The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard, dramatized by Graham White

Contact Us

Dangerous Visions Season on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 16 June 2013
First published in 1962, The Drowned World is an intriguing post-apocalyptic thriller as it shows the central character Kerans (James D'Arcy) actively embracing rather than being repelled by the world of chaos that has overwhelmed what was once the respectable City of London.  This is an interesting move, suggesting that Ballard is more interested in exploring the potential of the unconscious, rather than adopting the familiar plot-line of characters contending with (and potentially overcoming) danger.
Peter Kavanagh's production used a variety of sonic effects to explore this aspect of the novel.  As portrayed by D'Arcy, Kerans actively enjoyed settling down in the swamp that was not London; it possessed a tranquillity not normally found in the civilized world.  While continuing to explore his own psyche (he could not quite understand why he should feel like that), he seemed to accept the fact that London had regressed into the neo-Triassic period.  His reactions were contrasted with those of Strangman (Tim McInnerny, using an uncouth Australian accent), who wanted to drain the entire area - not because he had any particular concern for the environment, but because he enjoyed the power of being able to do so.  He was the kind of self-interested bigot who could threaten anyone's way of life if he so wished. 
Ably supported by the beautiful if somewhat enigmatic Beatrice (Hattie Morahan), Kerans re-flooded the area and headed south on his own, a lone Adam looking for "the forgotten paradise of the reborn Sun."
At one level The Drowned World could be seen as an allegory of colonialism; how human beings destroy the environment in pursuit of wealth and/or self-interest.  It is to Kerans' credit that he managed to break free of this mind-set; yet we were left wondering at the end what he would actually find at the end of his travels.  Would he live as an environmentalist, or would he try to colonize another territory, if he should find it advantageous to do?  Kavanagh's production refused to provide us with any answers.