I’ve spent the last few months immersed in stories of war. Some of them are well known wars – I read a long account of the SAS in the Second World War, and a number of accounts of the British war in Malaya. Some of them are secret wars – like the 20 year war between the West and Iran, a story replete with assassinations and bombings and spies. (Recent news stories include the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists by We Know Not Who, as a method of discouraging the Iranians from developing their own nuclear bomb.)
I’ve read about the Kurds and their peshmerga Army. I’ve read about the war in Afghanistan and the platoon house strategy, in which British platoons set up camp in small Afghan villages and towns and effectively taunted the enemy to attack – which they did, wrecking the towns and creating a massive refugee crisis. I’ve been to the Defence Academy – where soldiers study war in classrooms – and I’ve stood inside in a tank! I’ve even had a go at a military fighter pilot simulator, with catastrophic results (I crashed in minutes – you really DO not want me in your army.)
All of this is the research for one of the biggest projects I’ve ever been involved in – a 3 part radio drama about military war games. My inspiration for this project was The West Wing, in which characters sit in a room and talk about exciting events happening several continents away – and it’s rivetting. I also wrote a radio drama with a similar oblique approach a few years ago called Breaking Point, about military interrogation – aka torture of the kind that’s practised in Guantanamo Bay – starring the wonderful Eliot Cowan. There my premise was that the main character was being TRAINED in how to torture, rather than being a torturer; a framing device that works especially well in radio, where you have to use words to create images, not images themselves.
The series records on Sunday for 6 days, and will be broadcast once a week for three weeks later in the year.
After writing SF for the last few years, this has been, on the one hand, a change of gear; and on the other hand, more of the same. Because in writing about wargames I am in effect writing about future wars; extrapolating global conflicts some if not all of which might lead us into World War III. And once you start researching what terrible things might happen, it becomes truly chilling; the world is a very dangerous place.
The lead character of Bradley Shoreham is to be played by a superb actor called Tim Woodward, (whose father was Edward Woodward) and who I first saw as one of the stars in the TV series Wings, about the RAF. Episode 2 features several exciting new talents – Warren Brown, who is apparently a former Thai boxing champion (!) and was in the fabulous Iraq drama Occupation, and Ifan Meredith, who’s also played a soldier before in the TV drama Warriors, and is an exhilarating Welsh actor who plays the leader of an SAS team in my piece.
And episode 3 features one of my favourite actors ever – Bill Paterson, who’s been in absolutely everything…
More news of the project to come as I enter the rehearsal/recording period next week.
And some nice pics of the actors below…
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