Ubykh by Simon Scardifield

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 4 December 2012
Set in contemporary Istanbul, Ubykh centred around the visit of a Swedish linguist Ole (Tom Goodman-Hill), who had come to find the sole living speaker of an ancient language Ubykh, residing near the town of Balikesir.  Ole is met at Ataturk Airport by Onur (Justin Salinger) and his sidekick Erkan (Karl Theobald), partners in a hospitality firm charged with taking him to visit the old man.  However things do not turn out as planned; the old man unfortunately passes away, leaving Ole with little to do but to return home ...
While ostensibly about an ancient, dying language, Ubykh is actually about the difficulties of communication, especially when people do not know one another's language.  Onur speaks pidgin English, while Erkan is a non-speaker; Ole, on the other hand, as an academic, is fluent in the language, as well as knowing a limited amount of Turkish.  The three of them try to make jokes to break the ice, but this only causes further misunderstanding.  Perhaps wisely Gaynor MacFarlane's production had all the actors speaking English (a conceit practised in comedies such as 'Allo 'Allo), even though they came from different countries, which only served to emphasize the play's theme of (mis)communication.
In a play like this, it was perhaps unfortunate that there were one or two aspects of miscommunication that could have been avoided.  Onur's name was pronounced as if it rhymed with "honour;" while this made for a rather weak joke, it neglected the fact that any Turks talking among themselves would pronounce the word with a long "o," as in "cone."  Similarly it would have been nice to have heard the word "Topkapi" pronounced "Topkapuh," as in Turkish, rather than the anglicized "Topkapi." 
But these are minor quibbles; as a whole the play was a fascinating study of how people try and fail to communicate even in living languages.