Plot notes by John FletcherEdit
In the depths of a sodden English landscape in a crumbling mansion surrounded by wooden Nissen huts, an ineffective and callow young British army officer (played by Christopher Ettridge) tries to marshall and control a motley and wildly undisciplined collection of scientists in a top secret government project. (So secret even he does not know what it is about).
A travelling Northern Irish preacher (modelled on the Reverend Ian Paisley) has taken against the site and regularly exhorts his local congregation, in apocalyptic terms, to do everything possible to destroy it.
The scientists include an aging mystical German Jew (played by Gabriel Woolf), a young upper class homosexual with left wing politics (based on Guy burgess) who goes berserk on full moons, and a fanatical Indian cricket player. The bewildered young lower middle class army officer (based partly on my father) pines for the company of his mother, with whom he lived alone before the war.
The play reaches its climax at a cricket match. Being cricket the game is hung over by massive and threatening thunder clouds and lightening. The mystical German jew has for months been trying to conquer the semi-mystical art of spin bowling, particularly the googly, and finally, as the storm breaks and in the background the voice of the preacher can be heard invoking the end of the world, he manages to bowl the perfect googly, and simultaneously, as the gyrating ball wobbles away towards the batsman, solve the problems of sub-atomic physics he has been wrestling with.
America enters the war and the programme is abruptly transported, scientists and all, to the United States.
Many years later a now middle aged ex-officer is taking his mother on a driving holiday in the area, and drops in to look at the mansion. Simultaneously he sees a newspaper headline - "Nuclear physicist defects to Soviet Union" - and sees a photo of the upper class scientist with leftwing views. Suddenly, and for the first time, he realizes what he and the scientists had all been involved in in the mansion. The invention of the atomic bomb.
(Bletchley Park is probably a good representation of the sort of wartime establishment I was portraying. Though of course at the time of the play Bletchley Park and the ENIGMA codes were still top secret).
Directed by []
"When I think of England, I always think of a garden, of majestic lawns, immaculately cut, superbly laid out, stretching off into the hazy distance of an English summer's afternoon."
The greatest experience of John's boyhood had been his day trip to Blake Mansion. Now, in 1942, he returns there as the Administrative Officer to a group of eccentric scientists engeged in top secret weapons research. John, however, is more interested in maintiaining the beauty of the gardens and in organizing a cricket match.
(The Radio Times)