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An elderly lady prepares to spend Christmas with her nephew and his family.
Cast: Louise Wadsworth (Polly), Rebecca Speller (Meg), Rob Beale (Jeremy)
Writer: Thomas Oléron Evans
Editors: Tomas Stephens, Thomas Oléron Evans
Casting Supervisor: Zefi Hennessy-Holland
Commissioning Editor: Tom Riste-Smith
First Broadcast: 12/12/2012, Rare FM (UCL Student Radio)
This was the second piece that I wrote for the UCLU Radio Drama project (a student radio project) in 2012. Included below is a short accompanying text, written to form part of a competition entry, which should give some idea of what I was aiming for.
In retrospect, although there are aspects of the piece that I am happy with, I don’t think that I fully achieved what I wanted to with this script. If I were writing it now, I would probably do it quite differently, and I would certainly take more time over the writing process. However, at the time, I had to finish it fairly quickly if I was actually going to get it made, so there wouldn’t have been time for a lot of rewrites in any case.
Again, I would recommend listening to the play before reading the text below.
This play arose from a concern that there is a serious problem with the way that old people are treated in the UK. As society has changed to become more focused on independence and individuality, the old seem to have become increasingly marginalised, seen as a burden to be packed away into residential homes rather than cared for within the family.
While this issue was one of the motivations for writing ‘Christmas Presents’, I was anxious to avoid portraying Polly, the central character, as a stereotypical nice-little-old-lady. Rather, I wanted to present a flawed individual, who, while deserving of sympathy for the desperately sad situation in which she finds herself, can also be difficult and cruel, driven to bitterness by her regrets and disappointments.
These ideas developed into the concept of a character having a conversation with herself and the character of Meg, the young nurse, was conceived as a representation of Polly as she may have been in her youth. Polly became trapped in a career that she did not find rewarding, lacking the courage to pursue her true interests, and she now sees Meg starting along the same path. Each character sees their own failure or fear of failure in the other, leading them to mutual hatred, unable to bear this glimpse of their own shortcomings.
The Christmas presents of the title, a pack of cards and an advert cut from a newspaper, are exchanged accidentally and resentfully. Each object represents its owner’s impossible dreams. While it is clearly too late for Polly to become a magician, Meg could yet get her diploma. However, as soon as Polly finds out about this dream, she spitefully crushes it, unwilling to allow the younger woman the fulfillment that she herself never attained. For her part, Meg is unable to defend her ambition, which in its discovery has been irrevocably tainted.
I was extremely lucky to find three great actors to portray the characters in this play and I am grateful to them for bringing Polly, Meg and Jeremy to life. I am also grateful to those others who provided invaluable help with casting, recording and editing. Any positive aspects of the piece would not have been possible without the huge contribution of every person credited on the recording.
Thomas Oléron Evans, 2014