Description: Alan Bennett’s idiosyncratic take on the Hamlet story adapted for radio. Seen largely through the beady eyes of a 15 year old schoolgirl, this is Bennett in black comedy mode.
The play is set in a leafy south London suburb, in the year of an election. Gwen’s husband, Frank, lies ill in bed upstairs while downstairs Harriet, her daughter, is struggling with an essay on “Shakespeare’s view of the family”. In the aftermath of Frank’s death we slowly realise we are being drawn into a strangely familiar story – a suburban Hamlet. In different guises here come Claudius, Gertrude, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Polonius and Ophelia. Even the players play their part.
Denmark Hill was originally written as an uncommissioned TV/film screenplay in 1981/2. For whatever reasons, Bennett can’t remember, he kept it in a drawer until it went with all his papers to the Bodleian library for archival storage. Honor Borwick urged Tristram Powell, with Bennett’s permission, to search the archives. At last Powell unearthed the hand typed script.
Denmark Hill is Bennett’s own kind of observational comedy, the Hamlet connections are never heavy, just lightly touched on. It is narrated by Alan Bennett, directed by Tristram Powell, adapted for radio by Honor Borwick and produced by Marilyn Imrie.
Produced by Marilyn Imrie
A Catherine Bailey Production for BBC Radio 4