The Dark Tower by Louis MacNeice

I have just discovered that Louis MacNeice’s verse drama for the BBC is available on the BBC’s website – here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03kpwv9  The play is inspired by a few lines in Robert Browning’s poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.

Listening to it brings back happy memories of my teenage years and the Arts Centre I belonged to. It reminds me of Garibaldi biscuits and tea drunk out of chipped mugs. It reminds me of  sitting on sagging armchairs in the EOS room arguing about poetry and life. But we didn’t just talk and argue, we also performed. And we performed this play – not as a theatrical production but as a play for voices. It is hard to see how the subject matter could be performed for anything else but the radio. The play is play of the imagination and where better for Roland to journey to the Dark Tower than through the dark shadows of our minds? The actors’ accents may sound a bit dated, but this is an extraordinary poetic play.There certainly was a golden age in postwar British radio, when the BBC embraced experiment and welcomed poets, using composers like Benjamin Britten to provide the music and world-class actors, such as Richard Burton, to do the poets justice. What has become of that patronage? Maybe the internet will come to the rescue. Maybe the future of ebooks will include performance. Let us hope so.

As I have said in a previous post we also performed at the Young Arts Centre verse plays by Dylan Thomas (Under Milk Wood), Lorca (Blood Wedding) and Christopher Fry (Boy with a Cart and The Firstborn), to say nothing of verse plays by Euripides and Shakespeare. What a grounding! Is it any wonder that I have written two verse plays or poems for voices?

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