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Beast by Nick Warburton

This was one of those lucky radio listens.  Working late one night I had no access to either my ipod or iphone (shock horror) or my iTunes (shock horror probe) so I was forced to browse BBC7 listen again.  Happily I chose Beast and managed to get no work done for the next 40 minutes…
As usual the BBC gave scant details on the website, not even mentioning the great track record of Nick Warbuton or the fact this play was a winner at the 2006 Tinniswood awards, so I went into this with no expectations.

The play (with it’s roots in a folk story) is set in a village in the year?  Well to be honest I thought it was set in the present day, only when the hint of dungeons and torture emerged did I realise it was set a few hundred years ago, or set in Guantanamo Bay (thank you, my name is Ben Elton and goood night).

Forget my cheap dig, this is not 24 set in a fishing village, this is a highly effective and unusual radio play.  The words, the players, the motivations, the setting and even the beast are nebulous.  Enough is sketched in that we now what we are hearing, but you feel you are missing something, something that is merely hinted at, something fearful all around.  You do have empathy and understanding for the characters, but in the same way you fell for someone struggling against the wind and rain when viewed through a streaked and misty window.

The beast is a catalyst for change in the village. Not by its actions but by it’s mere presence.  Conflicts arise, loyalty, freedom, responsibility and guilt, the all mix together for a tautness that begins to infect everyone.  At the center is James Fleets’ Cley, a quiet, loyal and sympathetic man, who by his very character causes so many of the problems and, eventually, solutions.

It is difficult to discuss or comment more as everything is so abstracted I feel there is something different for everyone to take from this excellent play.  I think particular credit must go to the production team who avoided making to much of the drama and simply letting it play. The result is quite hypnotic. Anyone with half an interest in radio plays should give it a listen.


BBC Iplayer

Tinniswood Awards 2006


  1. Hicksion wrote:

    This was a definitive form of radio drama for me.. it gave space to allow consideration of what the ‘beast’ was.. it’s not in any point the main element of the story – yet allowed the story to build around it. It was something I stumbled across, and became totally engrossed in.
    The story is a great example of what radio drama can be.. vague, yet engaging. The ‘beast’ could be anything.. but the peoples reaction is everything.

    Saturday, February 14, 2009 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  2. Thomas wrote:

    Just finished listening to Beast and came across your blog while trying to find an explanation for the story. It was fascinating!

    Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

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