Rock and Doris and Elizabeth by Tracy-Ann Oberman

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 16 October 2012
Tracy-Ann Oberman has carved out a niche for herself in writing plays about the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Her recreation of the filming of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane in the early 1960s recaptured the atmosphere of antagonism prevailing between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, two grandes dames of Hollywood trying to resurrect their careers while maintaining what they perceived as the trappings of stardom.
Rock and Doris and Elizabeth took place in 1985, at a time when Rock Hudson (Jonathan Hyde) agreed to appear on Doris Day's (Frances Barber's) new cable television show for a Christian network, and shocked everyone with his ravaged appearance.  He desperately sought succour from Elizabeth Taylor (Oberman), who at that time was beginning a crusade to raise awareness of what was then perceived by many people as an exclusively "gay plague." 
Oberman's play was a poignant piece, revealing just how lonely the three big stars actually were.  Hudson had spent his whole life living a lie; having been exploited during his early years by the Hollywood studios, he desperately wanted to tell the truth about himself on television.  However Doris Day's son Terry Melcher (James Lance) wasn't particularly interested; this was his mother's programme, and it was being broadcast on a Christian network, where the topics under discussion had to be morally uplifting.  Day herself was in the professional doldrums; the cable television show was designed to resurrect her career, after she had turned down an offer to play Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote. Terry understood his mother's state of mind, and was determined to keep any unsavoury information from her so as to make her feel better.  As a result she lived in a dream-world, hermetically sealed off from uncomfortable reality.  Taylor was desperately trying to change her image; rather than appearing as one of the World's Most Beautiful Women, twice married to Richard Burton, she wanted to reinvent herself as a campaigning person.  However no one trusted her; Terry believed that she was out to hijack his mother's programme, and refused to allow Taylor to appear with Hudson, in spite of Hudson's pleas.
Eventually Hudson passed away at the absurdly young age of 59, having largely failed to tell the truth about himself in public, despite wanting to do so.  Day and Taylor were bereft, although for different reasons.
Convincingly recreated by Hyde, Barber and Oberman, this was a poignant and utterly spell-binding production.  I really appreciated everyone's efforts.