Hombre by Elmore Leonard, adapted by Robert Ferguson

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Saturday Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 23 March 2013
First published in 1961, and made into a film six years later with Paul Newman and Fredric March, Hombre tells the story of John Russell (Elliot Cowan), an Apache-raised white man facing prejudice in the white world after he returns for his inheritance upon his father's death.  Deciding to sell the family house, he ends up riding a stage-coach with an assortment of travelling companions including Dr. Favor (Nicholas Murchie), the uncouth Frank Braden (Steven Hartley), and Miss McLaren (Kelly Burke).
Sacha Yevtushenko's production focused on two principal themes - race and emotional development.  Although a white person, Russell encountered prejudice almost everywhere he went, especially when his upbringing was discovered.  It was as if he had been 'tainted' through association with the Apaches - he was no longer an 'authentic' Anglo-American, but someone who had gone native.  None of this was actually true, of course; but Yevtushenko's production underlined the kind of attitudes towards racial difference that persist in contemporary America, even if they are not so overtly expressed.
Yevtushenko's production used the theme of the journey as a means to examine the characters' emotional development.  Thrown together in a confined space, the coach-travellers had to learn to co-exist, even if they found one another quite nauseating.  Russell revealed the good sides to his character as he tried to protect the Favors from being robbed by outlaws.
One of the features of Martin Ritt's 1967 film version was the absence of dialogue: much of the story was recounted through mannerism and action.  Yevtushenko's production changed the story's format somewhat, by having it recounted by Carl Allen (Trevor White).  This technique established a distance between listeners and the characters, permitting us to reflect on their behaviour, while at the same time underlying the significance of the story as a lesson in how to co-exist peacefully.
Although familiar in structure, this version of Hombre was a highly moral tale, forcing us to reflect on our prejudices and how they might be (re-)negotiated.