Yorke examines the central tragic love story at the heart of the novel. Anna Karenina is an unhappily married aristocrat who falls in love with dashing young army officer Count Vronsky. But under the eyes of the hypocritical St Petersburg elite, their love is strained to breaking point. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday/Saturday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy, John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Rosamund Bartlett, Tolstoy biographer and translator of new Oxford World Classics edition of Anna Karenina. Dr Sarah Hudspith, Associate Professor in Russian at the University of Leeds Linda Marshall-Griffiths, writer and adapter of new radio drama of Anna Karenina Readings by Jules Wilkinson Credits: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, trans. Constance Garnet 1901, William Heinemann Produced by Lore Windemuth Executive Producer: Sara Davies Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound by Iain Hunter A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
4/30/202314 minutes, 33 seconds
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Anna Karenina - Episode 2

The series that takes a look at books, plays and stories and how they work. John Yorke explores the themes at the heart of Leo Tolstoy’s great nineteenth century novel, Anna Karenina. In the second of three episodes, John looks at the secondary great love story in the novel, that of Kitty and Levin, and how it is built into and reflects the structure of the story. As Anna and Vronksy’s affair plays out under the disapproving gaze of St Petersburg society, Levin and Kitty take a different path to happiness, seeking meaning and fulfilment within the boundaries of convention. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday/Saturday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy, John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Rosamund Bartlett, Tolstoy biographer and translator of new Oxford World Classics edition of Anna Karenina. Dr. Sarah Hudspith, Associate Professor in Russian at the University of Leeds Linda Marshall-Griffiths, writer and adapter of new radio drama of Anna Karenina Readings by Jules Wilkinson Credits: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, trans. Constance Garnet, 1901 William Heinemann Produced by Lore Windemuth Executive Producer: Sara Davies Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound by Ian Hunter A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
4/30/202314 minutes, 19 seconds
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Anna Karenina - Episode 3

The series that takes a look at books, plays and stories and how they work. John Yorke explores Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, one of the world’s greatest novels. In this third and final part on Anna Karenina, John focuses on Tolstoy and his world, in order to come to an understanding of the true sense of his achievement in writing a novel that has been at the forefront of world literature since its publication nearly 150 years ago. The 1870s were a time of seismic social change in Russia and, in Anna Karenina, Tolstoy’s meticulous and subtle descriptions of the daily lives and concerns of his characters reflect his own turmoil in the face of a world that was in upheaval. ‘How does one live well?’ is the profound question at the heart of the novel. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday/Saturday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy, John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Rosamund Bartlett, Tolstoy biographer and translator of new Oxford World Classics edition of Anna Karenina. Dr. Sarah Hudspith, Associate Professor in Russian at the University of Leeds Linda Marshall-Griffiths, writer and adapter of new radio drama of Anna Karenina Readings by Jules Wilkinson Credits: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, trans. Constance Garnet, 1901 William Heinemann Produced by Lore Windemuth Executive Producer: Sara Davies Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound by Ian Hunter A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
4/30/202314 minutes, 43 seconds
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Twelfth Night - Episode 2

John Yorke explores one of Shakespeare's best loved comedies, Twelfth Night. In the second of two episodes, he explores the setting of the play and how the whole plot turns on the ambiguities thrown up by a woman dressed as a man. We’re introduced to characters who fall in love with each other in a confusion of misplaced desire. Viola is shipwrecked in a strange land and has lost her twin brother Sebastian. She disguises herself as a man before she meets the Duke of Illyria, who is himself in love with the Countess Olivia. It's the beginnings of a love triangle rich in comedic moments. Twelfth Night is a play in which desire and disguise lead to confusion and chaos, only to be resolved in a happy ever after love story. Well, almost. John shares a lifetime of experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the secrets behind the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. He has been working in television and radio for nearly 30 years. From East Enders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book ‘Into the Woods’. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Emma Smith, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, University of Oxford Dominic Dromgoole, Theatre director Tamsin Greig, who played 'Malvolia' at the National Theatre Credits: Clips from: Shakespeare on 3: Twelfth Night (April 2012), BBC Radio 3 starring Naomi Frederick. Directed By Sally Avens. Researcher: Nina Semple Sound Design: Sean Kerwin Production Manager: Sarah Wright Producer: Mark Rickards Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
4/22/202314 minutes, 23 seconds
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Twelfth Night - Episode 1

John Yorke explores one of Shakespeare's best loved comedies, Twelfth Night. In the first of two episodes, he untangles a complex plot and shows how we can still find it funny. But is it really a comedy? John finds sadness behind the laughter in a play that ends with a melancholic song as the rain begins to fall. We're introduced to characters who fall in love with each other in a confusion of misplaced desire. Viola is shipwrecked in a strange land and has lost her twin brother Sebastian. She disguises herself as a man before she meets the Duke of Illyria, who is himself in love with the Countess Olivia. It's the beginnings of a love triangle rich in comedic moments. Twelfth Night is a play in which desire and disguise lead to confusion and chaos, only to be resolved in a happy ever after love story. Well, almost. John shares a lifetime of experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the secrets behind the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. He has been working in television and radio for nearly 30 years. From East Enders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book ‘Into the Woods’. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Emma Smith, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, University of Oxford Dominic Dromgoole, Theatre director Tamsin Greig, who played 'Malvolia' at the National Theatre Credits: Clips from Shakespeare on 3: Twelfth Night (April 2012), BBC Radio 3 starring Naomi Frederick. Directed By Sally Avens. Researcher: Nina Semple Sound Design: Sean Kerwin Production Manager: Sarah Wright Producer: Mark Rickards Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
4/22/202314 minutes, 37 seconds
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Borstal Boy

Somewhere between autobiography, memoir and novel, the Irish writer and poet Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy was published in 1958. It’s the story of the teenaged Behan’s three years in an English Borstal – the youth detention centres of their day. As an Irish Republican, Behan’s views of the English are challenged, relationships are formed, and his journey to becoming one of the most celebrated writers of his generation begins. Hearing from the bestselling Irish novelist Colm Tóibín, John Yorke explains the delight of this tender, funny, sometimes sad, sometimes violent book, and unpicks Behan’s ability to capture detail and dialogue in rich, yet somehow sparse descriptions of life in Borstal. John shares a lifetime of experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the secrets behind the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. He has been working in television and radio for nearly 30 years. From East Enders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book ‘Into the Woods’. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters. Contributors: Colm Tóibín, bestselling writer of novels such as Nora Webster and The Blackwater Lightship. His book Brooklyn was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film starring Saoirse Ronan, and his writing has been translated into over 30 languages. Credits: Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan, 1958. Excerpts from a 1971 BBC Television adaption of Borstal Boy, featuring Donal Neligan as Brendan Behan, Sheila Fay as the landlady, Wilfred Carter as the sergeant, Gavin Morrrison as Vereker. Omnibus, 1971. Brendan Behan interviewed by Derek Hart, Tonight, BBC Television, 1959. CA Joyce, governor of the Borstal, interviewed for BBC Television in 1971. Researcher: Nina Semple Sound: Sean Kerwin Producer: Jack Soper Executive Producer: Sara Davies Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
4/16/202315 minutes, 3 seconds
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Enduring Love

John Yorke takes a look at Ian McEwan’s 1997 complex thriller Enduring Love. It's a bold novel, set in the aftermath of a tragic accident, but the substance of the story is formed from a beautifully simple yet complex premise – everyone sees that accident in a totally different way. The central character, Joe Rose, is stalked by a stranger, Jed Parry, whom he meets purely by chance at the scene of the accident. As Joe continues to reject Jed, their confrontation spirals from fear into violence. We hear the events described by different characters throughout the book which makes it very hard to understand the world they are describing. Whose version is right? Who should we believe? This is a novel about the perception of reality itself. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Dr Emma Short, Psychologist at London Metropolitan University, specialising in stalking and its impact. Ian McEwan, author, discussing writing in archive interviews. Credits: Enduring Love, Ian McEwan, 1997 Book Club - Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love, Radio 4, 2000 Open Book - Ian McEwan, Radio 4, 2022 Producer: Laura Grimshaw Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Readings: Sam Dale Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright Sound: Sean Kerwin A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
4/9/202314 minutes, 32 seconds
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Kira Georgievna

John Yorke examines Victor Nekrasov’s novel Kira Georgievna, a bestseller in 1960s Russia. Set in Moscow, Kyiv and rural Ukraine, the eponymous Kira Georgievna is a successful middle-aged sculptor, originally from Kyiv, who must choose between three different lovers. She’s married to a much older painter while also enjoying a casual affair with a young man who’s working for her as a model. But Kira’s comfortable life is about to be turned upside down when her first love - Vadim - returns from two decades as a political prisoner in the Siberian gulags. As John digs deeper into the novel, he discovers that it is a powerful critique of the Soviet regime, and the choices made by the people who played the Soviet system, and those who stood up to it. Viktor Nekrasov was born into a middle-class Russian family in Kyiv, and the tensions between Russian and Ukraine in Kira Georgievna foreshadow the terrible situation today. He was seriously injured twice fighting for the Soviet army against the Nazis, and his first novel was a vivid description of the misery of the life he had experienced first-hand in the trenches at Stalingrad. His early books were approved of and promoted by the Soviets but Kira Georgievna, published in 1961, marked the turning point when Nekrasov started to break away from the regime. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for thirty years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday/Saturday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book ‘Into the Woods’. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Ming Ho, writer and adapter of Kira Georgievna for BBC Radio 4 Dr Uilleam Blacker, Associate Professor of Ukrainian and East European Culture at University College London Reading by Ming Ho Kira Georgievna by Victor Nekrasov, Pantheon Books, New York 1962, translated from the Russian by Walter N. Vickery Produced by Jane Greenwood Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound by Sean Kerwin Research by Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds
4/2/202314 minutes, 30 seconds
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Antic Hay

John Yorke takes a look at Aldous Huxley’s 1923 satirical novel, Antic Hay. It's a comic novel, set in post-war London and a wicked satire on the glittering hedonism of the 1920s. It tells the story of a collection of upper middle-class characters desperately trying to find meaning in their lives after the catastrophe of the First World War. Aldous Huxley is most famous for his classic dystopian story Brave New World. To some he’s the inspiration for the cult of hallucinogenics, through his book The Doors Of Perception. But a million miles from both, among the 40-odd other books he wrote, sits Antic Hay – a sardonic snapshot of 1920s English society. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that have made a mark.   From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Emily Pithon, actor, starred as Myra Viveash in Mike Harris’ Radio 4 adaptation of Antic Hay. Dr Jake Poller, School of English and Drama at Queen Mary, University of London is the author of a 2021 biography of Aldous Huxley Credits: Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley, 1923 III. Accidie, On The Margin Collected Notes and Essays by Aldous Huxley, 1923 Produced by Laura Grimshaw Executive Producer: Sara Davies Readings by Emily Pithon Sound by Sean Kerwin Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
3/26/202314 minutes, 49 seconds
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Confessions of a Justified Sinner

John Yorke delves into James Hogg’s masterpiece of Gothic horror, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. Presented as a ‘found document’, the confessions give a chilling insight into the mind of a murderer. This novel is a horror story, a mystery thriller, a psychological study of religious extremism, and at its heart lurks a serial killer. Despite being first published in 1824 it still has all the contemporary resonance, in the view of renowned crime writer Ian Rankin, to make a 21st century blockbuster movie. John shares a lifetime of experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the secrets behind the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. He has been working in television and radio for nearly 30 years. From East Enders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book ‘Into the Woods’. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters. Contributors Professor Kirsteen McCue Professor of Scottish Literature and Song Culture (Scottish Literature), Glasgow University James Robertson Author of The Testament of Gideon Mack among other novels Reader: David Rankine Researcher: Nina Semple Sound: Sean Kerwin Production Manager: Sarah Wright Producer: Mark Rickards Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
3/19/202314 minutes, 16 seconds
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Porgy (Episode 2)

The series that takes a look at books, plays and stories and how they work. John Yorke examines Porgy by Edwin DuBose Heyward. Porgy was published in 1925 and concerns the love affair between Porgy and Bess. Set within the poor black community of Charleston, South Carolina, the book was later adapted into the blockbuster musical Porgy and Bess. The writer Du Bose Heyward was white and, ever since it was published, the book has raised questions about authenticity and cultural appropriation. In this second of two episodes about the book, John Yorke looks at the controversy that has surrounded the book , how it divided the critics and how the success of Porgy and Bess, the musical, complicated matters still further. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Dr Kendra Hamilton, Professor of American Literature at Presbyterian College James M. Hutchisson , biographer of Dubose Heyward Michael Buffong, Director. Produced by Alison Vernon-Smith Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound: Sean Kerwin Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
3/11/202314 minutes, 32 seconds
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Porgy (Episode 1)

The series that takes a look at books, plays and stories and how they work. John Yorke examines Porgy by Edwin DuBose Heyward. Published in 1925, Porgy was an immediate hit and was later adapted both for the stage and the blockbuster musical Porgy and Bess. In this first of two episodes about Porgy, John looks at the story at the heart of the original novel and the background of the remarkable man who wrote it. How and why did Edwin DuBose Heyward, the epitome of the intellectual, Southern, white, gentleman write this best-selling classic about a love story set within a poor, African American community in the deep South? John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Dr Kendra Hamilton, Professor of American Literature at Presbyterian College James M. Hutchisson , biographer of Dubose Heyward. Produced by Alison Vernon-Smith Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound: Sean Kerwin Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
3/11/202314 minutes, 47 seconds
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Gaslight

John Yorke looks at Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 stage play Gaslight.  A big hit on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue and an even bigger success on Broadway, Patrick Hamilton’s drama of the mental abuse of Bella Manningham by her husband Jack lives on, sometimes unacknowledged, as the source of the term Gaslighting - one person’s attempt to make another doubt their sanity.     Best known for his novels such as Hangover Square and The Slaves of Solitude, Hamilton drew on his own miserable childhood memories of being terrified of his own abusive father for this taut, chilling thriller.  John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised on BBC Radio 4. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters (his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone).   Contributors: Brigid Larmour, Artistic Director and Chief Executive, Watford Palace Theatre Sean French, author of Patrick Hamilton: A Life and one half of the writing duo Nicci French Readings by Sam Dale Credits: Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton. Acting Edition published by Constable, 1970 Angel Street by Patrick Hamilton, Acting Edition published by Samuel French, 1942 Clip from Angel Street (1952), The NBC Presents Best Plays radio adaptation starring Vincent Price and Judith Evelyn Produced by Caroline Raphael Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound by Matt Bainbridge, Redlight Studios and Sean Kerwin A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
3/8/202314 minutes, 55 seconds
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Georges (Episode 2)

In the second of two episodes about Georges by Alexander Dumas, John Yorke looks at the central theme of the book - race. Although a mixed race man, Alexandre Dumas very seldom addressed the issue of race in his work. Georges is the only novel in which it plays any part. Published after the abolition of slavery in France but before France banned slavery in its colonies, the central themes of Georges are revenge, for a racial insult, and race. John Yorke looks at how the book approaches these issues and Dumas' attitude towards his own heritage. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: David Coward, Emeritus Professor of Literature at Leeds University Tina Kover, Translator of the first English translation of Georges for more than a century Dr Mike Phillips, Writer Reading by Sam Dale Credits: Georges by Alexandre Dumas. Publisher Modern Library Inc; Reprint edition (1 Sept. 2008) Translator: Tina Kover Produced by Alison Vernon-Smith Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Sound by Sean Kerwin Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
2/26/202314 minutes, 30 seconds
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Georges (Episode 1)

In the series that takes a look at books, plays and stories and how they work, John Yorke examines Alexander Dumas’ forgotten classic; Georges. Georges was one of Dumas' earliest novels and in this first of two episodes about the book, John shows us how it set the template for many of those that followed. It's a swashbuckling, page-turner full of plot twists, cliff hangers and larger-than-life characters. Dumas was a mixed race man and Georges is unique in that it's the only one of his novels that directly addresses race. The book is set in one of France's colonies, Île de France, where slavery is still flourishing and where racial hierarchies are strictly observed. The main theme of the book is revenge for a racially motivated insult. Immensely famous around the world, Dumas' life echoed the drama of his novels and John hears about the lifestyle and politics of this great writer. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: David Coward, Emeritus Professor of Literature at Leeds University Tina Kover, Translator of the first English translation of Georges for more than a century Reading by Sam Dale Credits: Georges by Alexandre Dumas Publisher Modern Library Inc; Reprint edition (1 Sept. 2008) Translator - Tina Kover Produced by Alison Vernon-Smith Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Sound by Sean Kerwin Researcher: Nina Semple Production Manager: Sarah Wright A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
2/26/202314 minutes, 49 seconds
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The Bronze Horseman

John Yorke explores the way the celebrated 19th century writer Alexander Pushkin’s 400-line narrative poem, The Bronze Horseman, gives us an astonishing image of the unequal relationship between ruler and ruled. This ground breaking poem, which is one of the great landmarks of Russian literature, shows us how the empire building passion of one ruler, the tsar Peter the Great, with his grand design to create the city of St Petersburg in spite of its situation on marshy and inhospitable land, can be seen to lead to tragic consequences for one particular individual, a hundred years later. We learn how the story becomes mythic when this man, a lowly clerk, descends into madness after losing his beloved to the flood that descends on the city, and then confronts the statue of the tsar. The statue then comes to life and chases the clerk to his death. Pushkin’s poem changed literature and narrative forever by introducing the idea of this ‘little man’ who embodies us all, and who Is single handedly taking on the legacy of history. It's also clear to see that the poem speaks to us as forcefully now as it did to its contemporary readers. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly thirty years, and shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact behind the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday/Saturday Drama Series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy, John has trained a generation of screenwriters - his students have had 17 green lights in the last two years alone. Contributors: Masha Karp, translator, author and broadcaster. Alexandra Smith, reader in Russian studies, University of Edinburgh Andrew Kahn, professor of Russian literature, St Edmund Hall, the University of Oxford. Credits: A Poet’s Library – Biblioteka Poeta (Set of 3 Volumes) Alexander Pushkin Poems – Volume 2 (Leningrad: Sovetsky Pisatel 1954) Selected Poetry by Alexander Pushkin, Translated by Antony Wood, Penguin Classics, 2020 Producer: Penny Boreham Executive Producer: Sara Davies Researcher: Nina Semple Sound: Iain Hunter from Iain Hunter Sound Design. A Pier production for BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds
2/19/202314 minutes, 48 seconds
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Yentl the Yeshiva Boy

John Yorke explores the themes and impact of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short story Yentl. Written in the 1950s but set in the orthodox Jewish community of late nineteenth century Poland, the story was made into a successful Hollywood film starring Barbara Streisand. Yentl, a young orthodox woman, rebels against the constraints of a woman’s life and disguises herself as a young man in order to be able to study at a Yeshiva, or religious college. In describing the complications and misunderstandings that ensue Singer offers insights into religious, social and gender politics not only of the late nineteenth century but of his own, and our, times. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday/Saturday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters (his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone). Contributors: Kerry Shale, actor, broadcaster and writer Evelyn Torton Beck, translator of Singer’s work Rebecca Abrams, author, teacher and critic Clip from film: From Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Nightmare and Mrs Pupko’s Beard, directed by Bruce Davidson for BBC Arena, 1973 Produced by Penny Boreham Executive Producer: Sara Davies Sound by Sean Kerwin A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
2/12/202314 minutes, 45 seconds
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Lady Chatterley's Lover, Episode 2

John Yorke looks into Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D H Lawrence. In this second of two episodes about the book, he looks at what drove Lawrence to use the language that got him into so much trouble and made the novel infamous. He outlines the book's other transgressions and what happened at that famous, ground-breaking trial in 1960. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatized in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters (his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone). Contributors: Alison MacLeod, author of Tenderness Geoff Dyer author of Out of Sheer Rage: In the Shadow of DH Lawrence Bill Goldstein author of The World Broke in Two Reading by Ian Hogg Credits: Lady Chatterley's Lover by D H Lawrence, BBC Radio 4 January 1990 Abridged for radio by Alan England Read by Ian Hogg Producer: Philip Martin, BBC Pebble Mill. Produced by Alison Vernon-Smith Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Sound by Sean Kerwin A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
1/29/202314 minutes, 31 seconds
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Lady Chatterley's Lover (Episode 1)

John Yorke looks into Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence. In this first of two episodes about the book, he outlines the simple story at the heart of this most controversial of novels. Although it’s chiefly known for its graphic descriptions of sex and its liberal use of four letter words, John asks if the book is actually much more than a titillating tale about a passion that crosses the class divide. He looks at how the horrors of the Great War affected Lawrence and drove him to write what was for him a manifesto that would allow a traumatised nation to heal. John Yorke has worked in television and radio for nearly 30 years, and he shares his experience with Radio 4 listeners as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that are being dramatised in BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Drama series. From EastEnders to the Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy John has trained a generation of screenwriters (his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone). Contributors: Alison MacLeod, author of Tenderness Geoff Dyer author of Out of Sheer Rage: In the Shadow of DH Lawrence. Reading by Ian Hogg Credits: Lady Chatterley's Lover by D H Lawrence, BBC Radio 4 January 1990 Abridged for radio by Alan England Read by Ian Hogg Producer Philip Martin, BBC Pebble Mill. Sons and Lovers, BBC Radio on the Third Programme 1955 Produced by Christopher Sykes Produced by Alison Vernon-Smith Executive Producer: Caroline Raphael Sound by Sean Kerwin A Pier production for BBC Radio 4
1/29/202314 minutes, 33 seconds
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Welcome to Opening Lines

In this series John Yorke shares a lifetime of experience as he unpacks the themes and impact of the books, plays and stories that have made a mark. John Yorke has been working in television and radio for nearly 30 years. From EastEnders to The Archers, Life on Mars to Shameless, he has been obsessed with telling big popular stories. He has spent years analysing not just how stories work but why they resonate with audiences around the globe and has brought together his experience in his bestselling book Into the Woods. As former Head of Channel Four Drama, Controller of BBC Drama Production and MD of Company Pictures, John has tested his theories during an extensive production career working on some of the world’s most lucrative, widely viewed and critically acclaimed TV drama. As founder of the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy, John has trained a generation of screenwriters (his students have had 17 green-lights in the last two years alone).
1/19/20232 minutes, 56 seconds