audiobook-logo-blue.jpg The List
by
Nick Stafford


Directed by Celia de Wolff

First broadcast 8th May 1995 - BBC Radio 4

Cast
Nathaniel Parker (Arthur)
Gillian Barge (Vera)
Colin McFarlane (Norman)
Charles Simpson (Ernest)
Emma Gregory (Pat)
Becky Hindley (Eva)
Hugh Kermode (Denys)
David Collings (Mr Betts)
Frances Jeater (Mrs Hammond)
Eva Stuart (Mrs Budge)
Joshua Towb (Navigator)
Tessa Worsley (Pat the elder)
Adjoa Andoh (Supervisor)

Part One: 'Re-union'

Review of Play
It's VE Day, 8th May 1945 and Vera Machin is determined to gather her family to celebrate the end of the war in Europe.

The whereabouts of her youngest son, Arthur, remain uncertain as he's been held captive in a POW camp for the last five years. Arthur though, is on his way home and much to the delight of his mother, makes an appearance in time for the celebration meal.

Around the table and with the alcohol flowing, each member of the family airs and expresses their different opinions and introspections. Looking to the future, Vera decides to make a list of what they each hope for now there is peace; they can list one serious thing, one not so serious and one thing they'd like to lose.

Review of Nat's Performance
Although Nat clearly has a key role in the play, it doesn't revolve around him. We get some hint of Arthur's character as he's finding his way home and needs to talk about what he has seen. As he sits down with his family once more, he at first appears to be the comedian of the family, laughing and poking fun (Nat does a very convincing Churchill impression) at every opportunity. But then the discussion arrives at the causes and the consequences of the war - and it's Arthur's turn to add to the list.

Although the play is set in the East Midlands, Nat uses what appeared to me to be a flat, Yorkshire accent (although I believe the two are often confused), as he expresses Arthur's desire that "all the ingenuity that has gone into fighting the war should go into making the world better for ordinary people," and he begins to describe what he has seen….

When their German guards disappeared, he found a motorbike and rode to Nuremburg "to see if the spirit was still there". From there he made his way to Nordhausen and saw a factory used for making rockets and fighter jets. Nat is able to convey so well Arthur's emotions as he observed the slave labour dying from starvation and disease.

As he speaks about what he saw next at Buchenwald, Arthur becomes very distressed. Nat sobs and sobs as the rest of the family discretely leave the room and, as Arthur is comforted by his mother, we're left in no doubt that he is haunted by what he's experienced.

Part 2: 'Commemoration'

Review of Play
We've come once again to 5th May but fifty years on, as Vera tells the story of how she came to be in a care home, estranged from her family. Soon after that VE Night celebration meal, Norman, her Jamaican lodger with whom she'd fallen in love, had fled the country after being sought by the police, and she was never to see him again.

Discovering she was pregnant she arranged for her own abortion and just drifted for many years. Having hidden her true identity for the last 50 years, the only contact she's had with her children is an occasional letter through two poste restante addresses that she had set up.

She is befriended by newcomer Rose and, relaxing in her companionship, Vera takes out The List and begins recalling what each of those present that VE Night had wished for.

With a sudden need to see Arthur after all these years, she telephones him and arranges to meet up in the back room of the Rose and Crown, the venue for that last family meal. Knowing Arthur was once "obsessed with the Nazis and their doings", she reminds him of his contribution to The List.

Review of Nat's Performance
Nat makes Arthur sound very like an old man now - his voice is deeper and he's slower of speech and thought. It's clear he's haunted still by what he saw all those years ago. Looking for "an explanation of Buchenwald", he has done a lot of research and thinking. He relates a distressing experience he had while looking at an exhibition of Belsen at the Imperial War Museum in London. A party of teenage schoolchildren, unrestrained by their teachers, had arrived and Arthur was appalled by their grossly disrespectful comments and insensitive jokes.

The play ends with Nat expressing Arthur's depression that lessons have not been learned from "the path to Buchenwald", and that the prejudices held by the Nazis, but not originating with them, are still very much in evidence…

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