BBC Radio 4’s Dangerous Visions is a season of dramas exploring contemporary takes on future dystopias, inspired by the literary distinctiveness and imaginative world view of JG Ballard.
29 May 2013
Even though the master creator of dystopian futures died four years ago, his vision of what our future might become feels as relevant, satirical and as scary as ever.
Dramatisations of JG Ballard’s seminal works, Drowned World and Concrete Island straddle the season along with work by five leading writers: Nick Perry, Ed Harris, Michael Symmons Roberts, Michael Butt and Philip Palmer were asked to imagine what life might be like in the near future and their Dangerous Visions form the bedrock of the series.
Clever, imaginative and disturbing, the subjects covered in the season include what might happen if sleep is outlawed, if cloning becomes a matter of course, if North London declares war on South London and if human sacrifice becomes a part of society.
“Radio provides the ideal medium for these alternative worlds, playing out in 3-D, entirely in the listener’s mind,” says Alison Hindell, Head of Radio Drama.
The season also includes a five-part serialisation of Jane Roger’s award-winning, terrifying novel, The Testament Of Jessie Lamb, dramatised by the author.
Complementing the drama on Radio 4, Radio 4 Extra features a new production of William Golding’s nightmare fable of mankind’s capacity for good and evil, Lord Of The Flies, dramatised in four episodes by Judith Adams.
Dangerous Visions offers a disturbing insight from some of our most talented writers into a vision of an uneasy future.
Sat 15 June - Saturday Drama
A fable for our times, in The Sleeper we see our own society as it is today but with one familiar element removed. This is a Britain in which, decades ago, human beings gradually lost the gift of sleep.
Society is strained to breaking point by 24-hour wakefulness. The government has cracked down on subversive images of sleep. People work around the clock. Hotels are for private meetings and illicit sex and shops never close. Into this paranoid world, a teenage girl emerges, a girl who can sleep. Protected by her friends, she goes on the run from the authorities who are keen to control and study her gift. The group ends up living in a city centre squat, surviving as a group by shoplifting and begging. The group grows increasingly anxious and fractious, with Ellah (the sleeper)'s boyfriend Jamie lapsing into cultish beliefs in the 'old gods', in which lullabies are chanted as prayers, worshipping sleep.
Written by Michael Symmons Roberts, an award-winning poet and experienced radio writer. His latest projects for Radio 4 include Crimes Of Mancunia, A Man In Pieces and the award-winning Soldiers In The Sun.
Music: Recorded with Welsh National Opera and chorus. Featuring Maxine Peake. Directed by Sue Roberts.
Sunday 16 June
Classic Serial: The Drowned World by JG Ballard
In a future where solar flares have wreaked havoc with the earth's atmosphere, Kerans is part of a scientific mission to survey the drowned cities of what was once the temperate zone before they are abandoned for good. The de-evolution that the ecological crisis has provoked seems to have affected the expedition's crew and Kerans, along with the enigmatic Beatrice, one of the reluctant refugees he is trying to help. They attempt to make sense of the disappearance of one the crew who seems to have succumbed to the lure of the emerging new water world. Kerans and Beatrice start to embrace the breakdown they see around them, until an encounter with the maverick scavenger Strangman and his piratical crew forces them to face what de-evolution may really mean as he drains the drowned city in search of the powers of civilization it may once have held.
Starring James Darcy as Kerans and Hattie Morahan as Beatrice. Directed by Peter Kavanagh.
Mon 17 June
Mark’s wife Donna has an accident in the street and ends up in a life-threatening coma. Mark comes home from hospital ready to tell his teenage step-daughter, Charlie, and finds Donna at home. Not Donna, in fact, but a replica Donna automatically provided through Donna’s medical insurance. The replica is almost perfect – loving, funny, sexy, and able to be so much more positive, all the time. And – who knows – perhaps real Donna will recover from her coma, and everything will soon be OK? Mark decides not to tell Charlie. He joins support groups which reveal how many replicas and replica-lovers there are all around him, down to the children he teaches. He finds his feelings for the replica disturbing, until he discovers he can reset it to be less like Donna. But when Charlie discovers how he’s lied to her, the whole family must decide which version of Donna they want to live with.
Written by Ed Harris and directed by Jonquil Panting, the winners of the 2013 Sony Gold Award for The Resistance Of Mrs Brown. Billions stars Blake Ritson as Mark and Raquel Cassidy as Donna.
Tues 18 June
Invasion is a story of a man – Kadian – who is locked in an isolation cell having been the carrier of an alien virus. He was the first man to set foot on Mars, but something infected him there. It soon becomes clear that the virus won’t allow him to die and he discovers that he’s been in his cell for much longer than he thought – about 200 years. Slowly he learns about how things have changed outside the walls of his cell. The world is now run along strict religious, fundamentalist lines, and science is abhorred, and Kadian – the freakish result of scientific exploration – is their version of the Devil. A claustrophobic two-hander, set entirely in Kadian’s cell.
Written by science-fiction writer Philip Palmer and starring Edward Hogg as Kadian and Amita Dhiri as Jenna. Directed by James Robinson.
Weds 19 June
Nick Perry's dystopic vision of London imagines the city divided in two. The Thames acts as a border separating the crime-free police state of North London from the lawless slum-land of the South.
North of the river is a virtual police state and the South is a lawless no-go area ruled by criminal gangs. When the body of a young boy washes up on the banks of the Thames, a police detective crosses the dangerous divide in the search for his killers and with a private mission of his own.
Written by Nick Perry, winner of the Bronze Sony Award for The Loop. London Bridge stars Justin Salinger as John Preston and Tim McMullan as Aubrey Ellis. Directed by Sasha Yevtushenko.
Thurs 20 June
Imagine a society without water that sacrifices its young in the hope of rain.
In a desperate bid for water, a city-state plagued by drought has instituted a system of so called ‘gifts’, a weekly lottery that leads to the sacrifice of its young men. But the ‘gifts’ aren’t working and when the man in charge of the system sees his son’s number called up his faith is sorely tested.
Written by Michael Butt and starring Nicholas Jones as Edmund. Directed by Sasha Yevtushenko.
Sunday 23 June
Concrete Island by JG Ballard
On his way home, one Friday rush hour, bullish architect Maitland crashes his Jaguar off a motorway junction outside London. At first he seems bound to be rescued, but watched by passers-by, his attempts fail and he finds himself increasingly helpless and trapped on a strange, neglected island between the highways. Discovering that the island already has its own, marginalized inhabitants, a disturbed young woman and her co-dependent, brutish male helper, this modern day Crusoe is forced to confront himself and his new companions to construct a world in which he can survive.
Concrete stars Andrew Scott as Maitland. Directed by Mary Peate.
Mon 15-21 June
15 Min Drama
The Testament Of Jessie Lamb (SR)
Jane Rogers dramatises her award-winning novel set in a future where an act of biological terrorism has spread a deadly virus across the world. Jane’s eighth novel offers a variation on one of the most chilling apocalyptic scenarios. In the near future, every woman in the world has been infected by some kind of airborne contaminant which causes maternal death syndrome (MDS). Anyone who becomes pregnant will automatically develop a form of CJD, which ultimately kills them. One girl, Jessie decides she can turn the tide and be a “Joan of Arc” figure, and make the ultimate sacrifice for mankind, but will her parents allow it?
Starring Holiday Grainger as Jessie. Directed by Nadia Molinari.
Face To Face with JG Ballard
Radio 4 Extra, Sunday 16 June
The Dangerous Visions season of dramas is accompanied by an audio version of the 1989 The Late Show, Face To Face interview with JG Ballard. Jeremy Isaacs talks to the science fiction novelist about his life and writing.
Lord Of The Flies
Radio 4 Extra, From Saturday 15 June for four weeks
Lord Of The Flies is a specially commissioned four-part adaptation of the William Golding classic, featuring Ruth Wilson as the Voice. Dramatised by Judith Adams.