OUR MUTUAL FRIEND by Charles Dickens.
Dramatised for radio in ten hour-long episodes by Betty Davis. Directed by Jane Morgan.
Our Mutual Friend (written in the years 1864-65) was the last novel Charles Dickens completed and is, arguably, his darkest and most complex. The basic plot is vintage Dickens: an inheritance up for grabs, a murder, a rocky romance or two, plenty of skullduggery, and a host of unforgettable secondary characters. But in this final outing the author's heroes are more flawed, his villains more sympathetic, and the story as a whole more harrowing and less sentimental.
The mood is set in the opening scene in which a riverman, Gaffer Hexam, and his daughter Lizzie troll the Thames searching for drowned men whose pockets Gaffer will rifle before turning the body over to the authorities. On this particular night Gaffer finds a corpse that is later identified as that of John Harmon, who was returning from abroad to claim a large fortune when he was apparently murdered and thrown into the river.
Harmon's death is the catalyst for everything else that happens in the novel. It seems the fortune was left to the young man on the condition that he marry a girl he'd never met, Bella Wilfer. His death, however, brings a new heir onto the scene, Nicodemus Boffin, the kind-hearted but low-born assistant to Harmon's father. Boffin and his wife adopt young Bella, who is determined to marry money, and also hire a mysterious young secretary, John Rokesmith, who takes an uncommon interest in their ward.
Not content with just one plot, Dickens throws in a secondary love story featuring the riverman's daughter, Lizzie Hexam; a dissolute young upper-class lawyer, Eugene Wrayburn; and his rival, the headmaster Bradley Headstone. Dark as the novel is, Dickens is careful to leaven it with secondary characters who are as funny as they are menacing--blackmailing Silas Wegg and his accomplice Mr. Venus, the avaricious Lammles, and self-centered Charlie Hexam. Our Mutual Friend is one of Dickens's most satisfying novels, and a fitting denouement to his prolific career.
Michael Kitchen ... John Rokesmith
Simon Cadell ... Narrator
Janet Maw ... Lizzie Hexam
Pippa Guard ... Bella
Michael Cochrane ... Eugene Wrayburn
Michael Graham Cox ... Mr Boffin
Megs Jenkins ... Mrs Boffin
Robert Lang ... Rogue Riderhood
Carole Boyd ... Pleasant Riderhood
Jon Strickland ... Venus
Timothy Bateson ... Mr Twemlow
Douglas Livingstone ... Silas Wegg
Angela Pleasance ... Miss Jenny Wren
Tom Wilkinson ... Bradley Headstone
Brett Usher ... Alfred Lammle
Maggie McCarthy ... Sophronia Lammle
Hugh Dickson ... R.W. Wilfer
Bill Nighy ... Mr Fledgeby
Cyril Shaps ... Mr Riah
Henry Stamper ... Gaffer Hexam
Narissa Knights ... Mrs Podsnap
Cecile Chevrau ... Georgiana Podsnap
Michael Jenner ... Charley Hexam
Geoffrey Collins ... Mr Veneering
Jane Wenham ... Mrs Veneering
Jack May ... Mr Podsnap
Steve Hodson ... Mortimer Lightwood
Stephen Thorne ... Mr Inspector
Avril Elgar ... Mrs Wilfer
Moir Leslie ... Lavinia Wilfer
Margot Boyd ... Miss Abbery Potterson
William Hope ... Rev. Frank Milvey
Penelope Freeman ... Mrs Milvey
Pauline Letts ... Betty Higden
Daniel Thomason ... Johnny Higden
Peter Acre ... Sloppy
Theresa Streatfield ... Miss Peecher
Helen Atkinson Wood ... Mary-Anne
Michael Lumsden ... George Radfoot
David Sinclair ... Mr Dolls
Mark Straker ... George Sampson
Colin Starkey ... Coachman
Pianist: Mary Nash
First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1984.
My recordings from BBC7 at 128kbps ABR joint-stereo LAME mp3.
Please seed when you are done,