The Tenth Man
by Graham Greene

Dramatised for radio by Neville Teller

Directed by Marion Nancarrow

First broadcast 19th September 2004 - BBC Radio 4 and 2nd October 2004 - BBC World Service

The Cast
Nathaniel Parker Jean-Louis Chavel
Indira Varma Therese Mangeot
David Swift Carosse
Tom George Michel Mangeot/Scharfuhrer
Elizabeth Bell Madame Mangeot
Jon Glover Mayor of Bourge/Roche
Philip Fox …Trinchart/Jules/Priest
Gerard McDermott Voison
Sean Baker Pierre/SS Officer
Mark Elliott Lenotre

Review of Play
Commissioned to celebrate the centenary of his birth in 1904, this is a superb dramatization of Graham Greene's short story, with strong performances by all three principal actors. Some characters have been brought in and some left out, and the dialogue has been skilfully added to or moved around so that it all works very well. The ending is very slightly changed from the original but fitting nonetheless.

It's a gripping and ultimately tragic story to which menacing music, the barking of guard dogs and the sound of the firing-squad all add tension. In the first scene we're in a French/German prison camp in occupied France during WWII where 30 men, plucked from the streets at random, are being held hostage. In response to an attack on their forces, their German captors plan to execute every tenth man…..

In his introduction to the book, Graham Greene relates how he sold the story to MGM way back in 1944, where it then lay forgotten in their archives, by both them and him, for nearly 40 years until the rights were bought by an American publisher for "a large sum" - and all his royalties went, of course, to MGM…!

Review of Nat's Performance
Although I'd been absorbed by the play from beginning to end, I wanted to read the book for myself and, as the character of Jean-Louis Chavel began to emerge more fully, I was able to appreciate even better what an excellent job Nat had done with him. And what a pleasure it was to hear him, as narrator, adding to the drama by voicing Chavel's disquieted thoughts so effectively.

And although Nat underplays the role, he simply lifts Chavel off the page. He convinces you of his loneliness and feeling of isolation from his fellow captives, due to his elevated social standing as a fashionable lawyer and man of property. In spite of awkward attempts to integrate himself, he's an outsider. Then, during the drawing of lots to decide which three men will be shot, the tension builds until Chavel draws the final piece of marked paper, when Nat conveys so well his panic and hysteria as he barters for his life.

From the moment he's spared, his status inside the prison camp changes completely. And as he goes from respected man of position with money, land, property and possessions, to displaced and destitute, Nat communicates his despair and the enormous shame he carries from his act of cowardice that was to have such grievous consequences.

Even though Chavel eventually gains his freedom and a new identity, he's unable to find work in Paris and so instinctively returns to the war-ravaged property that had been his beloved home for 40 years - and his inheritance. Although the new tenants take him on as odd-job man, Nat is able to get across his isolation still, from the loss of self-respect and the fear of being recognised by former acquaintances - and therefore, the need to explain the shameful way in which he'd lost everything.

But then his tone lightens for a time, when Chavel's despair begins to turn to hope as he falls in love, only for this to be cruelly threatened and endangered. With Chavel's dramatic solution, and as he utters his final anguished words, Nat completely involves you in his desperation once more.

Some might question why, after the successes of his roles as Edward Gracey in The Haunted Mansion, and especially with the exposure of Inspector Lynley, Nat would 'need' to do a radio drama.. But this is precisely why Chavel was such a good role for him. Performing to a microphone, as Neville Teller talked about in our conversation, is what he excels at and obviously loves doing!

And thank goodness he obviously isn't complacent or so smug as to feel that radio drama is now beneath him. I'm just so pleased he decided to return to radio, and has had such wide exposure for it via the internet and the World Service - let's hope this is just the first of many more to come…!

 


 

For further reading on Neville Teller, please click here.

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