[Christopher Fry: BBC Schools talk on 'A Sleep of Prisoners', with reading.] Copy of typescript of BBC Home Service (Schools) talk and reading headed 'Religion and Philosophy | 9. A Play for a Church | by | Christopher Fry'.

Christopher Fry (1907-2005), playwright, with Auden and Eliot a leading exponent of twentieth-century verse drama [BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation], Bush House, London]
Publication details: 
TRANSMISSION: BBC HOME SERVICE (SCHOOLS) [Bush House, London] | Monday 29th June 1953: 9.40 - 10.00 a.m.
SKU: 22906

Contemporary duplicated typescript, from the Christopher Fry papers. 14pp, 8vo. Each page on a separate leaf. In fair condition, lightly aged. Fry's introductory talk is present in its entirety on pp.1-5, this is followed by an unpaginated page, then pp.8-15 with p.[10] also unpaginated. Hence p.6 or p.7, beginning the extracts from the play, would appear to be absent. On the front page, between the heading and transmission details is: 'Rehearsal: Thursday 4th June 1953: 10.00 onwards | Recording: Thursday 4th June 1953: 12.15 - 1.00 p.m. 3A | Recording of Insert: [BLANK]'. Fry's talk - apparently unpublished, astute and all the more revealing because addressed to a younger audience - is preceded by 'ANNOUNCER: This is the BBC Home Service for Schools. Religion and Philosophy. Today Christopher Fry speaks about his play A Sleep of Prisoners. Mr. Fry.' Fry begins his talk: 'It's interesting - at least, it's interesting to me - what apparently accidental things go to the making of a play. I always begin by feeling it's very improbable that I shall ever write anything. My mind is a vacuum: and then nature, abhorring, they tell me, a vacuum, starts to fill it up: very slowly, usually; one little thing at a time; memories I had forgotten I possessed: a chance remark from somebody: all sorts of quite trivial things in my life gather together, fal into line as though they had always meant to, and gradually something which might be said to resemble a play shapes itself in my head. Which shows, perhaps, that nothing that ever happens to you is unimportant.' He proceeds to describe the 'things' that happened to allow him to publish 'A Sleep of Prisoners', with reference to: the 1951 Festival of Britain; Michael MacOwan; Oliver Cromwell; Fry's move during the war to a cottage in Oxfordshire. He describes his sudden suggestion to 'Mr. MacOwen': 'I should like the action of the play to be the dreams of the prisoners. Each man would dream in turn, and would dream of himself and the other men. Naturally each man's opinion of himself and of the others would be different: no two people have exactly the same opinion of you or of me; and so in this way, if we had four prisoners, each actor would have four versions of himself to act, each character would be seen from four different points of view. Tea-time came to an end, Mr. MacOwen had to leave, and that was as far as we had got.' He describes how, a few weeks later, on a single day he developed 'the whole story of the play'. He gives his assessments of the four characters, and describes the a section of the plot, before announcing in the final paragraph: 'The actors are going to play part of this dream for you. The character of Absolom, remember, is David's dream picture of Peter, Peter with all his infuriating qualities uppermost.' He continues his explanation, at one point stating: 'I have tried in this dream to mix the waking and sleeping world together. [...] So to us, the audience, Meadows is awake, and to David he is a figure in a dream. Now let us go into the dream. Absalom has been mocking his father from down in the shadows and now David begins to speak.' The nine-page reading from 'the dream' follows, and by reference to Fry's introduction together with the text of the whole poem it should be possible to establish what, if any, part is lacking.