BBC Radio 4, 21 March 2009
This picaresque tale focuses on Frank (Nicholas Hoult), the 18-year-old
son of an affluent American family who flees the parental nest and somehow battens himself on to Ripley (Ian Hart). As the
play unfolds, we learn that Frank had probably killed his father, which helps to explain why the youngster had escaped in
the first place. Together Ripley and Frank perambulate around Europe, ending up in Berlin where the two pursue a hedonistic
existence in gay bars.
Frank's mother eventually contacts Ripley; and the two eventually manage to get Frank
home to America. However the youngster cannot entertain the prospect of a bourgeois existence any more, and ends up by throwing
himself off a cliff. Ripley tries to restrain him but his task proves futile.
The Boy Who Followed Ripley offers a fascinating insight into the eponymous
hero's convoluted sexuality. Although happily married, he willingly enters into a quasi-homosexual relationship with Frank,
who treats Ripley as a role-model. Their relationship proves extremely ambiguous - on several occasions in Claire Grove and
Steven Canny's production he admitted in voice-overs that he identified himself as a mother-figure (not a father, as might
have been expected), as he looked after the youngster while providing a shoulder to cry on whenever necessary. Following Frank's
suicide Ripley admitts that he sees in the boy a mirror-image of himself as a lonely, isolated figure with nothing much to
look forward to. Even killing someone offers him no solace. Perhaps Ripley himself is a repressed homosexual whose idolation
stems from a reluctance to admit his sexuality either to himself or to those around him. This production did not
provide any answers: what we were left with at the end was the unsettling thought that Ripley might not be the supremely self-confident,
amoral figure he pretended to be in the three previous adaptations of this Radio 4 series. Perhaps he was just an actor, trying
to convince both himself and the listeners that he could successfully play a certain heterosexual role.