BBC Radio 3, 8 July 2012
Memorably filmed by Joseph Losey with Alan Bates and Julie Christie in
the leading roles, The Go-Between focuses on Leo Colston (Oscar Kennedy), who is wilfully used by Marion (Lydia Leonard)
and her farmer lover Ted (Joseph Arkley) to ferry letters back and forth in the hot summer of 1900.
In this radio version, director Matt Thompson reworked the novel as a melancholy
tale in which the elderly Leo (now known as Lionel), looked back on the events of that time, as he discovered his boyhood
letters and diaries in the attic. Played by Richard Griffiths, Lionel began by trying to remain aloof from the past; but as
the drama unfolded, he became more and more implicated in the tale.
The blurb on the BBC website suggests that since that time, Lionel had experienced
"a living death." I did not get that impression from the production: Lionel engaged in a mental dialogue with the young Leo,
trying desperately to persuade the little boy to behave differently. Rather than accept the unwanted task of ferrying letters,
Lionel wanted Leo to stand up for himself. However it was not to be: Leo had a boyhood crush on Marion, and would quite literally
do anything for her. Lionel learned a painful lesson; in spite of his attempts, the past could not be unmade.
Thompson's production also evoked the class prejudices of the early twentieth century,
when the lower orders were despised by Mrs. Maudsley (Harriet Walter), and looked upon patronizingly by Viscount Trimingham
(Blake Ritson). Marion was the one person willing to challenge such prejudices; by doing so she condemned herself to a life
of perpetual suffering. Her love-affair with Ted ended abruptly, and she was forced to marry Trimingham, who also agreed to
take care of her illegitimate child for the sake of "convention." If anything, it was Marion, rather than Lionel, who experienced
real suffering; at the end, she re-encountered Lionel after a fifty year gap and asked him to undertake just one more errand.
Lionel could not make up his mind whether to accept or not; and thereby increased Marion's pain.
In truth, Lionel came across as a rather unsympathetic figure - someone who could
not acknowledge the strength of his feelings for Marion, whether during adolescence or in the present day.