The Radio Plays of Caryl Phillips

Caryl Phillips’ first radio play ‘The Wasted Years’, broadcast by BBC Radio 4 12 March 1984 won a Giles Cooper Award for that year and the full script was published by Methuen in 1985.

It is one of the most brilliant and significant radio plays written by a British Black writer.

It would be the first of nine radio plays he has written and had produced by the BBC. They are now being curated for future book publication.

His radio drama work has received strong academic recognition with three articles in recent years:

An Archival Exploration of Radio Dramatic Hinterlands: Caryl Phillips’s Hotel Cristobel by Bénédicte Ledent in Journal of West Indian Literature, 2021, Radio drama and its avatars in the work of Caryl Phillips by Bénédicte Ledent in the Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Volume 54, 2018 – Issue 1, and Silences that Ride the Air: Soundscaping Slavery in Caryl Phillips’s Crossing the River by Carla Tempestoso in Linguæ & – Rivista di lingue e culture moderne Vol 19, No 1 (2020).

His audio drama writing is intensely political, cultural and influential in representing the perceptions and perspectives of a Black Atlantic background, being brought up and educated in Britain, and becoming one of the most respected and celebrated contemporary novelists writing in English.

Ledent says Caryl Phillips’ radio plays ‘constitute a compelling body of work that can be read not only in relation to his fiction—which they might be said to complement thematically—but also in their own right, as texts whose generally compact format provides a powerful treatment of Phillips’s favourite themes, such as history, migration, (un)belonging and identity.’

Current Learning on Screen resources for Caryl Phillips’ radio plays and other broadcast programmes which are available if your university or college has a subscription.

Drama: Somewhere in England

Somewhere in England

Saturday, 24 Mar 2018, 21:00 60 mins

BBC Radio 4

Synopsis

Caryl Phillips dramatises his own novel Crossing the River, a story of love and race set in Yorkshire during the Second World War. With Helen Longworth, Rhashan Stone, David Seddon. Directed by Gaynor Macfarlane

Audio Citation

Drama: Somewhere in England, Somewhere in England, 21:00 24/03/2018, BBC Radio 4, 60 mins

Afternoon Play: Dinner in the Village

Tuesday, 4 Oct 2011, 14:15 45 mins

BBC Radio 4

Synopsis

By Caryl Phillips. Set in 1940s New York, Phillips explores how Trinidadian author CLR James and African American novelist Richard Wright, both with white wives, fight public hostility and inner demons. With Neil Dawson, Andre Blake, Jennifer Van Dyck, Lauren McCord

Audio Citation

Afternoon Play: Dinner in the Village, 14:15 04/10/2011, BBC Radio 4, 45 mins.

Chinua Achebe: Profile

Chinua Achebe

Tuesday, 4 Mar 2003, 19:30 30 mins

BBC4 Television

Synopsis

Author Caryl Phillips interviews Chinua Achebe, the father of African literature whose writings have inspired millions. Achebe discusses his book Home and Exile, a contemplation of the power of stories to change the world

Genre Documentary

Digital Television Citation

Chinua Achebe: Profile, Chinua Achebe, 19:30 04/03/2003, BBC4, 30 mins.

Drama on 3

Sunday, 30 Mar 2008, 20:00 90 mins

BBC Radio 3

Synopsis

A Long Way from Home, by Caryl Phillips: This original drama imagines the conflicting forces in the iconic singer Marvin Gaye’s life, including family, stardom, love, sex and drugs. The story focuses on his final years, when he was offered a lifeline in the unlikely setting of Ostend in Belgium, where he composed the song Sexual Healing before he returned America and was murdered by his own father. With O-T Fagbenle, Kerry Shale, Alibe Parson, Rhea Bailey, Rachel Atkins, Damian Lynch, Ben Onwukwe and Major Wiley. Directed by Ned Chaillet

Audio Citation

Drama on 3, 20:00 30/03/2008, BBC Radio 3, 90 mins.

James Baldwin 90th Anniversary: No Complaints

Sunday, 3 Aug 2014, 04:00 105 mins

BBC 7

Synopsis

Made for 4 Extra. Writer Caryl Phillips introduces his 1984 interview with American novelist James Baldwin and his own 2004 play, A Kind of Home.

Audio Citation

James Baldwin 90th Anniversary: No Complaints, 04:00 03/08/2014, BBC 7, 105 mins.

Caryl Phillips – The Wasted Years

Sunday, 27 Aug 2017, 20:30 90 mins

BBC Radio 4 Extra

Synopsis

4 Extra Debut. Solly is bright, 16 and black. As leaving school approaches, what does his future hold? Stars Rudolph Walker. From March 1984.

Audio Citation

Caryl Phillips – The Wasted Years, 20:30 27/08/2017, BBC Radio 4 Extra, 90 mins.

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