Without the Grail by Giles Cooper
Produced by Donald McWhinnie
BBC Home Service, 13 Jan 1958


Without the Grail begins with the pragmatic hero, Innes Corrie, preparing to go on business to to a tea plantation in India and tying up the loose ends of his life, such as brushing off his socially unsuitable girlfriend. At first we see the plantation as a strange outpost of empire; the owner, Felix Barrington, drills the servants in the etiquette of calling-cards and organises port after dinner and tea on the lawn. Cooper gradually exposes the facade: monkeys throw dung at the tea parties, the port is coloured water, and Barrington's children reject his myths for their own: his son Derek for dreams of an England as false as anything at the plantation, his daughter Leila for Communism, his protege Siri for his own Naga heritage. Felix sees himself as a latter-day Arthur. Arthur the Briton who kept the ideals of Rome alive in the Dark Ages when the legions had gone home. An essentially Victorian dream of benevolent rule over lesser breeds without the Law. The sounds of the play - the tigers, the monkeys, the Indian voices - clash violently with the vocabulary of chivalry and stress the point finally articulated by Innes, the absence of the Grail. But the myths have results, Felix is prepared to kill for them, he outlines his ideals to Innes with a gun in one hand and the Morte D'Arthur in the other.Siri creates his own myth of the Nagas and sets off a revolt, the Nagas cut off Barrington's head. Leila confronted with the reality of revolution can make no sense of it. Innes finds that his own self-sufficiency is also a myth.

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Article 'Giles Cooper: the medium as moralist' by Frances Gray