Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 9°C

min temp: 5°C


Review: The Dark Tower, Britten/MacNeice, Orford Church, October 27

PUBLISHED: 16:04 13 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:04 13 November 2017

The Britten Weekend celebrates Benjamin Britten's work with radio. Photo: Snape Maltings

The Britten Weekend celebrates Benjamin Britten's work with radio. Photo: Snape Maltings


For this year’s Britten Weekend, Snape Maltings devised a programme exploring the composer’s work for radio. In particular, there was a focus on one of his most celebrated collaborations – with the poet Louis MacNeice in the radio drama The Dark Tower, first broadcast by the BBC in January 1946.

MacNeice, from Northern Ireland, was a member of the so-called ‘Macspaunday’ poets (with Auden, Day-Lewis and Spender), a prominent group in the 1930s with left-leaning views and occasional tendencies to intellectualism. MacNeice was less dogmatic in his politics than his colleagues and perhaps the most accessible to the general reader; his ‘Autumn Journal’ widely read and appreciated.

The Dark Tower was described by its author as a ‘parable play’ but he also warned against attempting concrete interpretations. The title derives from the poem by Browning ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came’. Young Roland has been brought up in the family tradition, to follow his father and older brothers on a quest from which none have returned. He is tutored and encouraged by, amongst others, a Sergeant-Trumpeter, a Tutor and particularly his mother. He sets off on his journey, meeting various people and temptations en route and at last reaches the Tower where the work ends (but speculation can continue).

There was an air of expectation and excitement as the performers assembled, more than a sense of the pioneering days of the Third Programme with speakers clutching scripts and clustering round microphones. Twelve voices took part along with a small orchestra of trumpet, percussion and strings under the baton of Robert Ziegler and overall direction of Robin Brooks.

A typically Britten-like trumpet call from the excellent Jude Akuwudike opened proceedings and the strings dug deep and dark to suggest the depths of the forest. The variety of personnel and personalities was well demonstrated by, inter alia, Harry Lloyd as Roland, with Lucy Robinson, Manjinder Virk and Adrian Scarborough as his mother, girlfriend and tutor, respectively. Coherence and interest were maintained throughout and if the work does seem rather set in its era it was good to hear it so well performed.

Gareth Jones

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Dan Needham from North Norfolk had two strokes in the space of a week and has navigated a difficult path to recovery. He’s the stand-out star in an episode of BBC2’s The Secret Helpers where he enlists the support of strangers to help him cope with his wedding day to sweetheart Suzanne.

Dan Needham’s life was turned upside-down by two sneezes which tore an artery in his neck and led to two strokes and a long road to recovery. Now he’s facing a new challenge on a BBC show which offers people facing difficulties a host of secret advice.

Youthful rebellion is nothing new, Teddy, a new high energy musical from Snapdragon Productions and Watermill Theatre, explodes onto the New Wolsey stage telling the story of Josie and Teddy and the social forces which shaped the teenage revolution and post-war Britain.

Check out our top spots in East Anglia to indulge in fresh waffles.

Whether appearing in front of or behind the camera, filmmaker and stuntman Nash Edgerton has long established himself as a formidable talent within the film industry.

A fair number of hardy souls braved the wintry conditions and attended this unique production.

After a great first year, the Great Garden Trail returns with even more gardens to explore across Suffolk.

Three very different giants of the music world will take Suffolk by storm later this year.

The former family home of famed Nineteen Eighty-Four author George Orwell in Southwold is set to get a fresh plaque in honour of his literary legacy.

Outrageous, inappropriate and downright hilarious - this is possibly the funniest show I have ever seen at the Theatre Royal.

Most read

Show Job Lists

Topic pages

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter
MyDate24 MyPhotos24