RogerBW's Blog

Julian Simpson Radio Plays 26 February 2020

After having enjoyed the recent radio plays based on The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Whisperer in Darkness, I sought out earlier audio drama written and directed by Julian Simpson.

Fragments [2007] is the earliest of these works. Why did a girl murder her elderly neighbour? And particularly, why did this happen in the village of Pleasant Green, where everything is perfect?

The Listener [2008] plays with false memories, and an idea that's been borrowed for a recent action film. Some of it doesn't entirely hold together but it's still effective.

Bad Memories [2011] is a ghost story dealing with electronic voice phenomena; the ending is a little too pat but the getting there works well enough that I didn't mind.

I found Kokomo [2013] the weakest of these pieces, with a negotiator sent in to deal with the people who've set off a highly damaging computer virus. The resolution relies on far too many things to happen just so, in a way that couldn't reasonably be expected.

After I'd written the first draft of this, Radio 4's Dangerous Visions re-broadcast Blackout [2016] – a one-woman account of societal collapse following a loss of all computers, perhaps in the wake of something like the events of Kokomo. (Read by Simpson regular Nicola Walker.)

Mythos [2018] consists of three stories rooted in the power of folklore, with plenty of time-bending and a particularly callous Occult Secret Service that I shall probably steal for my games.

Fugue State [2018] gives us another reference to Pleasant Green though with different events, and some material referred to in the later Lovecraftian works; while none of these is intended to be in direct continuity with any of the other material, this comes pretty close. But it stands on its own.

Simpson's a fine writer and he's gathered a reliable cast who have learned the sort of thing he wants and can deliver it well. There are certainly recurrent themes, particularly about the untrustworthiness of reality or what's claimed to be reality, but they're well-handled and don't always come to the same resolution; what's more, these plays don't feel like a frustrated TV writer marking time, but like works written specifically for the audio medium. (Simpson also writes and directs television.)

I downloaded most of these from Simpson's web site, but they've since been removed. So if you're interested you probably shouldn't point a web browser at because that might be regarded as naughty. At least some of them are on the Internet Archive, though.

Tags: audio reviews

See also:
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
The Whisperer in Darkness

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