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french frank
27-08-11, 20:26
Drama on 3 returns on Sunday 4 September, 8.45pm with a repeat of Louis Nowra's The Light of Darkness.

"When Leslie Davis suddenly takes up a diplomatic posting in Harput, a remote province of Turkey, he is determined to find commercial opportunities for America. Instead, soon after his arrival, Turkey enters World War One on Germany's side. Davis finds himself playing poker to save the lives of his young secretary, his interpreter and many other Armenians. Later he wrote up the account of his Harput experience in a book called Slaughterhouse Province.

"Louis Nowra is a playwright who has researched Davis's life and work and the history of Harput. He is based in Australia and was drawn to this story by way of his admiration for the music of the Armenian composer Komitas, which features in the play."

(Last broadcast Sun 1 Aug 2010)

aeolium
09-09-11, 10:15
I didn't hear this when it was broadcast last year, so decided to catch up with it this time. For me, it was one of those historical dramas where the main interest is in the history and not the drama - despite, or perhaps because of, the weightiness of the subject matter it did not really take off or have much dramatic tension. It was based on the real life experiences and observations of an American consul in a Turkish province just before and during the Armenian genocide in 1915-17. The primary source for the play can be found here (http://www.gomidas.org/gida/index_and_%20documents/867.4016_index_and_documents/docs/4016.392.pdf) if anyone wants to look through it. There were some decent performances, especially from Jack Klaff as the sinister provincial governor, Sabit Bey, but all too often the dialogue did not match up to the horrific nature of the actual events, and the listener's expectations were never seriously challenged as to what was to come next (and often, what was to be said next).

It's very hard, perhaps impossible, at the distance of nearly a century for a dramatist to convey anything of the terror and brutality of that history. If the play had one merit, it was to awaken interest in a subject which has been wrongly consigned to almost a footnote to the history of the first world war. Shamefully, the fact of the genocide has never been officially recognised by the UK government, though a number of countries including prominent European ones have recognised it. It's to be hoped that, in the three and a half years leading up to the centenary of the start of the genocide, pressure will be put on this UK government to correct that situation.

french frank
09-09-11, 15:37
If the play had one merit, it was to awaken interest in a subject which has been wrongly consigned to almost a footnote to the history of the first world war. Shamefully, the fact of the genocide has never been officially recognised by the UK government, though a number of countries including prominent European ones have recognised it. And, of course, as we have said not infrequently, a feature programme could have done that equally well - if not better (better, in the sense that that would be what the feature was intended to do, whereas a play does arouse expectations of good dramatic writing and is at least a partial failure if the drama doesn't satisfy).

Al R Gando
09-09-11, 16:11
And, of course, as we have said not infrequently, a feature programme could have done that equally well - if not better (better, in the sense that that would be what the feature was intended to do, whereas a play does arouse expectations of good dramatic writing and is at least a partial failure if the drama doesn't satisfy).

Perhaps a double-pronged approach would be best of all. There are doubtless many who would tune-out to a documentary presentation about the genocide. Nor do I fear there is great support at the BBC for presenting the truth on the matter - Auntie cheerled for the "coalition" quite unequivocally in Iraq, when Turkey's support greatly suited Britain. The BBC closed its eyes when Turkey launched cross-border strikes at Iraqi Kurds (the very people whom the Coalition claimed to be defending, ehem). The USA has been shouting for a long time about the EU granting expedited membership to Turkey... and the Beeb is always keen to underscore The Truth From The Oval Office. Armenia, by contrast, has no powerful allies to fight its corner, while Turkey mobilises a thunderous PR machine to sweep its persecution of Armenians and Kurds under the carpet.

aeolium
09-09-11, 16:57
There are doubtless many who would tune-out to a documentary presentation about the genocide. Nor do I fear there is great support at the BBC for presenting the truth on the matter

I don't buy the idea of the BBC suppressing items on the Armenian genocide - if that were the case they could easily have shelved this play, which did not hold back on placing the responsibility for the slaughter firmly on the Turkish authorities. I suspect they feel it is a somewhat obscure subject for a documentary feature (which would normally be on R4) whereas that is not a problem for historical dramas on Do3. I agree with ff that a documentary would have covered the material better, and I would be surprised if there were not one in the centenary year 2015. As for many 'tuning out' to a documentary on the genocide, how many do you think tuned in to this play about it?

PS Have just noticed that there was a BBC TV documentary on the genocide in 2003, entitled 'The Betrayed' and presented by Fergal Keane.

Al R Gando
09-09-11, 17:48
I don't buy the idea of the BBC suppressing items on the Armenian genocide - if that were the case they could easily have shelved this play, which did not hold back on placing the responsibility for the slaughter firmly on the Turkish authorities.

As for many 'tuning out' to a documentary on the genocide, how many do you think tuned in to this play about it?

You seem to have answered your own question there ;) I doubt that this play registered even a blip in Ankara. Whereas a documentary (inevitably on another network, such R4 with a broader listener base) would have been harder to hide away in the scheds.


PS Have just noticed that there was a BBC TV documentary on the genocide in 2003, entitled 'The Betrayed' and presented by Fergal Keane.

The Iraq War only began in 2003. Probably the documentary was made the previous year (due to weather conditions in winter) and had already been scheduled for screening - no-one had really realised then how much Downing Street would pander to Turkish interests to obtain supply-lines, airfields, military and hospital backup etc.

french frank
09-09-11, 19:21
The Iraq War only began in 2003. Probably the documentary was made the previous year (due to weather conditions in winter) and had already been scheduled for screening - no-one had really realised then how much Downing Street would pander to Turkish interests to obtain supply-lines, airfields, military and hospital backup etc.On the other hand, they can't keep on producing documentaries about the genocide. There are other things going on in the world!

Al R Gando
09-09-11, 19:31
On the other hand, they can't keep on producing documentaries about the genocide. There are other things going on in the world!

Fair enough, although one report since Feargal Keene's 2003 program wouldn't really be "keeping on producing documentaries"... in my book, anyhow ;)

aeolium
09-09-11, 20:51
I doubt that this play registered even a blip in Ankara. Whereas a documentary (inevitably on another network, such R4 with a broader listener base) would have been harder to hide away in the scheds.

I don't think a play on R3, or indeed a documentary on R4, will register much in Ankara and that is not a primary concern of the BBC when scheduling its radio transmissions. The fact is that the BBC did produce a TV documentary on the genocide and I don't believe a conspiracy theory that the BBC have got cold feet simply because of the Iraq war, as if they are merely a propaganda tool of the government. For one thing, Turkey was a strategic ally well before the 2nd Iraq war and any concerns about possible offence to the Turkish government would equally have applied in early 2003.

Anyway, for me, the test will be in 2015. If your view of the BBC is right, then there will be no significant feature on the genocide in that year. As ff says, in the interim there will be plenty of other stuff going on.

Al R Gando
09-09-11, 20:59
If your view of the BBC is right, then there will be no significant feature on the genocide in that year. As ff says, in the interim there will be plenty of other stuff going on.

The BBC is no longer an unbiased player in the New Great Game - it sets the agenda in Information Wars, rather than reporting it. By 2015 I expect the BBC will have partnered with NATO in an official sense, and will be working in tandem as a War Partner. By then we'll be deeply enmeshed in the Iran War, of course.

aeolium
09-09-11, 21:30
The BBC is no longer an unbiased player in the New Great Game - it sets the agenda in Information Wars, rather than reporting it. By 2015 I expect the BBC will have partnered with NATO in an official sense, and will be working in tandem as a War Partner. By then we'll be deeply enmeshed in the Iran War, of course.

Then you and I have utterly different views about the nature of the BBC.

Did anyone else listen to this play and have any views about it?

french frank
09-09-11, 21:31
The BBC is no longer an unbiased player in the New Great Game - it sets the agenda in Information Wars, rather than reporting it. By 2015 I expect the BBC will have partnered with NATO in an official sense, and will be working in tandem as a War Partner. By then we'll be deeply enmeshed in the Iran War, of course.Codswallop - am I allowed to say that?

This is the Arts and Ideas board, and a thread on drama: can we not turn it into another wrangle about the warmongering West, please? I'm sure there are other forums where like-minded people meet to say how terrible Britain and the USA are.

Al R Gando
09-09-11, 21:53
Codswallop - am I allowed to say that?

You are indeed allowed! As long as I am allowed to disagree! ;)

Over the past decade since the "sexed-up WMD" nonsense the reinvented BBC has moved from moral conscience to complicit apologist. And it's made lots of dosh doing so. Today's BBC is NATO's mouthpiece.

You really cannot expect to discuss a play about atrocities committed by one nation upon another, without a discussion of those issues and how they are presented in the media. Nor do I think the playwright would want those issues to go undiscussed.

aeolium
09-09-11, 21:59
You really cannot expect to discuss a play about atrocities committed by one nation upon another, without a discussion of those issues and how they are presented in the media. Nor do I think the playwright would want those issues to go undiscussed.

Did you listen to the play? You don't seem to be commenting on it at all, only about how the BBC is NATO's mouthpiece and similar nonsense. If you think that, why are you even posting on a forum devoted to the discussion of one part of the BBC's output?

Al R Gando
09-09-11, 22:10
Did you listen to the play?

Ever been to Armenia?

aeolium
09-09-11, 22:14
Ever been to Armenia?

What relevance is that? This is a thread about the play broadcast on R3 last Sunday. If you didn't listen to it, then I suggest you don't have anything to contribute to the discussion.

french frank
09-09-11, 22:45
Wish the Listen Again was working :sadface:

tony yyy
09-09-11, 22:56
I think I was the only person who listened to it the first time it was on. Here (http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbradio3/F7497570?thread=7673671)'s the meagre discussion. I agree that it might have been better as the subject of a documentary but, as far as I remember, and knowing little about the subject, I still found it an interesting drama.

Al R Gando
09-09-11, 23:16
What relevance is that? This is a thread about the play broadcast on R3 last Sunday. If you didn't listen to it, then I suggest you don't have anything to contribute to the discussion.

Temper-temper. No-one has anything to contribute - except YOU, of course??

You didn't answer my question. Been to Armenia much? Know or work with any Armenians?

french frank
09-09-11, 23:43
Please stop disrupting the discussion, ARG. It's about a play and its dramatic qualities, not about the historical facts.

french frank
10-09-11, 00:44
I think I was the only person who listened to it the first time it was on. Here (http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbradio3/F7497570?thread=7673671)'s the meagre discussion. I agree that it might have been better as the subject of a documentary but, as far as I remember, and knowing little about the subject, I still found it an interesting drama.It was interesting in terms of the subject matter but I thought it didn't really make it as a drama. The subject seemed too big for a 90-minute play. Perhaps it would have been more successful as a film (if they could find a way to present the horror of it visually - in that, radio has something of an advantage).

In fact, paradoxically, although the subject seemed big in dramatic terms the plot was a little weak and could hardly do justice to the story it had to tell. For me, that affected the performances too, with Jack Klaff the only one who really measured up. I suppose I would say the cast did what they could with their parts but the play lacked complexity and subtlety.

Russ
10-09-11, 03:27
My thoughts about the play's qualities as a drama align with aeolium's (#2). Louis Nowra's approach to the unfolding brutal events is to filter them through a mental contest between his two principal characters (the Consul and the Governor), who end up engaging in a regular game of poker whose stakes ultimately become the lives of the refugees. There is little plot. There is little 'drama' - those events that could have been made dramatic are dealt with by exposition - it's as though the playwright has deliberately chosen a lowkey approach to allow the history centre stage. I didn't find this approach particularly successful, although I enjoyed listening to it again.

Russ