Death Duty by Michael Butt

Contact Us

Dangerous Visions on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 20 June 2013
In this dystopian world, the citizens suffer from a chronic water shortage.  There is a thriving black market, but the government makes strenuous efforts to suppress it.  The only way they believe that the drought can be overcome is by offering sacrifices - entitled Gifts - of young men to the gods; they are determined through a weekly lottery, which decides exactly who will meet their premature demise.  Saturday nights are to be dreaded rather than anticipated, as individuals learn - to their horror - that their son has been chosen.
Edmund (Nicholas Jones) presides over the system; for the most part he offers nothing more than empty words to anyone coming to plead their cases.  When Mr. and Mrs. Greene (Paul Stonehouse, Philippa Stanton) come to try and secure release for their only son, he claims that the decision has been determined by God's will.  Everyone should submit to His bidding for the good of the community.
However Edmund's sanctimonious words soon change when he discovers to his horror that his own son Kenny (Will Howard) has been chosen as a Gift.  Trying his best to reverse the decision, he becomes embroiled in a world of corruption in which Edmund can do nothing else but lose.  The play moves to a tragic climax, as it tells us a lot about how power corrupts.  Edmund remains stonily indifferent to anyone else's plight; and thus cannot expect much sympathy when his own son is selected as a Gift.
Sasha Yevtushenko's production unfolded at a brisk pace, which emphasized Edmund's rapid fall from grace.  The dominator became the dominated.