A Meeting with Dora, a new radio play by Survivors scriptwriter Don Shaw (Greater Love, Mad Dog), explores (in fictionalised form) Shaw’s meeting with Dora Russell a redoubtable campaigner for “women’s rights, progressive education, sexual reform and birth control”.
Shaw visited Dora Russell’s Cornish home in 1979 while researching a film, commissioned from him by the BBC, intended to focus on the complex and ultimately failed relationship between Dora and her husband, the celebrated philosopher Bertrand Russell. The film never entered production, but this new radio drama revisits that memorable encounter.
Eleanor Bron stars as Dora Russell, with David Schofield taking on the role of Don Shaw. Shaw has a supporting role in A Meeting with Dora, appearing as John Russell, the troubled son of Dora and Bertrand.
Shaw explained to the Derby Telegraph (9 August), “I took the idea to BBC Radio 4 where Jeremy Howe, head of drama, was captured with my account of my meeting with Dora.”
“While interviewing her, she became suddenly interested in my childhood. I had been the son of a coalminer-turned-postman. This contrasted sharply with Bertrand Russell’s childhood, he being brought up as an aristocrat living in a mansion in Richmond Park, Surrey. The play is set against the stormy background of a gale force eight and ends dramatically with an attempted suicide.”
“I’m really pleased with it and, thankfully, so are the BBC who commissioned it.”
The Radio Times’ preview of the play suggests that the play is: “a psychological drama about love, loss and the value of key emotional memories. […] A quiet, but powerfully nuanced piece of writing and acting.”
Don Shaw and Eleanor Bron were both interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour (22 August) about their work on the drama.
A Meeting with Dora will premier on BBC Radio 4 at 14:15 (in the Afternoon Drama slot) on 28 August 2014, and will then be available on the iPlayer.
Says Shaw: “It is very strange starring in a radio play that you have written and starred in yet the role of yourself is being played by someone else. […] Knowing it will be played to up to a million listeners is hugely exciting.”
A Meeting with Dora is produced and directed by Pauline Harris.